Furthering financial literacy

August 24, 2022 Chelsey Sleator
Summer intern and first-gen college grad is helping more people overcome financial barriers.

Cristal Gomez, a first-generation college graduate and second-year graduate student at the University of Southern California, believes that companies should be better advocates for both youth and diverse populations, especially when it comes to teaching financial literacy. 

“My generation is becoming more cognizant of how companies represent themselves, not only externally, but internally also,” says Cristal. “We want to know that diversity, equality and inclusion are not just framed within the current quarter but are part of the long-term mission and vision of a company.” 

Cristal is a summer intern at Schwab, where she is helping the company analyze their social media efforts. She’s also learning about Schwab’s focus on financial literacy as an opportunity to further her advocacy.

Learning to look beyond the piggy bank

Cristal grew up in a Mexican-American household where, as she puts it, “finances were rarely discussed beyond putting spare change in a piggy bank for a rainy day.” At an early age she was taught the value of earning money by spending nights helping her mom clean offices as a second job. However, she did not have the tools to understand the importance of how to effectively manage her money. Cristal says this is a broader issue within the Latino and Hispanic community. 

“There are big gaps, in my opinion,” she says. "But we're slowly getting better at it since more of us are starting to go to college or just educating ourselves with Google.” 

Prior to her experience at Schwab, Cristal credits AVID (Advancement Via Individual Determination), a college and career readiness program for minority and low-income students, with being her springboard to the topic of financial literacy. “AVID really helped me think about how to start saving immediately for college,” she says. “I had all these questions spin through my brain: Should I start taking on more babysitting jobs? Should I try to get a weekend job?” 

She knew that learning how to save is a critical part of transitioning into adulthood, and she’s thankful she was able to find a resource like AVID to help guide her. Now, she’s using her time at Schwab to learn how to educate other members of the next generation that may not know their options outright.

Paving the path for others

Cristal understands the barriers that others with similar backgrounds or experiences to her may have. So, she’s doing her part to pave the path so others can follow in her footsteps. And to them, Cristal offers this advice: “Just because someone knows more than you does not mean that you're behind. You are on the same level. And remember that your past experiences helped to shape who you are and helped you to get to where you are now.”