College graduates may find it takes longer to hit key...

College graduates may find it takes longer to hit key financial goals than they expect. Credit: Getty Images/iStockphoto/Burlingham

If you’re a college senior about to graduate, you might not like the findings from personal finance website NerdWallet’s new survey.  According to the data, your assumptions about when you might achieve some of your financial goals may be off.

Take for example buying a home. While 44 percent of those who responded to the survey thought they might be able to save enough to put 20 percent down on their first home by the time they are 31, it could be five years later, according to NerdWallet’s analysis, which included a look at the National Association of Realtors’ median single-family home prices in the third quarter of last year, and a 4 percent growth in prices year over year.

The stats about retirement are sobering too. Students typically said they hoped to retire at 63, but according to NerdWallet, with diligent budgeting they can likely do so by 72, based on factors such as income at graduation and Social Security income, among others.

But take heart, this doesn’t have to be you. Change the odds.

•Stay home

As much as you may be ready to fly the coop, think long term. “Depending on what rent costs, you could be increasing your pay by $1,500 a month!  Imagine the jump-start that savings can provide for you,” says Lou Cannataro, a partner with Cannataro Park Avenue Financial in Manhattan. You’ll also have more income to pay down student loans faster.

•Prepare for the unexpected

Start a savings account earmarked for emergencies. “Aim for three to six months of living expenses. Go to Bankrate.com to find savings accounts that earn a higher than average rate of return,” says Alexander Lowry, a professor of finance at Gordon College in Wenham, Massachusetts.

When you have a safety net, you avoid relying on credit cards, which can be a costly crutch.

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