Finding Freedom Through Financial Literacy

Finding Freedom

Through Financial Literacy

For many women, money is not a choice topic of conversation. Whether this is due to the remnants of society’s shift from a woman’s dependency on her spouse or just the effect of today’s uncertain economic climate, it cannot be denied women are undeserved in terms of financial planning.

“If you think about it until our generation, most women haven’t felt empowered by money,” says Helen Bui, Founder of Skylet Campus.

“Women think about money as survival, whereas men think about money in terms of their future and empowerment. Women typically spend it all when they have it because they think it’s just enough to get by, they don’t think about money enabling their future.”

And the recent election didn’t help.

“There are all these doubts now about student loan debt and inequality among Millennial women,” adds Bui. “While things are happening and we may feel powerless, we are powerful in different ways. We might not have a woman president in January, but we can change our lives with our wallets.”

According to Bui, whose parents immigrated to the US from Vietnam when she was an infant, American women are desperately in need of financial training. Bui reports that only 18 percent of millennial women demonstrate strong financial literacy, which translates to about 8 million in 38 million young adult women, and this does not bode well when it comes to future independence.

“We are a reactive culture. People are inherently bad planners; they don’t plan. To change any kind of idea around financial education, we realized we had to do something different than others do.”

To address this issue, Bui launched Stash-it, an app designed to help people develop solvent financial habits, in October 2015. After introducing her platform to the Apple App Store she quickly realized there was white space when it came to millennial women, who were lagging behind their male counterparts in terms of fiscal responsibility. She evolved her concept and in September 2016, introduced Skylet Campus, a new Gen Y-targeted app meant to provide community support, discussion, Q&As, educational videos, product reviews, money hacks, and tools to help money management become second nature to women.

“We realized that our mission is more needed than ever,” says Bui, adding that Skylet Campus app, which is $50 a year or $5 a month, gains about 1,000 new users on a monthly basis. “The power of women isn’t just the money they spend;  we are starting to lead companies now. I want to see more female business leaders. I want to encourage women through this world of doubt they are feeling.”

Bui is currently running an “equality initiative,” offering free access to the app to all new members till January 1, 2017. In addition, Skylet Campus will also donate a free membership to young women in undeserved areas for every new member who joins by the end of the year.

“Because financial habits are harder to break when you are older, we want to start at college age,” says Bui, a former executive at News Corp. “We quickly found that money wasn’t being discussed anywhere, particularly [when it came to] these young women. We also understood there is a huge disconnect between social class around money. We talk about money differently with people who have it vs. people who don’t. We need to break down those boundaries.”

Not only are there few options for women, but the financial syllabuses that do exist, Bui says, are outdated, unapproachable and usually not digital or mobile in nature.

For Bui, it was imperative that the education she offered be relatable and applicable. She helps her members learn the ins and outs of modern financial platforms like Venmo, and helps them understand how to fill out tax documents. “If you look online, it’s a fire hose of information,” she says. “If you search something you may end up on a mommy blog somewhere, reading content that’s not really written for you.”

According to Bui, the element of trust is another huge factor when it comes to financial literacy.

“We can’t rely on banks because they actually prefer that we know less and colleges don’t teach life skills anymore,” she says. “[Financial education is] left with parents and not many know how to talk to their kids about it.”

Following in her own footsteps, Bui is completely self-funded. She has three employees and a “ton of interns and ambassadors.”

“The biggest investment I made is the investment I made myself,” says Bui, who is focusing on additional partnerships and sponsorships as well as releasing new tools like money-inspired emojis in the next year. “I put a bet on myself more than stocks, a mutual fund, or a financial adviser, and I’m proud of that because that’s what I’m telling other people to do as well.”

Belisa Silva

Belisa is an editor with more than 10 years of experience. Prior to SWAAY, she worked as freelance writer, covering lifestyle, fashion and beauty industries. Belisa was a Market Editor at Women's Wear Daily for five years, where she interviewed rockstar business women like Drew Barrymore, Jennifer Lopez and Iman. Belisa also contributes to Cosmetic Executive Women, where she highlights female executives making an impact in the beauty industry.

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