College Connect: Finances are a big part of the job hunt

Posted By sabew

By Theo Keith

With only a semester remaining in my college career, I’ve started thinking about the job hunt that will begin only a few months from now. As a multimedia reporter focusing on TV, I probably won’t know where I’ll end up, what I’ll be doing, or what I’ll be paid until right around graduation in May.

That’s leaving me (and my fellow broadcast friends) a little unsettled. And finances are a part of the question.

My friends and I would like to have a job with a good company in a city we can enjoy — and one that has some news to cover! We understand the economic realities, and we know we probably won’t be making much money as we start our careers.

Six months away from the move to a location to be determined, I’m unsure what financial decisions to make. I’ve saved money through high school and college, so should I lock this into long-term investments, or should I keep it liquid in case my paychecks barely cover expenses?

There’s no better time than when you’re young to invest money in mutual funds and the stock market. The beauty of compound interest is that it has incredible rewards for starting early. So, I think I’m going to invest about half of my money in these instruments.

Understanding compound interest, I’d love to invest more. But there’s too much uncertainty in my own professional life to make tie up too much money where I can’t get to it quickly.

Some of the major costs of “growing up,” such as buying a vehicle and owning a home, are still some time away for me. I already own a car, and TV contracts are often for only two or three years, so I won’t be buying a home anytime soon. While this takes care of mortgage issues, it does involve the time-consuming task of apartment-hunting.

The nation’s TV stations are split into markets. Depending on market size (big city vs. small city) and location (Midwest vs. Northeast) life’s necessities can either be expensive or affordable. I spend 10 percent less at Missouri grocery stores now than when I lived in New York in summer 2009. The spending gap at restaurants is even bigger — probably about 20 percent.

And that’s just food. There are utility, cable and Internet bills to consider. Transportation is an issue — in some cities, public transportation is excellent and you can take it to work everyday. In southeast Michigan, where I grew up and home of the U.S. auto industry, you have to own a car. And, of course, there are the costs any young professional will need to consider, such as cell phone bills and insurance.

Financial security provides a comfort zone to me. I’m an intense planner for the future, including with money. Ultimately, people who are good at budgeting can make sense of any financial situation — whether they make $25,000, $50,000 or $100,000 annually.

My developing financial skills will get a major test in just a few months. And while there are an incredible number of question marks, I can’t wait to dive into professional life.

Theo Keith, a senior at the University of Missouri School of Journalism, is a SABEW/National Endowment for Financial Education fellow. He has had internships at Bloomberg News in Detroit and Fox News Channel’s “Your World with Neil Cavuto,” and he plans a career in business journalism.

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