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By Jayla Wilson

I have seen and laughed at numerous memes about how so many of us thought 2020 was going to be our best year yet and coronavirus said, “You want to bet?” While I know this pandemic has thrown a wrench in many of our plans, I encourage you not to give up on the year, your wealth building goals and certainly not yourself!

The last edition of the Dollar Scholar ended on a high note. I’d just finished paying off my student loan, achieved a positive net worth and was excited about all that the next year would bring.

The first two months of 2020 were good to me.  I picked up a part-time job, which after a few months would give me enough additional income to move out of my parents’ home and finally achieve financial independence. I was also able to take two wonderful trips without paying with credit cards or dipping into my savings, and I had a third one scheduled for June that was almost paid off. Then boom! In the words of Cardi B, “Coronavirus, coronavirus!”

I was furloughed from my new part-time job, my move-out date was pushed back once again, and my trip to Jamaica that I spent all of 2019 saving for was postponed until who knows when. Every plan I made for March onward was either cancelled or at a standstill.

Thankfully, my full-time job is with not only an essential business, but also a business that cares about the health and safety of its employees and customers and has been able to withstand the financial impact of this pandemic.

Unfortunately, I know this is not the case for millions of Americans. I know several people my age who were just getting settled in their careers and are now unemployed. This month, young people all over the country are graduating high school and college and will be in need of jobs that are no longer there.

In the midst of a health scare, financial uncertainty and a series of disappointments, I found it difficult to tell people about the joys of wealth building and to encourage them to embark on their own journey. This is actually my third attempt in the last couple of months at writing this blog because I didn’t know what to say.

However, I finally realized that no journey is complete without hills and valleys. If I’m going to share the ups of my wealth-building journey, I have to be just as willing to share the downs. The first half of this year has been rough, but it’s not over yet. Therefore, I encourage all of us, no matter the circumstance, to keep pushing ourselves to be better.

If you have been furloughed or laid off, please take advantage of any government and unemployment benefits you qualify for. Don’t get discouraged or feel that you are less than because you are currently unemployed. There are millions of people across the world in the same situation as you. Use this time to figure out what you want your next career move to be. Start that side hustle, blog, YouTube channel or anything else you’ve been considering for the last year.

For those of you still employed, don’t dare give up on your savings and wealth building goals. We’re living in a time that is showing us how important it is to have emergency savings. Before the year ends, challenge yourself to save 1-3 months’ worth of expenses. If you can afford to, now is also a great time to pay down student loan debt, as the government is deferring interest on federally held student loans until September!

You may even find that COVID-19 has made saving easier. Thanks to the stimulus check, eating out less, and having nowhere to go combined with lower gas prices, I’ve saved a ton of money in the last three months.

To my recent graduates, you should be incredibly proud of yourselves. While celebrations may be smaller this year, the accomplishment is still just as grand. Unfortunately, it is rare to find your dream job as soon as you finish school, and this pandemic may further prolong your search. Here are some tips to keep you from being penniless until you find a job.

  1. Save as much of your graduation money as possible.
  2. If you have been laid off or furloughed, file for unemployment even if it was only a part-time job.
  3. Don’t be in a rush to move out of your parents’ home. The longer you stay, the more you can save and the less likely you are to have to move back in later. 

*Pro Tip: Show your appreciation for living rent and utility free by chipping in on groceries or occasionally contributing to what my mother likes to call the “Mama Fund”. In your case, it may be the “Papa Fund”.

While 2020 may not currently be living up to your expectations, it can still be a year of growth, achievement and even financial prosperity. Therefore, I ask that you don’t give up, especially Millennials and Generation Z; otherwise we won’t be able to tell our grandchildren how we survived the Great Coronavirus Pandemic of 2020.