Gifts For College Grads To Make Them Smarter About Money

College Grad Money Management

Throughout the endless classes taken during their college years, students are seldom taught about managing money. A study conducted by Arkansas State University found that college students lack an understanding of their own financial situation and basic budgeting skills. In fact, over one-third of students surveyed admitted to having no idea how much credit card or student loan debt they owed and overestimated future earnings by more than 20%. Entering the real world upon graduation is going to be a real wake-up call!

As you begin searching for a gift, consider one that will help boost a grad’s financial smarts for succeeding in the real world:

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Financial Planning Session

A certified financial adviser will offer the most effective approach for establishing a budget on a limited income. These professionals can also explain how to manage student loans with current lifestyle desires, provide tips for paying off debt faster and illustrate the importance of saving for retirement early. You are likely better off scheduling a session with a fee-based/fee-only planner who charges by the hour. Search for a Certified Financial Planner at the Financial Planning Association.

Personal Finance Books

If a professional financial planner is out of your budget, opt for the DIY approach: buy a book. You may think a book is a bad gift for someone who just retired their textbooks, but personal finance advice is invaluable to a generation laden with debt. Plus, many of these books are authored by witty writers with relatable experiences. TryGet a Financial Life: Personal Finance In Your Twenties and Thirtiesby Beth Kobliner; The Broke and Beautiful Life by Stefanie O’Connell or Complete Guide to Personal Finance: For Teenagers for high school grads heading off to college.

Career Coaching

More than half of college students (56%) remain unemployed six months after they graduate, according to a Student Clearinghouse report. A career counselor will guide a college grad through the job search process while identifying career options based on individual passions, talents and training. The average fee for a job coach will run you around $50 per hour. Review this list of Top 25 Certified Job Search Coaches on LinkedIn for help finding one for your grad. You may also direct students towards the Fifth Third Bank Brand of You Campaign website for free resumé writing and headshot tips.

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Roth IRA

Most twentysomethings are caught up with immediate financial concerns including how they’re going to make money, where they’re going to live and how to defer those student loans. The last thing from their mind is retirement savings. Opening a Roth IRA will jump-start the grads’ future planning while opening their eyes to the power of compound interest. Account holders make after-tax contributions but principal and earnings are free from taxes on withdrawal at retirement, which is an enormous savings over time. Plus, they can withdraw contributions tax and penalty-free at any age, so it could even serve as a down payment for a house if necessary.

Budgeting Course

One of the biggest hurdles any college grad will face upon entering the “real world” is managing living expenses with social activities and savings. Learning how to create a budget that fits those needs and goals is crucial. This free 9-day budgeting course from the website YouNeedABudget makes the perfect gift for a grad who has no idea how to manage money on a limited income.


In addition to enhancing skills sets, being in the know about the latest events and industry news helps job seekers and employees stay informed and relevant. A digital or hard copy subscription to The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal, Money Magazine or Kiplinger’s Personal Finance ensures a well-rounded education on current events and personal finance. Alternatively, offering a trade magazine within the graduate’s area of study or interest is another smart option.

Online Brokerage Account

Start your college grad off with a few stocks that he or she can manage on eTrade or Sharebuilder. You can even find coupon codes online at sites like to save on startup fees for a new account.

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