Stories from Friends: Parents, College and Learning About Personal Finance
Note: Since the start of American Debt Project, I have wanted my friends and family to share their ideas on money and life here. After months of bothering everyone, one of my friends finally did! We’ll call her S. She’s just a youngun at 22, and I am constantly reminding her not to get into debt over anything stupid like clothes and going out (like I did). She is an honest and straightforward person and her only loan in life was a small loan to buy a used car last year (A 2002 model! This girl is practical and I’m kinda jealous). Please leave her a comment below! Do you have any good advice to give a young college graduate with no debt?
Rich Dad, Poor Mom
Growing up in two different worlds, I saw life at both ends of the spectrum, the rich and the poor. My parents split when I was about eight years old; my dad went to live with his millionaire family in Beverly Hills while I stayed with my mom in a low-income neighborhood in northeastern Los Angeles. I would say neither of my parents knew how to handle their finances but the difference was my dad had nothing to worry about being born into wealth. My parents not being good with finances always worried me for my future. The snobby part of me was like “I shouldn’t worry about my finances I come from a wealthy family” but I also remember feeling that I never wanted to fall where my parents did with filed bankruptcy and no credit.
Working and Saving
When I got my first job at the age 16, my sister kept telling me how important it was to save at least 10% from my check and I didn’t understand why. She is 12 years my senior and I thought she just wanted control of my life. I never knew anything about finances except for that advice my sister had given me. I am 22 and have never had a credit card. Lucky for me I didn’t have to pay a dime for school and the only reason why I took out a loan a year ago was to buy my own car. As I have grown up I realize I really do not want to rely on what I may inherit, maybe I will not inherit anything and I will need to know how to handle my personal finances regardless.
Personal Finance Education
During my last semester at school this past year, I was done with all my major classes and my friend suggested I take a personal finance class. So I signed up for it. Thank God I did! This class took all my fears I had growing up and prepared me with all I need to know, or almost; I still have to put what I learned into practice. I learned about starting a personal savings for retirement and not relying on Social Security benefits, setting up an emergency fund for at least 6 months worth of living expenses, credit cards, interest rates, loans, types of insurance, investing in bonds and stocks, and leasing versus buying cars and mortgages. I sincerely suggest taking a personal finance class, either as an undergraduate or on your own. It is amazing and it should seriously be required as a general education class. I cannot say it enough. If our parents were not good with finances, they obviously could not have taught us anything. Now I know I am responsible for my own finances and I won’t need to rely on my parents, especially when they may not always be able to help me.
Another thing that I learned by taking this course is that finance could be a potential career path for me in the future. I enjoyed the course and learned so much that I am considering taking some more courses on the subject. If those courses go well, I might end up going for my Master of Arts in Economics, which would set me up for a job within a financial institution. I could also apply for jobs within government agencies, multilateral organizations, and think tanks, giving me a multitude of career options once I complete my degree.