NEW YORK (TheStreet) -- Legions of freshly minted college grads are starting their adult financial lives this month. What's the best way, to put it bluntly, to avoid the sins of their elders?
Some experts believe today's young people are more financially aware than earlier generations, largely because they've taken on more student debt and as teenagers bore witness to the financial crisis. Having seen the effects of the collapse in home prices in the past decade, many, for instance, appear wary of buying a home too soon.
That's not such a bad strategy. Even when the housing market is in normal health, a home can be a ball and chain, an obstacle to moving for a better job, and frequent moves are common in the early years of a career.
Here are the top items for a 20-something to keep in mind.
First, don't fall behind on your student loans. Going into default will mar your credit for years, making it near impossible to borrow for a car or home. Study your loan requirements and look into all the options for consolidation and minimizing payments. With certain public jobs, you may even be eligible for loan forgiveness if you maintain a steady payment history long enough. The financial aid folks at your alma mater can probably help even after you graduate, as colleges don't want a lot of defaults and delinquencies on their records.
If you don't have a credit card, get one or two. Use them, because that will help you build a credit history that will make borrowing easier in the future. But use them sparingly, so you can avoid interest charges and penalties by paying off your balance during the grace period every month. Don't get sucked in by offers for more reward points for heavy card use.