When Kiara Hardin, now a junior at Western Illinois University, became an intern with the Chicago Summer Business Institute during her sophomore year of high school, she began her personal finance journey. The program required participants to open a savings account.
It also provided seminars on how to be financially smart, which introduced Kiara to the Economic Awareness Council and Young Illinois Saves. Young Illinois Saves taught her that having a savings goal is what makes saving easier. “Most people say that they are going to save for a rainy day, but that is not enough for teens or young adults,” Kiara observed. “Having an actual savings goal to save for not only teaches the saving habit, but it teaches that there are rewards to saving.”
Having a summer job with the Chicago Summer Business Institute for two years helped Kiara afford college because she saved enough money to pay for her first semester books. While in college as an underclassman, she applied her saving skills to using the meal plan wisely and having enough money to pay for groceries. As a result, Kiara always had enough on her meal plan to last the entire semester. She faced a new challenge sophomore year when she did not receive the scholarship that paid for her first year in college. “Although it was a struggle and I was under a lot of financial distress, being able to save enough money to pay off two semesters of college is a challenge I am proud to say I overcame,” she declared.
"Learning how to save efficiently impacted my life enormously because I am constantly saving for something,” Kiara said. “Now, that I am an upperclassman and living on my own, I am no longer saving for trivial things like clothes and make up, I am saving for future bills and emergency money."