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First Job? Do These 3 Things for a Bright Financial Future

If you're just starting out your career, and recently got your first job, you're most likely relieved to be employed. Also, if you've been living like a student -- i.e., on a tight budget -- you might feel rich. (At least until those student loans kick in.) So what should you do first, to make sure that you have the best shot at financial security down the road?

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(Photo Credit: AaronPatterson/Flickr)

Over at Lifehacker, Kristin Wong offers advice for recent grads who don't want to start off their post-college careers in a financial hole. Among her tips:

1. Negotiate your salary -- but only when appropriate.

We've all seen the math: failing to negotiate a job offer can cost you hundreds of thousands of dollars over the course of your career.

"To put a number on it, our own Melanie Pinola reported on a university study which found that new hires who negotiate a starting salary receive $5,000 more on average," Wong writes. "Over time, this equates to earning over $600,000 over the course of a 40-year career."

But that doesn't mean you should always dicker over your starting salary. In a few select cases, Wong says, negotiating can make you look unprofessional. Assuming you're not in the military, where salaries are set, or working at a minimum wage job where everyone starts out at the legally mandated floor, however, it's generally worth the gamble.

Just do your research. Go into your very first interview armed with information about salary ranges for the title, company, and metro area, and you'll have a much better idea of where you stand.

2. Save for retirement.

Especially if the company matches some of your 401(k) contributions, you're leaving money on the table if you don't save for retirement. Even if you're on your own, it makes sense to start saving young, when you'll have the most time to build up a nest egg.

3. Make a budget.

This is our addition to the list, and it's one that the majority of wage earners ignore. Last year, according to Gallup, only one in three Americans prepared a detailed household budget. But before you can figure out how much money to apply to your debt or how much rent you can afford to pay on that first post-graduate apartment, you need to know what your finances look like. In another Lifehacker column, Alan Henry offers a roundup of five personal finance tools that can help even budgeting novices figure out how to save, spend, and manage their money.

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