A college education opens doors to career opportunities. That is the general point of going to school, right? Students want to prepare themselves to become qualified to get a job that can support them after graduation. Unfortunately, that positive outcome has become harder to reach for college graduates in the past several years.

Forbes reports that the average college student is carrying the heavy financial burden of $25,000 in student loan debt. That debt doesn’t include the credit card debt that many students also accrue while trying to get through school. That debt stays with graduates for some time, and the following is the beginning of a list of tips to help graduates get by with their debt and their struggle to find work that will pay it off:

A college degree is not an automatic pay raise

Graduating from college is a significant achievement that is worth celebrating. Maybe that means buying yourself a nice pair of shoes that you will wear to the job interviews that you will hopefully line up soon. But don’t start spending money like a degree means the same thing as reaching total financial security. This is the time to begin the spending and saving habits that you will practice for life. Be frugal.

It’s never too soon to plan for retirement

Even though you might be only 22 years old when you graduate from college, don’t let the feeling of being young fool you out of retirement planning. As we mention in the previous tip, this time of your life marks the beginning of setting your financial habits, and one of those financial habits that can’t start too soon is putting money toward retirement.

Many employers will match your contribution to a retirement account. If that option exists at your place of work and you reject the opportunity, you are essentially saying “no thanks” to free money. If might feel good in the short term to get more money from your paycheck by ignoring retirement, but putting money toward retirement should not be seen as losing money. It’s saving for the future and taking advantage of an awesome employment benefit.

An upcoming post will continue the list of tips for college graduates who face not only an exciting time but a financially stressful time as well.

Source: Forbes, “12 Financial Tips For Debt-Burdened New Grads,” Liz Davidson, May 9, 2012