Economic Empowerment Starts with Financial Literacy

Growing up, our parents taught us many lessons. From tying our shoes, shooting our first jump shot, or ironing our clothes before that first job interview, we were reminded of the importance of practice, perseverance, and planning. We were also taught to respect our elders, the importance of family and community and the value of hard work and discipline. We practiced and perfected these lessons at school, on the playground and at our first workplace. These lessons helped to shape us from children into the men and women we are today, instilling in us good habits, ambition and work ethic that has been with us every step of our life. Now, as I begin my transition from university into the workforce, I find myself facing a new set of challenges, completely unknown, never seen on the schoolyard, the classroom or at the gym. Subconsciously, I realize again these challenges were always there, hovering over me, waiting patiently for me to discover him.

This shadowy challenger who comes to face all of us at one point or another is named money management and financial literacy. How much from my first paycheck should I save? How do I make sure I stay on budget? What to do with the money I saved, where do I put it? Wait, there are things I can buy that can make me money? How do I pay my taxes? What can I expect back from my tax return? These are some of the questions, I was bombarded with when I first tried to tackle money management and financial literacy. After taking a while to sort through these questions and come up with a plan for managing my money, I realized that while I learned many things in my childhood and throughout my schooling that helped me prepare to get my first real job, I was never really taught what to do with the money I earned.

When I first began to learn financial literacy, I was amazed to find out that not only can we work to make money, but we can also make our money work for us. This lesson completely changed my whole mindset regarding finances. Now, I view each and every dollar I make as a potential ‘employee’ that can work for me 24 hours a day, seven days a week, without needing vacation sick days or benefits. This understanding has placed a whole new value on top of the money that I have and continue to earn. I consider every single decision regarding spending money because in the back of my mind I know I’m giving up potential hardworking ‘employees’.

Just understanding this simple concept can change our mindset from that of a worker, focused on a paycheck, to that of a CEO focused on deploying our resources to ensure a successful and stable future. These are the lessons that are missed by so many children, yet they are some of the most important. Financial literacy can empower youth to break cycles of poor wealth management and poverty, showing them that with patience and consistency they can make any future that they want for themselves. By planting these seeds in our youth, teaching them these valuable lessons, and sparking an interest in financial literacy, we are cultivating bright and fruitful futures for our children ensuring they have everything they need to be an owner rather than a renter, a lender rather than a borrower and leader rather than a follower.

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