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Ace your first year in the "real world." It's so important to start your post-college life on the right financial foot. The money decisions you make today could benefit – or haunt you – in the future. Here are 15 financial steps to take your first year after graduation.

As the school year comes to a close, all of us who are parents start wondering if our children are ready for the next chapter in their lives, especially if it’s one of those pivotal years when we’re about to watch them receive a diploma. That holds whether your child is moving from pre-school to kindergarten or graduating with an advanced degree. As parents, we reflect on how well we’ve contributed to their readiness to embrace the challenges to come.

Spring is here, and it’s the perfect time to get your home and your finances in order. Here are a few ways to get started spring cleaning your finances.

Spring cleaning is an opportune time to “shop in your closet” and uncover forgotten boxes of belongings. Eager to toss those boxes of vintage gift wrap passed down from your grandma? Or that pile of blouses unearthed from a dusty jumble in a cluttered corner of your bedroom? While you’re sorting through your items and deliberating over what to keep and what to nix, might as well make some money along the way. Here’s how to monetize your spring cleaning, and turn your clutter into cash.

You want your donations to count. That’s why it’s important to ask questions whenever you’re asked to give — whether over the phone, in direct mail, or online. Do some research before donating. You should know, for example, exactly how much of your donation goes to the program you want to support. Don’t donate until you’re sure it will make a difference. Here are some things you can do to make sure your donations get where they’ll do good — and help you avoid donating to a scam.

Today’s teens appear to be relatively savvy about money, which isn’t surprising given that they grew up just as the Great Recession was shaping the country’s economic path. Many of them watched their parents struggle with lost jobs or savings that got battered by the stock market. But they also face the same money temptations as other generations of teens.

When you draw up a retirement spending plan, you'll find no shortage of budget worksheets. But they're unlikely to include a line item for the adult child who lost a job and needs a huge cash infusion. And have you planned to shell out $10,000 for major dental work in the same year that your dog needs a $5,000 total hip replacement?

While a tax refund means you loaned the government too much money during the year, it doesn’t make receiving a big refund check any less enjoyable. Some people use that big check to take their family on vacation, some use it to make an extra mortgage payment, and some to just splurge on some new toys. There a million different ways to spend a tax refund, but the smartest decision may be to invest it in the future.

When you have a big financial goal you believe in, it can be a powerful motivator to make good big financial decisions. What about the small decisions, though? It's in those moments when people make minor spending decisions that their big goals are often not on their minds. The cycle of normal days goes by, and big goals might pop up in their thoughts occasionally, but they don't affect daily choices. A big goal might be important, but it's not visible.

As you’ve probably noticed, financial wellness is all the rage. According to one survey, about 90% of large and mid-sized companies are now offering financial wellness programs as an employee benefit. But what exactly is “financial wellness” and are you financially well?

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