Tim A, 23, Grateful Rising Star
Although not technically in foster care, by the time Tim Alexander started his freshman year at California State University-Fullerton he had bounced between his grandparents and 15 different families. With help from a campus program, Tim received a scholarship to pay for his room and board while in school. Tim used his talents as an actor and director to create an annual musical production based on a popular Broadway show — RENT: A Financial Literacy Spectacular — to raise awareness of financial capability.
OYO: How did you feel about money growing up?
TA: I grew up in a low-income community. My grandparents used their social security and whatever money they could scramble together, but growing up I didn’t have any new clothes or video games or anything. I quickly learned that if I wanted to get out of that situation, it was going to be through education.
OYO: What’s your relationship to money now?
TA: I am so frugal. Working for financial literacy, I’ve learned so many ways to save. Friends laugh at me about little things I do, but knowing where I came from and being given a full-ride scholarship, I have to budget. When I first got my scholarship, I started buying things I didn’t really need; I just wanted them. I got a new laptop, which, yes, I needed for school, but did I need the most expensive one? I have to think realistically: When I graduate, this supplemental income is not going to be there anymore. I need to start setting myself up mentally now.
OYO: What’s one of your worst money experiences?
TA: Not being able to eat. I know that sounds really dramatic. It’s weird because I didn’t realize until the second or third time we did the RENT musical. It means more to me each time. I have a personal connection to it. There definitely was a time when I couldn’t pay my rent.
OYO: What advice would you give to your younger self?
TA: This is going to sound so cliché, but if you can invest in your education, you’re going to be fine. That doesn’t mean just going to college, but making sure that how you’re spending your money is supporting your growth. You shouldn’t be spending your money on things like drugs. I never got into drugs because I couldn’t afford drugs. My biggest thing is to pay it forward. My mission is to help at least one person a day, not like I’m filling a quota, but I do keep track. And then I also list the people who have helped me, and that list is even bigger.
OYO: What does success look like to you?
TA: Growing up I never had a home. I was always moving around. So, to own a home and call it my own. It doesn’t have to be a mansion or extravagant, but to have my own space. Even though I live in a nice apartment and it’s being paid for, I still feel like it’s not home.
OYO: Have you found any tricks to reach students with financial capability information?
TA: I found this great quote: Do you want to look rich now or be rich later? Do we need the new iPhone when the last one worked just fine? Or do we need to spend so much on clothes? I’m not here to impress anybody. What I’ll be doing in five to 10 years is going to have nothing to do with what I was wearing in college.
[Any reference to a specific company, commercial product, process or service does not constitute or imply an endorsement or recommendation by the National Endowment for Financial Education.]