September 6, 2012
by Dylan Tansy
America Saves Intern
Ten weeks ago I began my summer internship with America Saves not entirely knowing what I would be doing or what I would learn. It was my first time in Washington DC, and the first time I’ve lived further than 10 minutes from the beach in California. I was extremely excited to learn about social media marketing, and what goes in to running a national campaign like this. One thing I did not anticipate, however, is just how much I would learn about saving and how important it is. For this I am extremely grateful, as I will be finishing my undergraduate degree in a few months and am preparing to enter the “real world” for the first time. These are the lessons that I learned just in time:
Saving is possible even when you’re poor. While going to college I have survived on about $400 a month from my parents plus whatever else I made from different jobs and internships, which does not add up to much. This forced me to learn how to budget early on, but it never even crossed my mind that it was possible for me to save. When I came to America Saves and started talking about small regular transfers into a savings account, I realized that I had no excuse. I can afford to have $10 transferred from my checking to savings account every week, and I don’t even notice that it’s gone when it happens automatically. It’s adding up, and maybe I’ll even be able to afford a smart phone one of these days.
Start early. So few people these days are saving enough for retirement and most simply think that they can get started later in life. I now see how difficult this can be so I have become committed to being one of the exceptions. I can save myself a ton of stress and worry by simply starting this lifelong habit now when I’m in my 20’s and not putting it off until it’s too late.
The importance of an emergency fund. Up until now, I have had my parents to fall back on if I ever found myself in a bind or medical emergency. With the end of college looming, so too are the days that I can keep mooching off my parents. When this day comes, I now know that it will be my responsibility to take care of myself, and the only way to do that is to have a rainy day fund. I had never really given this aspect of adulthood that much thought, but now I understand what can happen if you are caught unprepared by the unexpected.
How credit reports and scores work. There are a ton of credit score and credit report commercials on TV, but WOW they are uninformative. I had no idea what the difference was, what they were used for, or why all those commercials kept telling me to regularly check them. Now I understand that a credit report contains seven years of financial history, and the score is a separate simplification basically grading loan eligibility. I never spent more on my credit card than I had, and now I understand how much of a favor I’ve done for myself.
Finance does not have to be scary. I’ve had a very simple money philosophy up until now; don’t spend more than I have. While this has been a great habit, I’ve been aware for some time that at some point I will most likely have to take out loans and incur debt. This is a bit unsettling, but now I realize that with just a little planning, I can easily manage debt, start to invest, and begin planning far into the future. I may not know everything right now, but I am confident that a little planning is all it really takes for a secure financial future.
Interning with America Saves this summer has been hugely beneficial to me. Not only have I gained valuable experience and lived in Washington DC, I have also gained lifelong lessons that will benefit me and my family far into the future. Where before I would have been flying financially blind, I now have a little insight and idea of where I’m going, as well as how to get there. This is the reason that AmericaSaves exists, so I encourage everyone to join, pay attention, and take action today rather than tomorrow or in a year. Good luck everyone.