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Great gifts for new grads
WINDSOR, Colo. (5/8/12)--College commencement season is here again, but for many soon-to-be graduates, it's a time to both celebrate and prepare. With the job market still challenging and national student loan debt now exceeding $1 trillion--beating credit card debt for the first time--new grads face real financial hurdles.

Help new alums find their footing by selecting graduation gifts that will help them get a smart start in the real world. Andrea Woroch, a consumer-savings expert for Kinoli Inc., Windsor, Colo., and editors of the Credit Union National Association's Center for Personal Finance offer these ideas for valuable and useful grad gifts:

  • Money. The old standby still makes a perfect gift. Giving cash can provide graduates with an opportunity to start paying back student loans and other forms of debt.
  • Gift cards. If you have a more specific use for your gift in mind, opt for a gift card. Gift cards for grocery stores, gas stations, and department stores all can help graduates with day-to-day necessities.
  • Résumé or career services. Students often have access to career advising through their schools, but that benefit can expire upon graduation. Gifting new grads with a similar service can keep them on track to finding a job.
  • Foreign language lessons. Continuing education is never a bad thing: It helps graduates add to their skill sets and demonstrates initiative to future employers. Learning a new language also opens up job opportunities all over the world.
  • Magazine or newspaper subscriptions. Consider a physical or digital subscription to a trade publication within the graduate's area of study or a newspaper like The New York Times or The Wall Street Journal. Both can help grads stay up-to-date on current events around the world and within their professional field.
  • Interview attire. Select a gift card to a store where your new grad can buy a suit, or organize a shopping trip to help him or her put together a winning wardrobe.
  • Smartphone. A phone with application capabilities and Web access allows graduates to keep up with e-mail from potential employers, navigate new cities, keep in touch with family and more.
  • Personal finance books. Whether it's a physical copy or an e-book, how-to books about money management can help guide graduates through new financial situations, like paying off debt or saving for emergencies. Many titles focus specifically on new graduates, so you can narrow your search that way.
  • Moving services. If your graduate is packing up and moving on for work or other new opportunities, contributing to a truck rental or additional moving services can cut costs.
  • Roth IRA (individual retirement account). New graduates don't always have the time or resources to plan for retirement, so opening a Roth IRA is an excellent way to put them in the saving mindset. Your credit union can help you learn more about Roth IRAs and set up an account for the new grad.
  • Credit union membership. If your new graduate isn't already a member of your credit union, extend the full-family membership benefit for an ideal start with safe, affordable financial services and coaching.
For more information, read "Help Young Adults Move Out of Your Checkbook" and watch the "Investing in an IRA" video in the Home & Family Finance Resource Center.
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