Name: Tyler Stock
School: University of California, Berkeley
Expected Graduation Date: Spring of 2021
Congratulations to Tyler Stock, our latest recipient of the OppU Achievers Scholarship! We loved his essay about the importance of financial literacy and are thrilled to offer him $2,500 to help pay for his upcoming college tuition. Well done, Tyler!
Tyler just graduated from Hinsdale South High School in Darien, Illinois (Go, Hornets!). In addition to making Dean’s List and being named an Illinois State Scholar, he is active in the Chicago business community. He co-founded a startup his sophomore year and later worked for an up-and-coming company that helps employers pay the student loans of their employees. Nice!
At OppLoans, we believe in the power of the individual to create opportunity. That’s why we award the Achievers Scholarship four times a year and provide free financial literacy courses at OppU.
In his essay titled “Built to Rise,” Tyler discusses why it’s so important for college students to learn about personal finance. The way he sees it, people are pretty similar to buildings: the stronger their foundation, the higher they can rise.
“Most people like to imagine living at the top…,” he writes. “(B)ut they forget about the grit, effort, and financial literacy it takes to build the floors to get there.”
Tyler has demonstrated exceptional hard work and achievement. We’re confident he’s got a great foundation beneath him, and we’re excited to see him rise at the University of California, Berkeley.
Congrats, Tyler! We wish you the best.
Here’s Tyler’s essay.
Built to Rise
Reflecting on the past couple of years, I could not help but think that people are constructed like a building: the stronger the foundation, the higher it can rise. Most people like to imagine living at the top, but they forget about the grit, effort, and financial literacy it takes to build the floors to get there. The integral floor of one’s building begins with a strong sense of financial literacy. If a person is considered the architect of their own building, financial literacy is the planning and materials that help them create a sustainable structure.
As I previously helped lead the growth of a startup named Peanut Butter in downtown Chicago, I’ve had the opportunity to witness first-hand how financial literacy can build new floors, tear down existing ones, and help dream up new ones for recent college graduates. Peanut Butter is a software service that provides the setup, employee enrollment, and payment routing so companies can make monthly contributions to pay down their employees’ student loan debt. Founded in August of 2015, Peanut Butter has been written about by Inc., Forbes, HR.com, Recruiter.com, Built In, and Chicago Inno. Companies are adopting the student loan repayment benefit as an innovative way to improve their recruiting, retention, and financial well-being efforts among their workforce.
The numbers and the implications of financial illiteracy are a real problem for college students like me. Growing debt balances, rising interest rates, and prolonged realization of dreams are some of the implications that students who are financially illiterate may face. Over 70 percent of students from the class of 2016 graduated with more than $30,000 in student loans. Financial literacy is important for college students because financial literacy is freedom. Financial literacy is taking risks, capitalizing on opportunities, and building sustainable futures. However, according to research by PricewaterhouseCooper, “only 24% of millennials demonstrated basic financial knowledge (numeracy and mortgages) and only 8% demonstrated high financial literacy (basic asset pricing, inflation and risk diversification).”
The effect of this personal financial knowledge shortage can result in decreased happiness levels, delayed dreams, and fewer opportunities because one is at the mercy of their debt, not their dreams. However, this self-fulfilling cycle of financial illiteracy, delayed dreams, and decreased happiness can be remedied. When one decides to commit themselves to learning about personal finance, they put themselves in control of the construction of their own building.
According to EverFi and Higher One, organizers of financial literacy programs, the number one reason college students fail to improve their financial literacy rate is because “students don’t believe they need to budget because they don’t have any income.” Furthermore, in a study of 65,000 college students, they also found that “after just a semester at college, students were more likely to have at least one credit card and to have paid the bill late.” Although college students may not have an income, many of them will be taking on increasingly large amounts of financial responsibility in the coming years. Starting with bad habits such as paying credit card bills late on menial purchases can compound into avoidable interest payments and other negative impacts such as a lower credit score that could cost one thousands of dollars in interest on larger purchases in the future.
Starting early and starting often in terms of financial education are some of the best solutions on the journey to becoming financially literate. The most important reason my peers and I should care to become financially literate at a young age is because it gives one the freedom to pursue the opportunities they want to. College students will be able to pursue their ambitions, spark a career built on passionate foundations, and save for the future. While many students enter college seeking to learn skills that will allow them to earn money, poor financial management skills are one the few skills that can literally cost money. By becoming financially literate at a young age, students can utilize their knowledge for any decisions that may arise and be sure to choose the right one. Without financial literacy, one doesn’t know if they are asking the right questions, leaving something on the table, or potentially losing money. The foundation of every college student’s skyscraper should be marked by a sense of financial literacy that can guide their efforts sustainably into the sky.
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