Over the last nine years I have spoken to over 80,000 people on stages around the world. Majority of the 80K have been students, especially first generation students. This is my favorite group to speak in front of. Not because I am a first generation college graduate, but because I know I can help them catch up financially.

I personally paid off $50,000 of debt in two years and it wasn’t until after I did that I realize the need to help students not fall into the same financial traps that I did.

First gen students face a lot of challenges in high school and college, but the main challenge they face is their finances. That one challenge can keep them from going to college or even worse starting college and not finishing. I believe that every student that wants to go to college should be able to and not only go, but finish and thrive financially afterwards.

In order to do that they must have the right financial foundation and that foundation is not what most people think.

People who have not faced the same challenges as first gen students tend to bring “financial literacy” to these students in the form of workshops that don’t benefit them. Workshops on investing, credit, home buying, and other subjects that can’t help them because it is not where they are in life.

These students benefit from what I call “real financial literacy” that they can relate to, engage with, and take immediate action that improves their finances and the finances of their families.

So where do they start?

High School Students:

First generation high school students face the unique challenge of being the first one to go to college. Why is that a challenge? It is a challenge because whether they are in 9th grade or 12th grade they are embarking on a journey that no one else in their family has been on. A journey that entails SAT and ACT scores. Scholarship essays and FAFSA. College applications and the fees that come with them. All of this and we haven’t even arrived at the part of their current financial situation.

Every high school student, first gen or not is focused on money. How to have more of it because let’s face it, they don’t have any. This means that any attempt to help them with financial literacy has to be centered on that.

Tips For High School Students:

-Show them how to use their hobbies to bring in extra money.

-Ways that they can help their parents save money on monthly bills.

-Where the scholarships are that don’t require essays or a certain GPA.

-Encourage them to use the skills they are already have with social media to start a business that they can grow that business while in high school, college, and beyond.

-How to determine their financial goals and the ways that they can save for those goals

Thousands of high school students that I have spoken in front of have talents and ideas that once I helped them see how to capitalize them were able to make money from their passion.

It is all about meeting them where they are and helping them move forward from their current position.

College Students:

When I get in front of college students I know that they are already in the trenches. It is never hard to fill up an auditorium when I come to speak because most college students are in student loan debt and they are trying to figure out how this woman paid off $50K of it so fast.

First gen college students are living real life whether we want to admit it or not. So they are looking for real solutions that can help them sooner or later.

When I was in college I can’t tell you how many times I ran into financial emergencies. Car accidents, flat tires, even gas was sometimes an emergency. Then there were times when I just could not participate in the usual college activities because of the cost. I definitely understand why first generation students want to get to the point when it comes to financial literacy because time is of the essence and they need answers now.

I tell people all the time that I didn’t go to college to find myself. I went to college so that I could get a high paying job after graduation and help my family financially. That was it!

I keep that in mind when I am in front of college students and if you are someone who works with college students then it may help to keep that in mind as well. I keep this mentality because I want to make sure everything that I present to them is going to lead them to a better place financially.

Tips For College Students:

-Letting them know it is okay to say “NO!” to those who may bring them down financially (friends and family)

-To use their refund check to build their “ICYABF” (In Case You Are Breathing Fund) because emergencies will happen throughout college

-Show them how to obtain paid internships

-Help them find non-traditional jobs that work around their class schedules so they can focus on their academics and also make money (There are $15 an hour jobs out there for college students)

-Show them how to use social media to make money from their hobby or passion

-Show them how to use social media to get their foot in the door for internships and careers without having to rely on a resume

There are many more ways to help first generation high school and college students towards financial independence. Sometimes I am brought in for two and three day events where I present multiple keynotes and workshops around just financial literacy so believe me when I say there is plenty that you can do if you work with high school or college students. You can even use these tips if you are the parent of a high school or college student.

These students, students who are in the same place I was need different approaches and solutions when it comes to financial literacy. They need to be able to catch up to their peers and pass them so that when they graduate from college they are able to pay off any student loan debt quickly. This will put them in position to save more money, build generational wealth, and change their family tree.

It IS about the money.

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International Financial Literacy Speaker and Author

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