Week 8: On Financial Literacy

Shumin He of the 2019 CAUSE Leadership Academy

I strive to be independent and as someone from a low-income family, my finances makes true independence hard to come by. While the scholarship I received to go to college put a pause to my concern over financial stability, post-college life forced me to confront my financial reality. I chose to move to the West coast from the East coast for personal reasons and living in an area with minimal social connections has compounded the stress. I have to find affordable housing, cook for myself, deal with not having health insurance, all in addition to watching out for my personal safety. However, I am stubborn about my personal independence and if moving out of my parents’ place means jeopardizing my financial independence, then so be it.

I was grateful for the financial literacy workshop this past Monday. Even though I can budget, I did not know much about retirement and investment plans. Some other interns and I talked about the lack of financial literacy education in college and how we would really have benefited from more education on the subject. There are economics and accounting majors in college, but they don’t teach students the basic finances for adulting, such as budgeting and renting or buying houses. When students are so busy with school work and pay tuition that covers  both room and board, they are less likely to learn about finances on their own. My college was such a bubble that I felt out of touch with the real world and I am sure that I wasn’t the only one. Some students can rely on their families to teach them about mortgages and investment plans, but my immigrant parents are new to American culture and they are not equipped with the knowledge to help me with financial stability. Asian parents tend to encourage their children to become doctors or lawyers for the sake of higher income, but since I do not aspire to go down those routes, I have to put the puzzle pieces together myself. 

Without financial literacy, low-income students like me can get stuck in the cycle of poverty. Money cannot buy everything, but accumulation of wealth will improve my psychological well-being and help me take care of my family. I am indignant that the lack of financial literacy in college disproportionately affects low-income individuals, and that’s why I actively share what I learn with others. This week I helped a younger intern at the state treasurer’s office edit her resume, and which will probably increase her chance of getting future opportunities. I want to steer away from the mindset that opportunities are limited, and that I have to fight others for them and keep opportunities to myself. Unhealthy competition has only worn me out in the past. Moving on, I want to evaluate my tenacity and interpersonal relationships as markers of success.