In many ways, Allie Nault is just your regular teen. She has dreams of going to college — Johnson & Wales University, specifically, for hospitality management — she worked at Dairy Queen over the summer, and she loves food.
But the 17-year-old from the just-under-3,000-people populated town of Gilford, New Hampshire, is the current Miss America’s Outstanding Teen. She’s posed in photos with Hillary Clinton, quizzed her and seven other presidential candidates on the national debt and plans on spreading a message of fiscal responsibility to young students around the country.
We caught up with Nault during Miss America week — her second time in Atlantic City — to see how her year of service is going, what her expectations are for Sunday’s competition, among other things.
Q: How did you get into the Miss America Outstanding Teen pageant.
A: In 2002, I met our Miss New Hampshire at the time, Mary Morin, I fell in love with her kind-hearted attitude. She actually came to my birthday party when I was 5 years old. I absolutely fell in love with her, I fell in love with the program. My mom became a volunteer; my dad became a volunteer. I guess you could say I was a little kid running backstage hoping that would be me.
Q: How did it feel being crowned?
A: It felt unbelievable. It’s something I could’ve never dreamed of. It’s something I never thought I could do from such a small state.
Q: What do you do in your free time?
A: Well, I am a financial guru, that’s how I chose my platform “Making Sense – Becoming Financially Responsible.” I actually invest in the stock market on the first of every month. I also had the opportunity to work at Dairy Queen over the summer, which I absolutely loved. It inspired me to own my own fast food franchise when I’m older. I’d like to have a Chick-fil-A, because we don’t have that many in New Hampshire.
Q: How did you get into fiscal responsibility in the first place? You don’t see many people your age investing in the stock market.
A: My parents taught me to be a saver, not a spender. When I was about 5 years old, I looked at my dad and I said, “I want to make money.” I put the little amount of money I had into a CD (a certificate of deposit). I didn’t have much, maybe about $100 when I was 5 years old. I think when I was 8 years old, I decided the CD wasn’t making a lot of money, and then I decided to invest in the stock market. And that’s where I am right now.
Q: What stocks are you investing in now?
A: Walmart, Procter & Gamble and McDonald’s. It’s for the long term, not the short term. One day I hope to be a millionaire, but probably not.
Q: There’ve been a lot of stories circulating about young people, like you, not being good savers.
A: There’s a statistic that says more kids have a cellphone than a savings account. That’s what made me want to start my platform, to get kids aware of saving money. You don’t have to spend everything you have. People need to understand the difference between needs and wants, whether they’re in second grade or whether they’re 50.
Q: How will you be bringing that message to younger people?
A: I’m partnering with a program called Jump Start, a financial literacy-based program, and will be handing out coin savers I helped develop that saves $5 worth of quarters. I hope to go out to schools and help teach children how easy it is to save. I also want to talk to schools about opening up a banking program within the school, so that a child doesn’t have to depend on their parents needing to drive them to the bank. I hope more schools will be open to the idea of having kids saving once a month.
Q: How else have you gone about sharing your platform?
A: I’m actually going around, because New Hampshire is the first national primary state, and asking presidential candidates about our national deficit. We owe so much money. Our country is supposed to have a balanced budget. We’re supposed to live within our means, and we’re not.
Q: I’m sure they’re taken aback by having someone as young as you asking them that kind of question.
A: Yes, it’s funny. I met Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-South Carolina), and about three weeks later I met him again. He said, “I remember you. You asked me the questions about the deficit and you made me think about it.” To me, that hit home and made me realize maybe I am making a difference.
Q: What’s the ultimate difference you want to make as Miss America’s Outstanding Teen?
A: My ultimate goal is not only to have people be financially responsible and open up savings accounts, but also to just make sure people are staying true to who they are. I wanted to be myself and if they don’t like me then too bad, because that’s all I can do.
Q: What does Miss America need to be crowned Miss America?
A: You know what? I don’t know. Every year they’re so different. Kira (Kazantsev) went up last year and played a cup and it was amazing. Nina (Davuluri) the year before Bollywood danced, and she’s so culturally diverse. Every single year they’re all so different. It could be anyone of those 52 women and they’d all do an amazing job.
Q: Do you think you could be one of those women on the Boardwalk Hall stage in the future?
A: It was always my dream to be Miss New Hampshire, and when I started the Outstanding Teen program, I wanted to be Miss Outstanding Teen too. It’s been a dream of mine, and I hope one day to have that opportunity to be up there.
Q: In the same vein, since you’ve been talking with presidential candidates, what qualities does that candidate have to have?
A: I know for me, I want them to be fiscally responsible. But that’s the great thing about politics is that everyone can have their own idea of what kind of candidate they think is best. For me, who knows what that person will be and what people want.
The questions and answers have been edited and condensed.