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What is Generational Wealth and Why You Should Be Thinking About It

As a first generation American and college student, I find myself learning new ways to improve my life everyday –– some of these not taught to me by my parents or extended family. Important topics such as applying for college financial aid, taking care of your credit, and setting up a brokerage account and/or an IRA (individual retirement account) were not taught to me by my parents because they were not taught by their parents and the cycle goes on. You get the picture. 

Years ago, my parents came to this country to build a better life for their future generations. This meant that they had to start from the very basics like obtaining a substantial income to ensure our family had basic needs. However, they did not have the financial literacy necessary to seek out resources that could better our lives. They were new to the “American” way of life with your traditional 9-5, 401k, and medical, dental, and vision plans. And in fact, they were not given the opportunities to seek out those resources initially because they started out working low income jobs. It is safe to say that they were behind on matters that families who were here for generations already experienced. However, little by little, through supportive connections and helpful resources, they successfully managed to reach their financial goals such as securing the home of their dreams.

Setting up financial goals is essential to establishing generational wealth and building a legacy. I cannot emphasize enough how important it is to build equity. This means working smarter instead of harder. For example, if your employer matches your 401k, why not max it out each year if your circumstances allow you to do so?

Generational wealth does not come down to just money. It also involves passing down the financial knowledge needed to create financial goals whether it be emergency savings, retirement, and/or philanthropy. If your parents have not taught you the basics of investing, take it upon yourself to learn. Or even if you want to start smaller than that, begin to understand the inflows and outflows of your money by monitoring your budget. This is a great starter step and then you can work your way up from there.

I, as a first generation American, feel partly responsible for helping my family prosper and catch up with families who have been here for decades, if not, centuries. I want to leave a legacy for my future generations to have better opportunities than I did. This includes setting up the foundation and building upon it so that they can have the resources necessary to thrive and reach for their goals. For me, this started by obtaining the grades necessary to go to a well ranked university like The George Washington University and building personal and professional connections to benefit from the vast amount of opportunities available here.

If you are a college student and have a job or some form of passive income, I would highly encourage you to start your financial journey today. Again, small steps can go a long way.

I understand it’s a lot to think about at a young age, but as I transition into adulthood, this is something that is constantly on my mind and should be on yours too. One step I’m going to take personally is to research and open up a credit card that is the most effective to build credit history as a college student. What’s your next step?

Gigi Oyola is a junior at the George Washington University studying International Economics and Business. She is a member of the Pi Beta Phi Fraternity for Women, Association of Latino Professionals for America, Women in Business, and First Generation United. Besides her love for numbers and creative writing, Gigi enjoys adventuring to new sites, finding the best coffee shops, and making fun Tik Toks.
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