Strategy 9 of Higher Learning begins with the directive, “Don’t let financial matters get between you and your degree.” Not only do financial challenges pose a risk to your ability to finish college, but they also factor into your options and opportunities after college. The more you know about sound money management strategies, and the sooner you adjust your habits to prioritize savings and long-term wealth growth, the better off you will be. The bad news here is that there are often few substantive spaces for college students to deeply explore this issue, receive mentoring, and get on the right path. We are often hesitant to talk openly about money matters, because it can reveal a lot about people (you can imagine that a student who is extremely wealthy may not want others to know and treat them differently, just as you can reason that a student without much money may simply want to blend in and not be identified as receiving significant financial aid and scholarship support, even in a climate that promotes access and support for students with substantial need). Additionally, we can easily assume that people are financially stable - that they have reasonable spending habits, that there’s some money in the bank, that they understand the ins and outs of money management, and so on.
It takes commitment to get and keep your money right. The following links and tools will be useful as you map out your personal wealth building plan. I will break them down into five simple steps.
Step Two: Understand Credit. I discuss this briefly in Higher Learning (most importantly, why it’s so necessary to avoid carrying credit debt and making minimum monthly payments. Don’t believe me? Play around with some numbers on this calculator. Also know how to build a positive credit score and how to read your credit report… and how to get a free one!)
Step Three: Save and Invest. It may not seem possible, but you can actually grow your money while you’re in college. It starts with Step 1, budgeting so that you are saving more than you’re spending. You can start investing your savings today with the Acorns app that invests your spare change. You can also take it to the next level with a wide range of other options.
Step Four: Seek scholarships and opportunities. Start with the FAFSA then move to one of the many scholarship search engines(here is one, here’s another, and here’s an app). Pay attention to e-mails listing various additional funding sources and opportunities. Look at your intended school or the school you are presently attending for support opportunities. Finally, if your aid package isn’t meeting your needs, don’t hesitate to visit your school’s Student Financial Services office and have your case reviewed, particularly if you or your family have had any substantial life changes.
Step Five: Continue learning about money. As stated in the opening paragraph, it’s very easy to avoid this topic, but until you develop a mindset focused on creating and sustaining wealth, you will likely be doing just enough to get by financially. Study the money game -- there are numerous books, websites, blogs, and magazines. Talk with friends, family, and mentors. This long term investment in financial knowledge will surely pay dividends (see what I did there).