Making enough money is just the beginning—then you have to manage it. Everyone, from recent college graduates to those well established in their careers, can reap the benefits of advancing their personal financial literacy.

Everyone knows that money can be hard. Making enough of it is just the beginning—then you have to manage it. Millennials have their share of money regrets, including credit card debt, lack of financial planning and, of course, the big one: college debt.

Now, many recent college graduates are also carrying significant educational debt into the next chapter of their lives. The national average for college debt sits around $37,000 per borrower. Respondents to a recent CollegeFinance survey had graduated with an average of $22,000 in student loan debt, have $14K left to pay and expect to complete repayment within six to seven years.

College debt affects more than just your financial outlook. Overall, 27% of the CollegeFinance respondents say their student loans made career changes difficult, including 36% of those owing $51,000 or more. Three in 10 say the same for taking a career risk, including 44% of those with $51,000 or more in outstanding student loan debt.

“Managing significant student loans brings additional levels of stress,” says Ryan McPherson, Director of Coaching at SmartPath. “This can be amplified if the recent graduate’s income is not commensurate with her/his required debt payments. Higher debt burdens may mean that graduates are taking longer to save up emergency funds and home down payments.”

  1. Spend less than you make. Seriously. “This is the basis of any long-term financial success,” says McPherson. Of course, to spend less than what you make, you’ll need to keep track of both numbers. Budgeting software like Mint, YouNeedABudget and others can help you stay on top of your money.
  2. If your employer offers a retirement match, contribute enough to get the full match. “That’s free money—don’t miss out on it,” McPherson says. Even if you’re just launching your career, it’s never too early to start saving for retirement.
  3. Pay off your credit cards in full each statement cycle to avoid paying interest. “There’s no need to enrich the credit card company,” says McPherson. “It’s surprisingly easy for a $2,000–$3,000 credit card balance to become a $6,000–$9,000 problem. Compounding interest (which works wonders with investments) becomes your enemy with credit card balances.”
  4. Build up an emergency fund. Yes, surprise expenses will happen. “Start with one month of expenses and then build up to three to six months of expenses over time,” McPherson advises. Once again, budgeting tools can inform your planning by helping you determine what an average month looks like. You’ll also be able to anticipate lump expenses that only come around once or twice a year, so that when that bill does arrive, it’s not a surprise—or an emergency.
  5. If you have student loans, map out a strategy. “Will you be pursuing forgiveness or trying to pay off your loans ASAP?” McPherson asks. “Those loans won’t take care of themselves. Establish a paydown strategy and make it work for you.”