From College to Covid: Meet Hassan Thomas

Published on: 05/02/2023

With the pandemic and the changing economy, Generation Z has had to deal with some unique challenges. But Hassan Thomas hasn’t let that stop him. Author and founder of FYI FLI (For Your Information: Financial Literacy & Investing), Hassan shares how he went from college to Covid to helping young people build healthier relationships with money.

1. What messages were you taught about money and finances growing up?

Growing up my mom stressed the importance of giving money and using it to help others. Whether it was giving 10% for my tithes and offering in church or having me give away my Shawn Michaels and John Cena WWE wrestling figures to another kid at church. (She bought me a few more WWE toys after church.) Nevertheless, giving to others and making an impact on people are of high importance in my life.

In college, I volunteered 40 hours a month at the Boys and Girls Club in Tennessee. Now that I am out of school, I volunteer my time by teaching financial literacy and money management to South Florida youth in the Junior Achievement Program. With that being said, it’s not only about giving away money, it’s also about volunteering your time to make an impact in your community.

2. How did you find Self? What was your experience using the product?

Oftentimes at night I’ll get random spurts of motivation. One night, I found myself searching for ways to better my financial situation and I came across Self. I read a lot of reviews, watched some videos – basically educating myself before applying for the Credit Builder Account* and taking action.

After I felt knowledgeable enough about the service, I signed up. And to my surprise, Self bumped my credit score 35 points** in just a few months! This was something I HAD to share with my friends, family and my FYI FLI followers.

3. You wrote a book "From College to Covid: 24 Lessons Learned During the Lockdown to Increase Your Drive, Destiny & Dollars." What was the inspiration behind it?

My personal experience going from college to Covid led me to write my first book. In the book, I discussed going from college to a pandemic, to becoming CEO of my own company along with the major lessons that I learned. I also included some takeaways that I learned after interviewing entrepreneurs, educators, and entertainers on the podcast.

One of the most memorable quotes was from NFL veteran, investor, and entrepreneur William Sweet. William said, “There are three types of wealth: Health, time, and mindset”. This has stuck with me to this day because without all three working together cohesively it can be hard to achieve true wealth. Even if you do achieve financial wealth, did you have to sacrifice one of those three to obtain it?

Think about it like this, if you’re not in a healthy condition – you might not be able to enjoy wealth. If your mindset is not in the best place, it will be hard for you to enjoy your wealth. Last but not least, if you have no time to enjoy the fruits of your labor, what is the point of all the hard work?

4. What are the unique challenges new graduates are facing financially?

A factor to consider is the impact of social media when it comes to our spending habits. We’re in a time where we are advertised and marketed to from the time that we wake up to the time that we go to sleep. According to Forbes, “Most Americans are seeing about 4,000 to 10,000 ads per day.” My generation (Gen Z) want to shop, create experiences, and EAT GOOD.

I believe we cannot blame Generation Z for these desires when we are being pursued and persuaded by marketers 24/7. But as a financial educator, I know we must help change the narrative. The younger generation needs more exposure and education to money management, delayed gratification, and the art of being content.

5. What are a few things post-grads can do to prep for their new financial independence?

For recent graduates, I like to recommend setting a budget and building an emergency fund. Some people may view budgeting as something negative that limits them, but it’s the exact opposite! My co-host and I like to say on the FYI FLI podcast that, “A budget is not a life restrictor. A budget is a life enabler!”

A budget is simply a game plan on how you will utilize your money. If you have never created a budget before the easiest way to start is by using the 50/30/20 rule. 50% of your income should be allocated to needs like rent, groceries, transportation, etc. 30% should be allocated towards wants like events, experiences, dining etc. 20% is allocated for saving, investing, and paying down debt. These percentages can be tweaked in any way that works for you. We call it personal finance for a reason…because it’s personal!

My second tip would be to build at least a $1,000 emergency fund. An emergency fund is critical to have in order to protect yourself in unexpected situations. I interviewed 5 different experts in finance and economics for my upcoming book, "From College to Covid to Recession" and they all agreed that an emergency fund was the number one thing needed to prepare for our financial lives.

6. What challenges do young Black men face financially?

From my perspective, I believe the problems faced by young black men are unique and specific to those who fit the mold of being young, black, and male. Societal stereotypes from our past, present, and future place a huge amount of pressure on us. Our role models, the people from our favorite movies, music, and sports have the financial means to expose their flashy lifestyles, which attracts the younger generation. These are the people we look up to in the black community. Did you notice that all of the professions I named were entertainers? No doctors, lawyers, educators, or entrepreneurs. This is the root of the issue a young black man faces. We are expected to fall in line with one of two categories: athlete or entertainer.

"How does this impact young black men financially," you ask? With high expectations come high standards. I believe these standards have a huge impact on our spending habits. From society’s standpoint, young black men are expected to have money and provide for their family members. We are expected to dress like we have already achieved the millionaire status we are aiming for. We are expected to have a nice car and home just like our role models and sometimes looked down upon for not having these material accolades. These expectations place a huge burden on young black men by creating unrealistic expectations and causing more money to be spent now, as opposed to being saved for later. It can be difficult to financially prepare for tomorrow while trying to meet the societal standards of today.

It seems everyone has a different definition of what a black man should do, how a black man should dress, and how we should act. My advice is to be yourself and try to understand the goals you have for your life. From there, base your spending on your priorities and what will take you closer to your goals. Do what makes you happy because people are going to comment whether you’re doing good or bad…so DO YOU!

7. What motivates you to mentor others (especially young people) about financial literacy?

What motivates me to mentor, educate, and motivate youth is the positive impact it truly has on them. Not only for them, but their family and future generations. Being financially literate brings a sense of confidence. Being financially literate or “Fin Lit” as we like to call it can provide options. The option to do what you want when you want and that’s truly what a lot of people are seeking.

Not too long ago, I was a student myself. Sitting at a desk, listening to lectures about topics that I may or may not be interested in. Now that I am the teacher or lecturer, I remember how I did not like to be lectured to. So when I teach, I try to make it conversational. That’s the key when speaking to young people. Let’s start talking WITH our youth, instead of AT our youth!

8. What piece of advice do you have for someone looking to start their financial journey?

For many people financial education is something that wasn’t really taught to us or our parents. With that being said, my advice is to be patient and dedicated to the process of educating yourself and then applying yourself. Because whatever path or passion you decide to pursue – making and managing money is crucial to building generational wealth. But, you have to start somewhere and again – EDUCATION IS KEY.

As you are educating yourself, figure out what you want to do and become an expert in that field! Watch YouTube, listen to podcasts, read books, purchase courses or invest in a financial coach.

Lastly, take advantage of your youth and your resources. Work hard while you’re young, make your money and save it before life hits you with even more responsibilities that require your time, energy, and money.

9. What are you working towards or building towards now?

I do my best every single day and let God do the rest. There are so many moving parts in life right now and trying to control all of them can bring a lot of stress. On Sundays, I create my to-do list for the week. Wake up on Monday and immediately get on it. Whatever I don’t get accomplished that day, gets moved to the next day and I wake up and repeat.

I look forward to continuing to engage, interact, and make an impact on young people. I am blessed to collaborate with companies like Self, Biz Kids and Spondulics. Whether it be through the FYI FLI Podcast, my books, or future endeavors – I want to continue to make an impact, make income, and have fun!

*Credit Builder Accounts & Certificates of Deposit made/held by Lead Bank, Sunrise Banks, N.A., SouthState Bank, N.A., First Century Bank, N.A., each Member FDIC. Subject to credit approval.

**Review provided by customer to Self Financial, Inc. directly via interview. Individual results will vary. Visit for details.

Editorial policy

Our goal at Self is to provide readers with current and unbiased information on credit, financial health, and related topics. This content is based on research and other related articles from trusted sources. All content at Self is written by experienced contributors in the finance industry and reviewed by an accredited person(s).

self logo
Written on May 2, 2023
Self is a venture-backed startup that helps people build credit and savings.

Self does not provide financial advice. The content on this page provides general consumer information and is not intended for legal, financial, or regulatory guidance. The content presented does not reflect the view of the Issuing Banks. Although this information may include references to third-party resources or content, Self does not endorse or guarantee the accuracy of this third-party information. Any Self product links are advertisements for Self products. Please consider the date of publishing for Self’s original content and any affiliated content to best understand their contexts.

Take control of your credit today.