Jackson State University celebrated its 140th Founders’ Day on Thursday with a keynote address from JSU alum and entrepreneur Andrell Harris who told the audience that it would behoove them to save and invest in the present or suffer harshly in the future.
“It’s not how much you make, but it’s about how much you save,” said Harris, a philanthropist and owner of multiple Papa John’s restaurants in Mississippi. “Aggressively save your money, find a mentor, invest wisely, and, most of all, stay humble.”
Speaking about the occasion, Harris – a former JSU SGA president – acknowledged the university and its humble beginnings.
“Our university was founded in 1877 to educate primarily preachers and teachers, initially. When you’re on campus you have a commitment to our founders. Your commitment is to gain an education and to move forward in this world as a trailblazer – leaving your mark as you maneuver throughout your professional life. As you climb, mentor and help others who need direction.”
JSU President William B. Bynum Jr. also thanked the founders and forbearers for making JSU a pillar of higher education and a sacred institution.
“Remember to pause and understand that we have an awesome responsibility to making a difference,” Bynum said. “It is our duty to care for this great institution.”
Meanwhile, Harris, who once served in Baghdad during Operation Iraqi Freedom and is a captain in the Army Reserve, credited JSU for its impact on his life.
“In the College of Business I learned the value of being independently wealthy. It was my goal then to attain a level of financial success that would give me a large scale of financial freedom,” he said.
Later, he informed the audience on the importance of building long-lasting relationships and finding financial freedom.
“Your net worth will open doors, but your network will keep doors open,” stated Harris. “You can’t build anything alone. Never burn bridges.”
He urged against becoming discouraged.
“You will make mistakes. Learn from them and quickly move on. You will have wins and losses. As long as your wins outnumber your losses, you will go very far. If you take care of people, people will take care of you,” Harris said.
He offered the following principles that shaped his career:
- Just because it’s on sale doesn’t mean you have to buy it.
- Just because it’s in your account doesn’t mean you have to spend it.
- Just because you have the money it doesn’t mean you can actually afford it.
- When you pay off your car it’s not time for a new car.
- When in college only take out loans when absolutely needed.
- Credit cards are the devil. If you must have one, pay off the monthly balance because you most likely will and can get in a bind over time.
“These are all the things I learned at my dear old college home,” Harris said.
He informed students of the realities of the workforce and offered words of motivation to remain proactive with their goals.
“It’s very likely you will not like your first job,” Harris said. “Most of you will work your first job for one to three years.” This harsh reality was the reason Harris presented the audience with a bit of unconventional wisdom.
“Between the ages of 20 to 30, follow the money. Don’t buy into the proverbial phrase ‘follow your passion.’ People who tell you to follow your passion mean well, but they won’t pay your student loans and other bills that you attained while in college,” Harris said.
The businessman assured the audience that there is a balance between achieving personal dreams and being financially secure.
“There’s a common ground between your passion and securing the bag,” Harris said. “After 30, when you’ve paid down your debt, then you can afford to follow your passion and make decisions that aren’t dictated by debt.”
Harris concluded with a passionate message about investing, saving and retirement.
“Does it make sense to you to work your entire life for something you know nothing about? We spend our entire life working for money. … In fact, it doesn’t make sense to spend your entire life working for something you know nothing about,” Harris said.
So, he encouraged those in attendance to become knowledgeable about personal finance matters. To accomplish this, he urged the use of digital media and other financial resources.
“Everyone has a smart phone that has tons of resources on it. Do research, download apps and read books,” he advised. “Your kids will thank you; and your husband or your wife will thank you,” Harris said.