Hi, I'm Kelly and I love talking to people and sharing ideas—especially when I get to connect with college students who are so candid and honest. You can't help but get caught up in their energy and optimism. Working for Fidelity, I have had so much fun traveling to campuses across the country to hear what young adults have and haven't learned in college, as this not only helps me learn about educational gaps in financial literacy, but it also motivates me. Every day, I'm trying to find ways to encourage young adults to engage more with their finances so that they can live the lives they want.
Thinking about financial education makes me reflect on some of the best financial lessons I learned. And they didn't come in college: They came from my "work bestie" Janice. I started here at Fidelity in a different role, and Janice was a 30-year Fidelity veteran who seemed to know everyone, and more importantly, know everything! Janice taught me valuable life lessons that have ultimately helped guide me to where I am today. During my first week, she saw me struggle with my retirement benefits. Although I had my MBA, was closer in age to 30 than 20, and this was not my first job—this was the first time I was choosing to participate in my employer's 401(k) retirement savings plan. (Don't worry, stories about my financial mistakes will come later!) Janice slowly rolled her chair over to my desk and walked me through the process.
In the 6 months I worked by Janice's side, she taught me more about finances than I had learned in the 6 years since graduating college. Here are my favorite 3 financial life lessons from Janice:
Start investing (and know the difference between investing and saving!)
After Janice helped me set up my 401(k), she said something I will never forget: "Congratulations, you are now an investor!" I laughed because I didn't realize that's what I was doing. I didn't understand that by contributing to a workplace savings account, I was investing in my future. Sure, it was a form of savings, but unlike savings, I was putting my money from every paycheck to work for me in the stock market. I told Janice I was late to the game—she said you could never be late to investing; you just have to start. Compounding interest is a powerful thing and by investing your money in an investment account like a 401(k), you are taking advantage of it.
An emergency fund should be your top priority
Planning for the "unexpected" was one of Janice's favorite topics. She would share stories with me about how one day life was heading in one direction, and the next, the complete opposite. While I had my share of the unexpected as well (Hello, flat tire), I never really heard the term "emergency fund." She helped me understand that planning for emergencies should be a priority and having a separate stash of money can help with anything from unexpected car repairs to high medical bills, and even unemployment. While Fidelity recommends putting aside 3 to 6 months of your expenses in an emergency fund, Janice encouraged me to start small and put anything I could aside. She also told me to make those payments automatic so my account would grow without me giving it much thought.
Finally, splurge a bit on life's experiences!
Janice dreamed of going to Italy all of her life and within a few months of meeting her, she announced she was finally going on that dream vacation. She constantly talked about her trip and this leads to her last financial lesson: embrace personal finance, because in order to live the life you want, you need to step up and take control of your money. When you reach your financial goals, you're able to do the things that make you happy, whether that's a massage, a dream trip to Italy, a future home, or saving for retirement on a beach.
Living the life you want is very personal. It means different things to different people, depending on the person and where they are in life. For some, it means having enough money to go out with friends on a Friday night, but still pay rent. For others, it may be about preparing to go back to graduate school. Working in financial services allows you to see the direct impact of your work—and although I wasn't Janice's customer, as my work bestie, she provided the best example of how our work can positively impact the lives of others.
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