Our Commencement Address to the Class of 2013
Congratulations to the Class of 2013!
Below is HEWFCU’s Commencement Address to Gen-Y Graduates
By: Phylicia Atkins
Friends, Romans, Generation Y-ers, lend me your ears!
First—what is Generation Y? If you are a human being under the age of 35, this means you!
It is a pleasure for me to address you as you commence into your new lives—the "REAL" world. Many of you are facing your first years in college, graduate school, or taking on the real world head-on, with the help of parents, teachers, guidance counselors, and mentors. Congratulations to you—I’m excited for you! This is a time of change and growth—many of you are relocating, joining the work force, getting married and having children. No matter where your path leads you individually, we are ALL affected by major change at this juncture in our lives, and that huge change is financial.
I consider myself lucky because I have the benefit of working in the financial services industry, which naturally helped me learn important lessons about finance and how mysterious things like interest rates and credit scores can affect my life—and MY money. But what about those of our generation who don’t work in finance? How do we connect with someone – a guidance counselor, if you will—that can show us how to be successful in our financial lives? As Facebook and Twitter have shown us, being connected to each other makes us happier, better informed, and able to lead richer lives. I’m excited to connect with you now to share some financial tips I’ve learned along the way, which can help you navigate the real world, and live the rock-star life you were meant to live.
Pull Your Credit Report!
A friend of mine, we’ll call her Diane, graduated from a top state school in 2010. She was excited when, after a great interview, she was offered the job of her dreams. Those dreams were shattered when the employer reviewed her credit report and discovered less than stellar credit. There was a time where having great grades in college could guarantee you a position at the company of your choice. Today, many jobs require a good credit history to be accepted for a job. Additionally you’ll need a decent credit history, since many apartment management companies review credit before approving your rental. With credit, knowing where you stand is half the battle. Visit www.annualcreditreport.com annually. I suggest doing it on your birthday because it’s easy to remember. Review your credit report for discrepancies and make sure everything is accurate.
Establish Credit Now!
Having no credit can sometimes be as bad as having bad credit. An easy way to get started is to apply for a secured loan or credit card, if you are age 21 or over. After 6 to 12 months of timely repayment, you will demonstrate to potential creditors, employers and landlords that you are a trustworthy individual who pays their bills.
Establish Savings Now!
Retirement and Emergency savings plans are a MUST at our age. Why? Because we only have two choices: get older, or die! And if we do get older, we must be able to depend on ourselves for financial security. There is a lot of speculation today that by the time we are of age to collect Social Security (a program that we pay into via payroll taxes); there may not be enough money left in the system to go around. You are NEVER too young to save for retirement. Another added bonus—many retirement savings plans involve tax breaks, so investing in your retirement for the future could benefit you now with tax deductions or deferments. Even if you’re only saving $5 a week, it counts. So save early, and save often!
Join a Credit Union!
Let’s face it—we’re labeled as the "social networking" generation, since many of us are addicted to Instagram, tumblr, Twitter, and (my personal favorite) Facebook. A Credit Union is essentially a big network of friends joining financial forces for their mutual benefit. As a Credit Union member you are a part owner of the organization; Credit Unions are wholly owned by their members and managed by a Board of Directors made of member owners! Imagine being able to walk into your financial institution knowing you are an owner. How sweet is that?
These four items are not, by far, everything I have learned about finance. They are definitely the four that have the most immediate impact on our generation. They form a road map that can help each of us succeed financially and lead better and more secure lives as a whole. I am excited for our future, but I’m even more excited about right now—because our future is right now. I’m 25 years old, I am one of you! The world is our oyster, and our opportunities for success will never be as ripe as they are now. So seize the day, seize your financial success, and seize the awesome life we are all meant to live.
This speech was written as part of our submission to NerdWallet's Gen Y Credit Union Contest