Welcome to Let's Talk About Money, where we talk to real college students about their relationship with money.
Amishi is a pretty impressive individual. She grew up in Michigan, where her parents settled after immigrating from India in the late 1990s. She’s a successful student and has multiple on-campus jobs at the University of Michigan, where she’s a pre-med student. But while she’s lucky enough to have her tuition covered by her parents, she doesn’t take money for granted.
“I work three different jobs to help cover my rent and living expenses”
“I work three different jobs to help cover my rent and living expenses,” she told me when we spoke on the phone. She’s a medical assistant, a grader for a statistics class, and she works in a bio lab as well. Amishi has a lot on her plate, but that doesn’t stop her from thinking about the future. In fact, she uses some of her hard-earned money to buy study materials for the MCAT.
Working three jobs is hard work. I asked her a little bit about what she spends her money on. “My parents are very supportive and they’re always willing to help out with expenses if I ask. It’s easy to think that I should lean more heavily on that generosity, but I don’t like to. I work hard to afford my lifestyle so that I don’t have to rely on my parents,” she explained. “Of course, it’s nice to know that they’re there to help if things ever go awry.”
Amishi was lucky enough to grow up with parents that wanted to teach her about the value of money. She got her first job at age 16, and by her senior year of high school she was working as a barista.
“We’re comfortable financially as a family, but my parents really made clear the importance of having a job to gain independence and learn about finance.”
Her parents didn’t grow up with much money, so Amishi recognizes that they do a lot of learning together. Recently, her dad has been teaching her about tangible topics, like the stock market. But the intangibles have been a focus too. “My dad’s mentality on life is that you need to live your life and be happy. If you need to spend a little more money to be happy, then do it. If it’s something that will give you life experience, do it!” This philosophy applies within reason, of course, but it’s a reminder that there are things to think about beyond just saving or investing your money.
It’s clear that Amishi has thought a lot about money and her finances over the years. She has plans to go to med school, and despite the fact that her family pays her undergrad tuition, it’s understood that it’s up to her to pay for med school. As a result, she saves what she can from her current jobs and has plans to work for a year before starting med school. She wants to save as much as possible before she starts.
“I kind of like the fact that I’m on my own when it comes to med school,” she said. “On one hand it’s scary, but I’ve always been an independent person and I’m excited to figure out how to make it happen, because I know I can.”
“I tried to make a strict budget when I was a sophomore, but I found it difficult to maintain. Instead, I have a buffer and I save anything that’s left over”
Despite the fact that Amishi has a mature outlook on money and her finances, she still feels underprepared and undereducated when it comes to finance. “I tried to make a strict budget when I was a sophomore, but I found it difficult to maintain. Instead, I have a buffer and I save anything that’s left over,” she told me.
Amishi doesn’t talk much about money with her friends at Michigan. She even went as far as to say that she feels like she doesn’t know anything when it comes to personal finance. To gain more insight, I asked Amishi why she thought this way. “It’s not taught and it’s not a common topic, so it just doesn’t come up,” she told me. That’s nothing new. With so little emphasis on personal finance among younger generations, it’s normally up to people themselves to figure things out. Having a supportive family like Amishi’s helps, but it’s easy to see why people get overwhelmed.
Of course, I had to ask about credit cards. “I have a credit card, but I barely use it because I’m scared of it,” Amishi told me. “The only things I’ve heard are the words bad credit and building credit.” Luckily for Amishi, a Fizz card can help her build a great credit score without having to worry about the drawbacks of a regular old credit card.
This general ambivalence and confusion about finance is all too common, but it illustrates important themes that we’ve discussed in Let’s Talk About Money before. If you’re making your money work for you and if you’re thinking critically about money, then you’re in a fantastic position. You don’t need to be afraid of what you don’t know. Instead, try staying curious - and don’t forget to be proud of where you are.
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