Empower Blog
2023 Interns
July 26, 2023

Financial Tips From Our Interns

Money Management, College-Career Planning
The looming thought of financial independence and responsibility can be quite daunting for teenagers. Help calm some of those fears with advice from our summer 2023 interns.

Here’s what they wish they knew before starting college and entering the workforce.

Charlotte Raley

Charlotte Raley

Social Media Intern

University of Missouri — Junior studying Journalism with an emphasis in Strategic Communications and a minor in Spanish

“My favorite season in Kansas City is the summer because there are so many festivals and events going on downtown. It feels like there is always something free to do!”

Charlotte’s Tip: Do your own research about investing even if you know you don’t have disposable income yet. You’d be surprised how low minimums can be and how many different options there are. I was intimidated by investing because I thought it would take months for me to understand the basics but after working at CommunityAmerica, I was well-informed and discovered a wealth of resources by CommunityAmerica. Investing is easy and you don’t need a lot of money to start. 

Emma O'Connor

Emma O'Connor

Brand and Creative Services Intern

Rockhurst University — Senior studying in Business Administration with a focus in Marketing

“My favorite movie is Field of Dreams. When I was a kid, my family watched the movie together and then went to the Field of Dreams and played baseball together.”

Emma's Tip: I wish I was open to learning how to navigate finances in high school. I always pushed it off because I felt like the information was not relevant in the moment. I would go back and learn about budgeting, saving, and spending before I went to college. I could have saved so much money if I would have managed my finances early on. CommunityAmerica taught me that it’s important to know how to manage your money. When you learn how to deal with finances, you’ll be better prepared for the future. These skills would have helped me save a lot more money, putting me on a better financial track.

Katherine Poer

Katherine Poer

Digital Marketing Intern

University of Kansas Senior studying Strategic Communications 

“If I could own any animal in the world, it would be a capybara because there isn’t an animal they aren’t friends with, they sleep all day and are basically giant hamsters.”

Katherine's Tip: Always save part of your money as you earn it and never spend more than 50% of your paycheck on things you want but don’t need. You’ll usually regret spending $200 on clothes and food versus knowing you added $200 to save for something that holds value to your future, like a laptop for college.


When I started earning money from babysitting at 14 years old, my mom and dad told me that I should put at least 10% of my paycheck into a savings account because no one can predict what the future may entail. Now, after being in the working world for almost six years, I’ve set an increased threshold for myself at around 30% of my paycheck to be dedicated towards savings each month. I convince myself that 70% of my paycheck is my full earnings.

Brandon Cuda

Brandon Cuda

Human Resources Intern

University of Missouri — Senior studying Finance and Banking 

“My favorite movie is Star Wars: Episode III - Revenge of the Sith because it’s the origin story of the greatest villain in film.”

Brandon's Tip: Begin investing your money as early as possible for retirement. The younger you are, the greater advantage you have when it comes to investing because your money has more time to grow, plus this growth is amplified by the power of compounding.  Your retirement account’s value will begin to snowball as your capital gains and interest are reinvested.


For example, if you invest $100 monthly, while earning a 10% return, and interest is compounded annually, then when you’re 65 you will have around $1,055,000 if you begin when you’re 18, around $535,000 if you begin when you’re 25, and around $200,000 if you begin when you’re 35.


Although you can’t open your own account until you are 18, you can still begin investing while you’re in high school through a custodial Roth IRA or a joint brokerage account that your parent signs. Retirement might seem far off, but you have a rare opportunity to earn hundreds of thousands of dollars more on the same investment simply by starting early.

Nicole Patrao

Nicole Patrao

Marketing and Communications Intern

University of ArkansasSophomore studying Marketing   

“If I could own any animal, it would be a stingray. They are one of my favorite animals to see when I go to aquariums; they’re so carefree and fun to observe. If I had a massive aquarium, I’d love to own one.”

Nicole’s Tip: My tip for students in high school is to get into the habit of setting up spending goals. Budgeting can be tricky as a high schooler; you likely don’t have many fixed expenses and no long-term goals to save up for. Setting goals will make you less likely to spend excess money. Getting into this habit will make budgeting as you get older easier.


CommunityAmerica taught me about the wide variety of resources available to increase my knowledge. This internship has taught me the value of two main skills when working in the real world: taking initiative and being flexible. When starting a new role, it can feel daunting to suggest ideas that go against the grain of what others are doing. However, your managers will appreciate your insight, even if it’s not quite what they are looking for. In the “real world,” expectations and goals change frequently, so make sure to keep an open mind when working on projects. Being flexible is the best way to learn!

Bryce Johnson

Bryce Johnson

Wealth Management Intern

Missouri State University — Senior studying Finance

“My favorite movie is Django Unchained. It never lets me down. In my mind, you can’t beat a protagonist that’s funny, confident and fights for a better life for himself and the ones he loves.

Bryce's Tip: Achieving financial freedom starts with the simple concept of spending less than you make. The only way to do this is to know exactly how much money you are making and to actively track your spending so you can balance the two. There are plenty of apps that can simplify budgeting.


The next thing I’d encourage everyone to do is educate themselves on the importance of credit whether that means researching on CommunityAmerica’s website, listening to a podcast, or asking friends and family. A good credit score can make all the difference later in life when you’re trying to rent an apartment, buy a car, or buy a house. I wish I had been more informed about credit going into college. I hope younger people will help themselves by following these simple steps once they graduate and are on their own.

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