ATLANTA — Georgia State alumna Grace Hayden (B.A. ’15) believes anyone can make an impact on the world, no matter their age, resources or station in life. She’s also a living example to other young adults of how to create change.
Three years ago, at age 27, Hayden became the youngest donor ever to establish a scholarship at Georgia State University when she launched the Grace Hayden Impact Scholarship. The scholarship will support students with a demonstrated interest in economics beginning fall semester 2026 or earlier.
“Like no raindrop considers itself responsible for a flood, I decided I could start small and make an impact that might grow over time into something great,” she said in the Andrew Young School of Policy Studies Honors Day speech she gave in April.
Hayden, an Atlanta native, graduated summa cum laude in International Economics and Modern Languages from Georgia State in 2015, while also earning a second bachelor’s degree in economics and management from the Ca’ Foscari University of Venice through Georgia State’s Atlantis Programme. She chose to attend Georgia State because she felt it would offer the best opportunities for her to impact Atlanta, a city whose people and history she loves.
“I’m a third-generation native Atlantan,” Hayden said. “My grandfather grew up in Midtown, in a little house that later became a bar called Einstein’s. My grandmother grew up in Inman Park, and I was raised in Decatur. I’m from one of the most inspirational towns in history, and I’ve let its influence guide my career and my goals.”
One of those goals is to help people demystify the financial world. Hayden began her career at 19 as an insurance agent. Her best prospects were the students she studied with in Langdale Hall.
“I’d start chatting with my classmates, many of whom were nontraditional students,” Hayden said. “Several had left their jobs to go back to school and ‘recalibrate,’ as I like to say. They lost their benefits in leaving their jobs and needed health insurance, and I could help them.”
By the time Hayden was 25, she was a financial adviser holding the same registrations as her male coworkers at the Atlanta Planning Group, “who had been advising longer than I’d been alive,” she said.
Despite being one of the youngest agents and one of the only women in her office, Hayden began receiving referrals and taking on new clients. After graduation, she worked for some of the largest asset managers in the country, including Jackson National in Nashville and Invesco in Chicago. She returned to Atlanta and the Atlanta Planning Group as a financial adviser in 2018. A specialist in socially responsible investing, Hayden spends her days crafting comprehensive wealth management strategies tailored to her clients’ unique financial journeys.
“I enjoy having deep conversations with my clients about the value of socially responsible investing,” she said. “It aligns my love for giving back with my love for personal finance. Our firm led the emerging trend of advisers and institutions embracing social responsibility.”
Hayden freely admits that one of her top motivations — in her career and as a volunteer — is helping people. “Even before I came to Georgia State, I was passionate about helping others,” she said.
Upon returning to Atlanta, Hayden wanted to give back to her university community, so she became involved with the Georgia State Alumni Association’s Young Alumni Council. Shortly after, everything changed.
“Around that time, the world stopped because of COVID-19,” she said. “Our council’s main goal during that time was to devise impactful ways to help students. At the time a lot of people were thinking about charitable giving, and there were so many people who needed help.”
Hayden asked Amanda Puché (B.A. '08, M.A. '12), the senior director of development for the Andrew Young School of Policy Studies, how she could help the students. When Puché described the university’s scholarship programs and how those aligned with student needs, Hayden’s thoughts about one-time gifts for books or tuition grew into plans for supporting a more permanent endowment. The seed was sewn for the Grace Hayden Impact Scholarship.
“Grace is passionate about giving back and found the scholarship the perfect way to encourage other students to pursue opportunities in the field of economics and business,” Puché said.
“People wait to give because it’s daunting,” Hayden said. “Georgia State made it easy to break up my pledge. They helped me come up with a plan and work backwards. Over several years, under this scholarship program, matching dollars double everything I’m doing.”
“If you don’t have the money to make huge contributions, budget it out,” she said. “Of course, it’s wise to put your other obligations first — your rent, household expenses, personal savings, etc. — but I’m sure anyone can find a way to take baby steps to make charitable giving a part of their plan. People get stuck mentally on the idea of major gifts, the huge donation. But if you take it one step at a time, month by month, your small gifts can have a huge impact.”
Hayden encourages her clients to take the same approach to personal finance and savings.
“Take that first step, then another, then another, and you will eventually get to your goals,” she said. “Taking things one step at a time is the secret to life.”
Grace Hayden is a financial adviser offering securities and advisory services through Cetera Advisors LLC, member FINRA/SIPC, the broker/dealer for the Atlanta Planning Group and Registered Investment Adviser. Cetera is under separate ownership from any other named entity. Atlanta Planning Group is located at 3101 Towercreek Parkway, Suite 615 Atlanta, GA 30339.
The charitable entities and/or fundraising opportunities described herein are not endorsed by, or affiliated with, Cetera Advisors LLC or its affiliates. Our philanthropic interests are personal to us and are not reviewed, sponsored, or approved by Cetera Advisors LLC.