Welcome to Let's Talk About Money, where we ask real college students about their relationship with money.
Autumn S has a resume that would make any college senior jealous. She’s on her way to graduating from the Cornell School of Hotel Administration with a full academic scholarship. She’s worked multiple jobs during college, including her current position at Ithaca Wine Ventures, a company working to connect wine drinkers with wine makers. She wants to work at Anheuser Busch after graduation and already has plans to open a Roth IRA, a college fund for her sister, and a retirement account for her dad.
As you can probably tell, Autumn is ambitious and smart. She’s curious about the world around her, she loves learning, and she’s excited for the next step in her life. That attitude extends to her finances too, which has been a huge help in getting her to where she is today. She’s an avid budgeter, puts money aside to save, and has a credit card and an outstanding credit score.
By all accounts, Autumn is a financial superstar. But she hasn’t always been that way.
“Growing up, money was a pretty uncomfortable topic. My family didn’t have a lot of money, so we didn’t talk about it much. We operated under the idea that if we wanted something for ourselves, we had to buy it ourselves.”
Despite that, she sums her attitude towards money up into a simple thought: “I was always cautious, but curious.”
In high school, Autumn worked her first job as a hostess at a Texas Roadhouse restaurant near Houston where she grew up. She was 17 and worked about 30 hours a week. “I always knew there wasn’t enough to go around, so the thought of asking for money or even making my own was intimidating. I thought I would mess things up.” So, she worked and paid for the things she wanted and needed on her own. But even Autumn will admit that her financial knowledge was lacking.
What did Autumn do next? She took matters into her own hands, went to her local Chase bank branch, and asked to speak with someone.
“I knew I needed to know more. I had seen the consequences of a lack of financial education, so I sought out the information. I wanted to learn.”
She didn’t stop there, using Google research to supplement what she learned from her visit to the bank.
“I don’t miss payments and I pay it off almost immediately.”
She soaked up as much information as possible. The process included getting her first credit card, which she used to build up her credit score to the high 700s (for anyone keeping score at home, that’s considered excellent). “I don’t miss payments and I pay it off almost immediately,” Autumn remarked. It’s a practice that keeps lots of people from feeling the potentially negative effects of a credit card. Fizz, the debit card for college students that helps build credit, does this automatically. Plus, signing up is easy as ever.
Autumn has worked hard to put herself in the situation she’s in now, and she’s proud to have done it on her own. “I feel like I have a different perspective because of how I’ve grown up. I think I have a unique view as to how things function, and that includes money,” Autumn told me. “The biggest thing I’ve learned along the way is that you don’t need to have tons of money to be good with money.”
“Money still makes me uncomfortable because I think there are a lot of things I still don’t know. But at the same time, I try to stay confident in myself.”
It’s clear Autumn knows what she’s doing. But as is the case with almost everyone learning about personal finance, she still feels under-educated. “Money still makes me uncomfortable because I think there are a lot of things I still don’t know. But at the same time, I try to stay confident in myself.” She’s certainly right - staying confident in yourself as you navigate the world of personal finance is crucial, and it’s important to be proud of the strides you make.
“I think that some people are just too afraid to become financially literate and find the tools that they need. That leads you to focus on survival mode too often.”
I told Autumn how common this lack of confidence is, even among people like her who are so financially literate. “I think that some people are just too afraid to become financially literate and find the tools that they need. That leads you to focus on survival mode too often,” she responded. It’s difficult to think about money on a deeper level if all you’re concerned about is what’s right in front of you. Thinking about things like your credit score, saving, and even investing is an important part of developing healthy financial habits that can stick with you. That applies during high school, during college and beyond.
At Fizz, we’re building a community that helps everyone stay informed, whether you’re on Autumn’s level or are just starting on your financial literacy journey. At the end of our interview, Autumn left me with a thought on exactly this point. “You shouldn’t be afraid! Financial literacy is a necessary part of being an adult. So give yourself the space to feel less anxiety. Learn, grow, and relax. You can do this too!”
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