Ashleigh Williams first became interested in finance at a young age, which she credits to earlier conversations she had with her father. As a tween, she saved her birthday and holiday money in her personal bank account simply because she enjoyed watching money grow over time. Though they worked hard to provide a comfortable lifestyle for their children, her parents always instilled the concept of money management in her and her sister early. As she got older, she began to realize that conversations about budgeting and money management weren’t normalized within the Black community, which charged a battery in her back to use her wealth of knowledge to close the wealth gap in minority communities.
“I’ve had experiences advising high net-worth individuals and institutions on Wall-Street and realized that privileged communities have access to knowledge and private capital that minority groups don’t,” Williams told Girls United. “We are living in times where economic empowerment, opportunity and ownership are top of mind in the black community and I desire to add to this narrative by providing financial literacy resources to individuals and investing financial capital in minority startups.”
For Financial Literacy Awareness Month, ESSENCE Girls United got the money tea from Ashleigh about how Generation Z girls can start budgeting, saving and investing in themselves – starting now!
Why Gen Z Girls Should Care:
In all aspects of life, the decisions that young girls make today will have an impact on their future. I believe that for women, financial independence is a necessity. On average, women live longer but are paid less and are limited in job opportunities. Women also have to take more time off work than men due to pregnancies and childbearing responsibilities. Therefore, it is important for young girls to create habits – big or small- that will have an impact on their future relationship with money. There is a misconception that money management should begin once individuals receive their first large check or get rich. I’d like to challenge that. During Financial Literacy Awareness Month, I challenge individuals to establish small habits and implement discipline even with just a few dollars. You would be surprised how discipline with small amounts of money will contribute to significant financial growth over time. Ultimately, it is important to develop strong money management skills prior to earning a large income.
Preparing For The Real World:
It is important for teens to bring finance to life and personalize it depending on their situation. One of my first recommendations is to normalize the conversation of money, savings and wealth creation amongst close family and friends even in your teenage years. Additionally, it is important to create a tracking system that outlines expenses that you will individually be responsible for. Upon graduating high school, many teens begin taking on more financial responsibility than they might have had previously (i.e. rent, phone bills, car payments, etc.)
Some of the action items that teens can take during these transitional years include establishing a stream of income, setting up a high-yield savings account, leveraging student discounts on services, discussing family finances, establishing credit but keeping debt low, implementing investment strategies. Investing in index funds are always a great first step.
Teens that are preparing for college should actively search for scholarships. Taking advantage of scholarships should never be looked down upon or minimized.
Increase Earning Potential:
Determine ways to increase your income and capitalize on your streams of income. As you earn more, I recommend still keeping expenses as low as possible.
Stick to a Budget:
It is important to set financial goals and track your expenses based on your lifestyle to ensure that you are tracking towards success in reaching those goals. Regularly check in on how you are tracking to budget as well.
Save and Invest Early:
Pay yourself first and make sure that you are regularly storing money in savings and investing vehicles. The earlier you invest, the longer your time horizon and thus the more growth over time.
Invest In Yourself:
Traditionally, most people think of investing as allocating money in the stock market or in bonds. Investing is a huge key to financial freedom. Strictly saving money in a traditional savings account will not allow you to beat inflation and the rising cost of goods over time. It is important to note that investing can take shape in a number of ways. Financially, young girls and early professionals can invest in stocks, bonds, retirement accounts, index funds, real estate and even small businesses. I encourage individuals to establish an investment thesis, which simply states where an individual is looking to invest their time and resources over a period of time. This investment thesis will outline what is important to you when you assess investments that come your way.
Finances aside, there are a number of ways for girls to invest in their futures. A primary way of investing in one’s future is through education and skilling services. It’s important to take education seriously so that we are equipped to compete in a competitive workforce as young women. While higher education and college is not the path for everyone, girls can invest in skills that will help them advance their career and lifestyle. Take the time to research schools, programs and trade schools that will allow you to achieve your long term goals.
Additionally, one of my biggest investments has been in my network. I recommend that young girls surround themselves with others that encourage positivity and growth. Girls should seek to engage with mentors and establish sponsors who they can learn from. These role models can assist in your financial, professional, spiritual or personal journey.