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Congratulations Class of 2013! 

Growing up, Generation Y has become fascinated with technology, interacting online and staying current with the latest trends. We have high expectations, we seek new challenges and we are not afraid to challenge the status quo. Unfortunately, as young adults of Generation Y, we are often generalized as being lazy or inexperienced. We are sometimes called ungrateful for many perceived advantages we have over earlier generations. Some adults have a hard time respecting us and taking us seriously. Many think we have poor work ethic and we are just handed everything on a silver platter. I happen to think that Generation Y is the most educated and technologically savvy generation America has ever seen. We are the face of the future. We constantly have new ideas and we have a unique set of values, beliefs, needs and attitudes that separate us from previous generations. Although the economic times have limited our chances of finding employment after college, we can start early and educate ourselves about financial literacy to help us thrive during these hard times. Eventually, tough times will turn into good times instead of living a life full of fear and anxiety. We just need to have hope. Reality is that we will deal with money for the rest of our lives. That makes money management a vital survival skill. We may not need to walk 7 miles both ways to the nearest well to get a bucket of water, but we do need to know how to pay bills on time and keep food on the table during these hard times. Don’t let the economic recession and our older generations weaken your confidence of being successful. Continue to reach for the stars and follow your dreams. Your dreams and ambitions are what drive our civilization to new heights.

 If this recession has taught us anything it’s that many people lack the education they need to make the right decisions about their finances and their futures. Be smart with your money! Living a life full of wealth and happiness can start from a simple budgeting plan. Knowing where your money is coming from, where it is going, and balancing those funds will help give you a head start in the direction you want to go.  My mother always asks me, “Do you really need that?” and I believe those are words we all need to live by. Instead of purchasing that must have designer t-shirt, put that money into a savings account or invest for your future!

Secondly, I think it is important to remember that it is okay to borrow money as long as you have a plan to pay it back. The number one rule that comes with borrowing money is to use it, but don’t abuse it. Typically, any debt that is a result of borrowing money for any purchase that has future value built in, such as a home purchase or a student loan for college education, is known as good debt. These types of debts are classified as good because they can help you build credit, wealth and success. But that doesn’t mean that you should take that debt lightly. Getting behind on your loan or credit card payments can sufficiently damage your credit score. Credit is an essential factor for lenders to determine whether you are worthy of paying back your dues. If you are using a credit card, purchase items that you are able to afford and if possible, always pay the balance in full. As long as you stay up to date with your payments and pay more than the minimum balance on your credit card or loan, you will increase your credit score and stay away from paying too much in interest or late fees.

Lastly, start saving for retirement now! You may think that you are too young to plan for your future finances, but every dollar saved while you are young is potentially several dollars you won’t need to save later. Naturally, the more time you have to set aside money for savings, investments, or for contributions to a 401(k) account, the more money will be there in the future.

As you travel on your journey to becoming an adult, remember that it is okay to fall down and make mistakes. The world doesn’t care how many times you fall as long you get back up. Just remember to have fun, live every moment to the fullest and never settle! For financial success, get educated, remember to live within your means and put something away. Growing up is an exciting part of your life, so don’t ruin the experience by worrying about financial matters. Do your research and overcome the financial obstacles that can impair your educational success. With your help and enthusiasm to succeed, we can work together to ignite hope and reassurance in your generation.  Rock on Gen Y!

 This speech was written as part of our submission to NerdWallet’s Gen Y Credit Union Contest  #GenYCreditUnion

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