I graduated from college in May. I spent four years taking classes in everything from chemistry to Spanish literature to the politics of the European Union — but as I’m standing on the edge of adulthood, I’m realizing I still have a lot to learn.
Certain things about being a financially responsible adult still elude me (Roth IRAs, for example). But in the past few months, and the past few weeks I’ve spent working at Zogo, I’ve come up with a few things that I think people like me – be they recent grads, young adults, or teens and twenty-somethings still finishing up their education — need to know to get a head start on keeping their personal finances in check:
How to build credit. Building good credit isn’t a very intuitive concept, and it can feel harder and more complicated when your existing credit is, well, nonexistent. I remember trying to apply for what was supposed to be my first credit card my junior year. My application was denied. The company informed me that my application indicated “insufficient income.” Well of course I have insufficient income! I thought to myself. I’m a college student! I was told to reapply with a guarantor. Instead, I let the application collect dust for months — months that could have been spent building good credit.
How to manage credit. So many college students and other young people see credit cards or other forms of credit as “free money,” as one of our Zogo users so aptly described it. They use credit to buy things they can’t really afford or don’t really need. They lease a new car, thinking they can afford the monthly payment but forgetting they’ll be paying off a rapidly depreciating asset. One of my friends racked up thousands of dollars in credit card debt during their freshman year of college — on what, they still don’t really know. It took them close to a year to pay it all off.
How to work toward financial independence, now and in the future. As I graduate from college and look toward adulthood, my parents and I have begun the difficult process of detangling our respective finances. Like other students, I was lucky enough to have certain necessities — housing, groceries, textbooks — paid for while I finished my degree. Now, I’m eager to be off on my own and working toward financial independence. But I watch the number in my savings account anxiously and think: What does financial independence even mean? And how do I even begin?
There’s no doubt that diving into just these three concepts would help most Gen Zers get a head start on a secure and successful financial life. But where, exactly, are you supposed to learn these things? In school? On the Internet? From watching your parents, who may or may not have their own problems with money?
Lessons like this are important, but only some young adults learn them before making a mistake that could harm their financial wellbeing. At Zogo, we don’t want any more Gen Zers to learn these lessons the hard way.
What’s something you wished you’d known about money or finance when you were younger?