(Collage by Joy Olivia Miller)

How to get your $$$ in order before you turn 30

Harold Pollock’s new index card is for young adults.

All the personal finance advice you need would fit on a 3-by-5 card, Harold Pollack quipped in a 2013 interview. Immediately people wanted to know: Where’s the card? So Pollack, the Helen Ross Professor in the School of Social Service Administration, scribbled down some ideas and posted a photo, which went viral.

For College Review, Pollack created this new, potentially viral index card specifically for recent graduates.

Index Card for recent grads
Professor Harold Pollack’s handwritten index card for young adults. (Courtesy Harold Pollack)

  • Pay your credit card bill in full every month.
  • Keep a budget and spending diary. Pay cash up front whenever you can.
  • Don’t smoke. Mind your alcohol and dining spending, too.
  • Start saving early. Make it automatic, ideally through a 401(k).
  • If you have a job and no kids, aim to save 20% of pretax income.
  • Invest in low-fee total stock index funds, ideally in a 401(k).
  • Open a Roth IRA if you don’t have access to a 401(k).
  • Don’t buy individual stocks or try to time the markets.
  • Think federal first when borrowing for school. And don’t combine public and private loans if you consolidate.
  • A focused and rigorous major matters more than where you go to college.
  • Don’t push your friends to overspend. And beware the same peer pressures applied to you.