Money management and financial literacy is one of the core pieces of adulthood and being a productive member of society. I listen to so many of my friends say that they wish they had learned what it means to be "financially smart" early on in life instead of having to struggle like they are now. I personally learned about how to manage my finances on my own, by doing my own research and then putting that research into practice in my everyday life. Being a college student is never cheap, especially for those who are forced to take out loans and receive financial aid. While money management is not only for those in college, it makes sense that college students are the ones that typically struggle the most to save and invest. I decided to interview five college students regarding their existing knowledge about financial literacy and how they budget, save and take control of their own finances.

1. Emily Krings, St. Thomas University

Emily Krings, a very close friend of mine, is someone that I can relate to when it comes to money. Some would call us "obsessive" when it comes to being financially secure, but we like to call it "smart." Our free time just so happens to consist of creating Excel spreadsheets of our financial goals and in turn, booking as many paid gigs as we can to reach those goals. In fact, she even enjoys finance so much she decided to dedicate a post on her blog to money saving tips. When I sat down with her to ask her where her background of financial literacy comes from, she told me that she has been "making money moves since she was little." Upon expanding, Emily told me that "By the time I was 8, I was begging my mom to take me to the bank to buy savings bonds." She began saving earlier than most, putting away all of her profits in safe keeping. She told me she knew it would pay off in the long run and it has. She has received a great deal of scholarships for college so she has been able to save all of her money made from babysitting and freelance work. She told me that, "It is all in the budgeting and perspective. I look at the price of things that I might consume in terms of how much time it took me to earn the money that the object costed. For me, a shirt is not usually worth an hour of work, but a plane ticket is certainly worth a couple days of work." Emily emphasized that the most important piece to take away is that time is money and your time is valuable. 

2. Re'Nyqua Farrington, Nova Southeastern University

Re'Nyqua Farrington, Fresh U's very own Director of Operations, spoke to me about what financial literacy means to her and how she implements money-saving strategies in her own life. Like many others, Re'Nyqua explained that she was "never given a formal lesson on financial literacy." Looking back at her childhood, she says, "Most of my money management skills are a reflection of my mom’s endless search for discounts, deals and coupons. When I was younger, it seemed silly to always look on the clearance rack for clothes or wait to go grocery shopping during the “Buy One, Get One” promotions, but in hindsight, it literally saves to know how and where to find a good deal." Like the majority of us who are newly entering the world of adulthood, she explained that she is still developing her financial literacy. When I asked how she practices financial literacy, she told me that, "I divide my earnings into my saving and checking accounts. My first priority is my savings account and money there is only touched for emergencies and funding big goals. Everything else goes to my checking account and even there money is prioritized by needs first (food, personal care, cleaning products) and wants second (entertainment, weekend trips, shopping)." Re'Nyqua's plan of action is a rather simple but useful one if you are looking to budget and save, which we all need to be practicing. Thinking ahead and planning for possible emergencies and big purchases is the smartest money move to make.

3. Robby Ruiz, Florida Southwestern State College

Robby Ruiz says that growing up in a first generation American household did not allow him the opportunity to formally learn about financial literacy. He was also the first person in his immediate family to attend college, so he had to learn by himself how to afford an education on his own without the guidance many pre-college students have. When we sat down to speak about finances, he told me that his parents have struggled with saving, budgeting and managing their funds for as long as he can remember. Robby said that, "My father was never equipped with the knowledge about financial literacy in his life, which directly led to him drowning in debt at a young age." To elaborate, his father was not aware of how important credit is and how damaging piling up debt can be. He told me that he was following in his father's footsteps until he hit age twenty. Now, he says he always closely watches how often he uses his credit cards and he never misses a monthly payment. He said, "Attending college isn't cheap, especially when you're mostly paying out of pocket, but it is doable when you save your funds accordingly." His advice is to always keep your credit card usage low and take advantage of budget apps available right at the tip of your fingers. Not only will that help build your credit, which is crucial, but it will also force you to act responsibly with money.

4. Erela Datuowei, University of Southern California

Erela, one of Fresh U's very own staff writers, gave me some very enlightening information. She is currently living in Los Angeles and paying for college completely on her own. She expressed that since Los Angeles is such an expensive city to live in, she had to become financially literate fast. Like Robby, she also encourages students to use budgeting apps such as Chime or Clarity Money to help organize your funds and create a reasonable budget to control your spending. Aside from utilizing apps, Erela says that, "Making small investments that grow with you however you can, whether it's stuffing money underneath your mattress or buying bonds" is the smartest way to prepare for your future. No matter how small an investment seems at the moment, it will usually pay off significantly in the long run. She also says that reading articles about finance can be helping, since she reads the Financial Times daily so that she never misses any piece of useful knowledge that she can use to her benefit. If you are more of a visual learner, Erela suggests watching Youtube channels such as The Financial Diet to brush up on your money management skills. 

5. Jenna Michaels, Florida Atlantic University

Jenna, a senior at FAU, says that she has had her fair share of struggles when it comes to money. Paying for school and living on her own has been a challenge. She told me that moving on her own was a wake-up call when it came to money management. Growing up, she didn't learn financial literacy in school or at home. She said, "I never realized how difficult it would be to pay rent, bills and afford an education all on my own." Without the help from her parents, she was forced to put away money from her weekly paychecks to make sure that she had enough at the end of each month for rent, her bills and a sufficient amount left over to buy food and fill up her car with gas. "It can be hard to miss out on fun experiences because you have to budget," she says. However, she finds ways to still indulge without breaking the bank. "I participate in activities that are either free or don't cost very much. I use coupons daily and I always shop in the sale sections for necessities." Jenna's advice is to shop smart, save where you can and always keep track of your expenses. A lot of people fail to highlight how much they spend weekly, or even monthly, and it is important to outline the numbers if you want to create a practical plan of action.

Being financially literate means that you can take control of your own life and make smart choices that benefit you long-term. In today's world, it is impossible to reach your dreams and achieve your goals without being financially smart. If you take away anything from these interviews, let it be that everyone is capable of learning new things and utilizing methods to save money, invest and budget effectively. 

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