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Teaching Young Adults Financial Health Strategies for the Days ‘Beyond College’

With colleges and universities physically closed, sheltering at home offers families the opportunity to help their children learn strategies to build a better financial future

Published 04-27-20

Submitted by Wells Fargo & Company

Wells Fargo Advisors Financial Advisor Sarah Schweppe has memorized the syllabus for what she considers ‘Finance 101,’ the basics of what she believes young people need to know about finances as they enter adulthood. She remembers what her parents, both financial advisors, told her as a young adult.

“Build an emergency fund. Start to automate savings and investments. Start contributing to a 401(k), and if you can, get a match. Be careful about building and maintaining credit,” she said, rapid-firing some key pieces of advice. It is the same advice she dispensed in her first role as a financial advisor while talking to college-aged people in their late teens and early 20s.

With colleges and universities closed amid the COVID-19 pandemic, families sheltering together at home, and many families facing financial hardships, Schweppe says this year’s American Bankers Association Teach Children to Save Day — April 24 — can be an opportunity for parents to have important conversations about money with their young adult children.

According to a 2019 Wells Fargo Private Bank study, Children of Millionaires Want to Inherit Parents’ Values More Than Their Wealth, more than 90% of millennials and Generation Zers say they do not regularly meet to discuss family finances, and just one in three report their family ever having a formal meeting to discuss finances.

“It is so vital to talk to your children about money, and not just once, but regularly,” said Katherine Dean, head of Family Dynamics for Wells Fargo Private Bank.

Parents can also use some of the many resources available from Wells Fargo and the financial industry to give their kids a quick study: for instance, Hands on Banking®, or the Beyond College Webinar Series.

“Now, more than ever, it’s important to have an emergency fund of cash,” Schweppe said. “So with this extra time, young people can strategize on how to build up three- to six-months’ worth of living expenses in a savings account. Or, if they already have a sufficient emergency fund and have additional cash on hand, with equity prices so low, I believe this may be a good time to consider whether investing may be an appropriate next step for them.

“However and whenever young children choose to begin strategizing for their financial futures, there are advantages to starting early,” Schweppe said.

‘It’s a teachable moment’

For young adults thinking about investing, the current market situation, in general, presents an instructional opportunity, said Tracie McMillion, head of Global Asset Allocation Strategy for Wells Fargo Investment Institute.

Looking at historical data, McMillion noted this is only the seventh time since 1929 that the market has gone down 30% or more.

Essentially, it’s a teachable moment, McMillion said. “For young people to have the opportunity to see a big drawdown like this, and then witness the other side of it, when markets are expected to go higher again, that should build some understanding about the resiliency of the market.”

She also noted that new investors can start small and plan to build on investments over time.

“It can be a common misconception that you need to start out with tens of thousands of dollars to invest in the markets,” McMillion said. “You don’t, really. And because college-aged students are so young, they can invest for a long period of time, and any dividends can be reinvested, possibly generating a compounded growth rate and ending up with potentially significant returns.”

Dean agreed that learning about managing wealth can be important at varying income levels. The 2019 Private Bank survey also revealed that the children of millionaires give themselves mediocre grades (B– average) on their overall financial literacy, and lower grades for more specific financial matters, like insurance, taxes, and investing (C average).

Focusing on what’s ‘Beyond College’

Personal finance is an upcoming topic in the 2020 Beyond College Webinar Series, an online series offered by Wells Fargo that offers practical and actionable content to scholars. Featured speakers in the series include specialists from within Wells Fargo as well as outside organizations, such as universities and MBA programs. The specialists dispense detailed advice from various life experiences and levels of expertise.

Attendees of the series in real-time can interact using polling and Q&A features, but each session is also available for playback, offering the resource in a digestible format similar to a podcast.

In addition to personal finance, the Beyond College series of 12 webinars for 2020 covers topics such as “Entrepreneurship and the Gig Economy,” “Charting a Path to Graduate School,” “Preparing for Success in Your Job Interview,” and “Successful Strategies for Managing Student Debt.”

The April session will also touch on related topics relevant to current events.

“The discussion will likely pivot to focus on the importance of saving and budgeting, reflecting on times like these, when a lot of people are facing challenges related to the coronavirus,” said Dewey Norwood, business initiatives consultant, and Wells Fargo Talent Acquisition Strategy and Targeted Programs relationship manager.

Beyond College webinars are currently being used in distance learning curriculums for students in high school, as well as college scholars and recent graduates.

Rosetta Price, interim director of the Career Development Center at Bowie State University, a historically black university in Maryland, has used the Beyond College webinar series for about three years in her online courses, and she believes the courses will continue to be useful for students who are now learning online only.

“The information in the webinars, I believe, is vital for my students who are doing all different types of work in different industries,” Price said. “And it’s most definitely beneficial right now, when our students are dealing with so much financially.”

Price said she has recommended the webinars to her friends who are parents, as well as other educators. “This kind of information seems to resonate well with young people when they hear it from an employer’s perspective,” Price said.

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