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Low-income Columbia student urges peers to learn personal finance

A degree alone won’t help you, first generation student wrote

First-generation, low-income Columbia University students (or “FLI”) need to learn about personal finance and not just rely on their degree to help them climb the economic and social ladder, a student wrote recently.

Shannon Geraghty, who is the first in her family to attend college, wants her similarly situated peers to become financially literate and not assume that their Ivy League degree is a guaranteed ticket to success.

Her own experience drove her to undertake an independent study into finance, according to an op-ed in the Columbia Spectator, the campus newspaper.

“I grew up with lights being shut off, cars getting repossessed, and eviction notices constantly staring me in the face,” she wrote. “Over the past few years, I have researched and studied economics, personal finance, and generational financial cycles.”

“I have read an extensive number of books, watched YouTube videos, and connected with experienced mentors to financially educate myself,” she wrote. “I was excited to come to Barnard and share my financial knowledge with fellow FLI students.”

Some students are fortunate and their parents will pay for everything. But for “broke college student[s]” it’s a bad idea to rely on “I’ll worry about that later,” Geraghty argued.

“I beg of you, please do not rely on the finance bro you went on a date with for your financial literacy needs,” she wrote, before listing a number of free resources available to the public and to Columbia students specifically.

“Knowledge is empowering, especially when it comes to personal finance,” she wrote further. “By becoming financially literate and taking care of our financial wellness, our chances of falling into the poverty trap drop drastically.”

“My fellow FLI students, it’s time to end financial illiteracy and start taking control of our financial well-being,” she concluded.

Personal finance doesn’t have to cost a dime

Geraghty makes a great argument and as an advocate for financial literacy, I fully agree. Some students come from backgrounds where money was never discussed or if so, only in a negative way. Others may have taken personal finance classes in high school or learn from parents or grandparents.

There are thousands of free resources to learn about personal finance and there is no excuse to not learn about the important skill of managing money.

Financial guru Dave Ramsey has hours and hours of episodes on YouTube while Ric Edelman’s website has free resources and episodes, including a series with PBS about different components of finance.

Local libraries and Amazon have personal finance classics like “Total Money Makeover,” “The Millionaire Next Door” and “Learn to Earn” for anyone to borrow or buy.

Don’t underestimate the value of asking someone at church or where you work for solid financial advice, though be wary of anyone that pushes debt on you or cryptocurrency.

Books, videos and advice from successful, debt-free people is the way to go – and then you won’t get misled by a “finance bro” or TikToker.

MORE: It is possible to pay off student loans with work and financial discipline

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About the Author
Associate Editor
Matt has previously worked at Students for Life of America, Students for Life Action and Turning Point USA. While in college, he wrote for The College Fix as well as his college newspaper, The Loyola Phoenix. He holds a B.A. from Loyola University-Chicago and an M.A. from the University of Nebraska-Omaha. He lives in northwest Indiana with his family.