How one Annandale student has tackled financial anxiety with a budget and savings plan
By Rodshi Taiyabah
Youthcast Media Group®
Nhi Nguyen is afraid of having enough money in the future. She doesn’t remember ever not having enough to eat, but still gets anxious when the cupboards get a little emptier than usual.
Nhi, 16, also often worries about not having enough money for college tuition. In the future, she’d even like to be able to buy homes for her parents, who rent or live with family members.
For Nhi, the anxiety is partly her personality, she says. But she knows part of it is also due to her immigrant family's struggles with money.
“I have a lot of fear about financial instability in the future,” said Nhi. “Saving money is rather a conscious thing for me.”
Regardless of the source of the anxiety, Nhi is not alone. Many teenagers face the same struggles and concerns about being financially stable in the future. In fact, 39% of Generation Z and 34% of millennials said finances were their leading cause of stress, according to a 2022 Cigna Global report. As inflation and cost of living rise, more younger people are worrying about their future when it comes to spending money.
“Gen Z is getting started in their lives and careers at a particularly difficult time,” said Kathy Kristof, a personal finance writer and cofounder of Sidlhusl, a website that rates and reviews part time “gig” jobs. (www.sidehusl.com.) “ We are just emerging from the pandemic-initiated recession and moving into a debt/inflation-related recession. Government debt has never been so out of control....and that has many negative implications for Gen Z's future.”
Nhi and her family immigrated from Vietnam when she was only 2 years old. Her brother, who is 10 years older than her, started working after school at 16 to help support the family. After her parents divorced, and the family ran into money troubles, Nhi saw firsthand the toll financial instability can take.
It was her brother who taught her about bank accounts and saving money, she said.
While her family is in a stable position now, she’s come to understand that spending too much without saving can have major consequences and burdens.
One of the ways that Nhi saves money is by shopping for clothes at thrift stores.
“I think it's really good to be able to repurpose the clothes that other people didn’t want so it doesn't go to waste,” she said. She considers cost first, she said, but also the quality of the clothes she buys and how long they’ll last. People often buy cheap clothing, but don’t stop to wonder if the clothes are “going to fall apart after one wash,” she said.
She also recommends being conscious of how much money you have and what you’re spending– and making sure you don’t lose track when buying things online. That’s why Nhi prefers to buy with cash. When you count out money, it is much easier to restrict yourself rather than simply swiping a card with no hesitation, she said.
“There is nothing more rewarding or calming than having a budget. A budget tells you what you're doing with your money,” said Susan Beacham, the co-founder and CEO of Money Savvy Generation, (www.moneysavvy.com) a financial literacy and educational company. “It's almost like a money horoscope, you know, it says to you okay, so this is what you're doing, [and] you don't have to be afraid [of debt].”
While her parents encourage her to focus on her studies before she launches herself into the work world, Nhi hopes to be able to get a job soon.
Nhi’s career plans include majoring in foreign affairs and working in areas concerning finance and computer science.
Saving overall “ helps to practice restraint,” said Nhi. By practicing restraint, “I am able to consider whether items are wants vs. necessities”
Not only is saving a source of“relieving anxiety” and worries about the future, saving helps Nhi believe that her dreams of college, houses for her parents, and retirement funds are attainable.
“Knowing to save money now helps you to develop the financial skills you need in the future when you have to pay for a lot more,” she said.
Rodshi Taiyabah is an 11th grade student at Annandale High School in Annandale, Va. She wrote this story in collaboration with Youthcast Media Group’s team of mentoring journalists.