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Photo: Giovanna González
Giovanna González-Chávez is transforming the Latinx community's and first-generation students' financial illiteracy. Photo: Giovanna González

A first-gen financial educator and content creator is breaking the Latinx community’s financial illiteracy

Daughter of Mexican immigrants, Giovanna González-Chávez is transforming the Latinx community's and first-generation students' financial illiteracy.

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Born to Mexican immigrants, Giovanna González-Chávez is a successful financial educator, content creator, and feature author. 

The El Centro, California native was inspired to start The First Gen Mentor, which focuses on teaching financial literacy and career readiness to first-generation and women of color, after watching a TikTok video last year that left her speechless. 

In the video, a young white woman bragged about how money was easy for her since her parents were lawyers and would assist with homework inquiries. After seeing the video, González felt it discredits the efforts of first-generation students, Latinx students, women of color, and the BIPOC population, who are not as privileged. 

“As a former first-gen student, my experience was different. I have to navigate that space completely on my own with no support from family,” González explained. “The fact that she was bragging about her privilege did not sit well with me.”

González considered ignoring the video. But the journey of academia can feel isolating especially for first-generation students, who encounter a plethora of obstacles along the way. 

“I made a video response saying, ‘hey if you saw this video and you are first-gen don’t feel unworthy or that you are not going to also graduate from college because you don’t happen to have parents who went to college,” González recalled. “Sure our paths are tougher but we are resilient. We are smart. You got this. You’ll figure it out. And you’ll be fine.” 

These words struck a chord in viewers that felt compelled to praise her words and express how those words meant to them. 

At that moment, she decided to create content for the first-generation community—something that came naturally as González was already using her time volunteering as a mentor for the Latinx Business Association of University of California, Santa Barbara and financial educator with women of color and people in the community for YWCA Metropolitan Phoenix. Also, teaching financial literacy and career navigation at colleges and universities and to Hispanic employee resource groups, and first-generation low-income students.

She currently has a BA in Business Economics from the University of California, Santa Barbara and lives in Chicago, Illinois.

Photo: Giovanna González

The First Gen Mentor is the merger of those interests—González understood there was a gap in financial literacy, especially for women of color, first-generation people, and the BIPOC population. 

Despite her efforts to tailor content for first-generation students, her audience consisted of mainly college graduates, who were interested in financial literacy and career coaching instead of how to navigate academia.

“There’s a knowledge gap—financial literacy is not taught in K-12 or even in college,” commented González. 

The financial educator acknowledges that financial literacy looks different among minorities than a more predominantly group that might have learned basic principles from their parents or other family members. 

Her mission is to close that gap by “providing accessible, relatable, and jargon-free financial education that’s culturally relevant” to her audience. As a content creator, she incorporates her Mexican heritage, Spanish memes, and Spanish sayings, to capture and educate others. 

Immigrant children understand that they represent their parents’ retirement plans because they don’t have one. 

“Opening discussions about how you can start having that conversation with your parents and what sort of accounts you can open for them, to help catch them up with retirement [is crucial],” explained González. 

Through free educational content on TikTok and Instagram, González is bridging that gap. Additionally, creating content on LinkedIn about navigating professional spaces as a first-generation corporate. 

Utilizing social media has allowed her the opportunity to reach the masses and spread The First Gen Mentor’s mission. 

Photo: Giovanna González

A Personal journey to financial literacy 

Even though González is a seasoned financial educator, she encountered many challenges in financial literacy. 

As it is common in many Hispanic households, financial literacy is not taught at home. 

“I took out a bunch of [college] debt because I didn’t understand what it meant,” explained González. “It wasn’t until my late 20s [that] I decided to do better with my money after experiencing several hardships: living with toxic roommates, having a toxic and demanding work environment that burned me out.” 

Self-reflecting that all these negative experiences had to do with money, she started self-educating about how money works—reading over 50 books but those books didn’t resonate with her lived experiences. 

The authors, predominately white, provided individualistic insights without taking into account family dynamics and contributions.

As the daughter of Mexican immigrants, her concerns were different from what the books discussed. There was no “I” in the Mexican community but “how can we solve this issue as a group?.” 

“It's very much about sacrificing yourself in the best interest of the group and the family,” reiterates González. 

Photo: Giovanna González

She is currently working on her upcoming book which will be released in September 2023. The book will focus on providing financial literacy to the Latinx community and first-generation students by using her personal experience and journey with financial literacy. 

González stresses the importance of setting financial boundaries and using her book to help the community feel seen and provide the tools and resources to implement necessary boundaries.

Achievements and Word of Wisdom

In less than two years, González was named Fast Company’s Top 25 Creator of 2022 and Have 40 under 40 and most recently, received a $50,000 grant to write her upcoming book. 

She advises the Latinx community, especially Latinx students who are financially illiterate to find a community and people with similar experiences that are actively trying to be better—self-educate. 

“You have to be proactive in your financial education journey because although this [material] is simple, it is not intuitive,” González reiterates. “You have to take the time to learn it.” 


 

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