I want to share a story with you about one of First United’s 2018 Summer Interns, Sidney Griffeth. Sidney is a 20-year-old college student at Northeastern State University (NSU) in Tahlequah, OK. She has started her financial life on the right path by avoiding debt, working toward getting her degree in Accounting, and saving money for her future.
One day, I asked Sidney about the one thing she is most proud of when it comes to college. Her response was “Being able to get my undergraduate degree without taking out any student loan debt.” Of course, I had to find out how she did it! And her response was very admirable. Sidney was able to score a 27 on her ACT, which enabled her to get a collegiate scholarship at NSU. She also took 33 hours of college credits while she was still in high school. The 33 college credit hours allowed her to begin college as a Sophomore in high school, which also saved her money as she will graduate sooner. In addition, she completed the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) to receive additional grant money and OHLAP.
Sidney will be the first one in her family to obtain a college degree when she graduates with her bachelor’s degree in accounting in Spring of 2019. Afterwards, she will begin working on her Master’s degree in Accounting. Once she obtains her master’s degree, she plans to begin working as an accountant and hopes to find an employer who will help subsidize or pay for her to become a Certified Public Accountant.
Sidney does not live a mundane or boring life. In addition to making good grades, which allows her to keep her scholarship funding intact, Sidney works a part-time job as a waitress in Tahlequah, OK. She uses her tip money to pay for her living expenses and saves as much of the money as she can. I asked her what she’s saving her money for? The answer was two-prong:
- To buy a “new to her” car.
- To have $10,000 in her savings account so she can pay for as much of her Master’s Degree as possible, without having to obtain student loan debt.
Sidney was not just saving up money for a down payment on her "new to her" car. Instead, she began saving money to pay cash for her purchase! And guess what? Sidney just reached her goal earlier this month (July 2018), during her summer internship. Congratulations Sidney!
She had been saving this money for a little longer than a year but she was very intentional about reaching this goal when her 2007 Ford Focus was on its last reliable leg. This is the car that she got when she turned 16 and it had been totaled prior to her owning it. Her father fixed it up and she drove it four years. She was proud to have a car that got her to school and work, but she really wanted to replace her first car without taking on a car payment. Her logic, “Why make payments on something that I can pay cash for if I just wait and save my money?” Talk about the ability to delay gratification! She was able to replace her Ford Focus with a 2008 Cadillac CTS. Way to go Sidney, that is awesome! Since her father is handy with mechanic work, she plans to rely on him to help her keep it running smoothly.
Now that Sidney has purchased her “new to her” car, she can now shift her focus to start saving $10,000 to help pay for her Master’s degree. Her goal is to build her savings back up by Fall 2019 so she can pay for as much of her master’s degree as possible and try to avoid student loan debt. Of course, she also plans to apply for scholarships. Her advice to all high school and college students is to apply for as many scholarships as you are eligible for because every scholarship award you receive will save you money!
Lastly, I asked Sidney, “What is one piece of advice you could offer to anyone regarding money?” Her tip was to take the first step and open up a savings account. At first, when she was trying to achieve her two-prong goal, she deposited her tips into her checking account. A bank teller prompted her to open a savings account because she was carrying a high balance in her checking account and did not want her to have any unnecessary risk of the money being stolen. That is where it all began. She opened a savings account and over the last year she started putting at least 65% of her tips and money earned into the savings account.
I recently heard Sidney tell another intern that she always tries to pre-pay rent with any excess money she has from grant/scholarship awards. This can really help alleviate stress. What fantastic, genuine advice from one college student to another.
Sidney got her first job at the age of 14 as a cashier at a race track and has had a job ever since then. Starting to work this early in life taught her the value of a hard-earned dollar. Sidney is driven to work hard so that she does not have to struggle financially in life.
Whether you have grown up in a low-income family, middle-income family, or high-income family, I think the advice from this young millennial can be taken to heart as her words are wise beyond years.