ESSENCE Senior Editor, Tanisha A. Sykes, give students at the Disney Dreamers Academy some tips from her money and career toolkit.
At the 2014 Disney Dreamers Academy with Steve Harvey and ESSENCE Magazine, I had the chance to teach what I call “A Crash Course in Money & Power” to the 100 Dreamers, and their parents and chaperones. As the Personal Finance & Careers Editor at ESSENCE, I was more than happy to impart some of my wisdom about money management specifically to the young people in the audience, who were gearing up to take the next step in their lives—whether it meant attending college, mastering a trade or volunteering at a nonprofit. When making any major transition in life, there are certain lessons in money and power that one should have in his or her toolbox. Here are 5 such lessons:
Manage Your Money. It’s something I leaned early on in college, back in the days when my roommate and I would cobble together $6 so that we could get a sandwich from the Grease Trucks after the par-tay! It taught me to stretch my money and pay attention to what I really needed to use it for like books, tuition balances and most importantly, food. I also had a part-time, work-study job for a few hours each week. That checky-check always came in the nick of time. My best advice on credit card usage when you don’t have the means to pay for them? Avoid them until your senior year of college or carry one for emergencies.
Leverage Your Resources. When I first started college at Rutgers University in New Brunswick, NJ, my English professor told me I couldn’t write. With a goal of becoming a writer, this bit of information was particularly devastating to me. Instead of bowing out, I dragged my ego to The Writing Lab and got the appropriate help. And you should do the same. From tutors to the smart kid in class to the professors themselves, don’t ever be afraid to ask for help. It will save you precious time and energy, and get you that much closer to your goals.
Invest in Education. My husband and I have a 16-year-old son who we are prepping for college. As he takes state exams and speaks to potential mentors, we’ve questioned how in the world are we going to pay for this? One thing we won’t do: Mortgage our retirement to send our son to college, so we have devised this financial plan:
1/3 Grants and Scholarships
1/3 Parental Funding
1/3 Student Loans
Develop the Right Relationships. This is where linking in comes in handy. Having solid relationships is key at every stage of your career. When in college, look at the people who are pouring into you—professors, advisors and counselors, for example—and stay connected with them because they become mentors and sponsors later. I was a very shy young woman growing up, but I could clearly see who believed in me and who didn’t. For those who did, I’ve learned to send them a note, let them know what I’m doing, provide interesting industry insights and then ask for advice, an introduction or a favor. I always give more than I get and never make the ask before I’ve made enough love deposits. It may not be a romantic relationship, but you do have to tend to it.
Sharpen Your Entrepreneurial Mind. Many of the students at this year's Disney Dreamers Academy had start-up companies, nonprofits or some pretty cool ideas about businesses they wanted to run. I always tell future entrepreneurs to take your idea from good to great because everyone has a good idea. What makes yours great Also, you have to constantly, daily, mind your business because if you don’t, someone else will. It’s been the hardest lesson for me as a property owner. Keep meticulous records, hold everyone accountable and follow through on your promises, otherwise it leaves the door open for people to take advantage of you. And, as entrepreneurs, we always want to control our destiny instead of having it the other way around.