Financial Survival 101

In response to this opinion piece in the Collegiate Times from October 7th, 2014, I would like to support this opinion and extend the argument. Students today aren’t nearly as “financially savvy” as they should be.

Virginia Tech’s Curriculum for Liberal Education includes a wide array of course material, but like Lindsey Clark’s article  points out, classes about finance and money management are not part of it. While Lindsey argues that adding a class or two about finance is important in understanding today’s economy and how the world works, I would argue that a class on personal finance is what college students need.

I am graduating in December, have student loans, low savings, and am financially under-prepared to enter the “real world.” Why?

I’ve had jobs since I was 15, and while I also have extremely generous parents who paid for most of my college education, I never learned to be as financially responsible as I should be. My parents set up a savings account for me when I was old enough to babysit and earn money, and tried to teach me to put at least half of every paycheck into savings, so I would have it later. I did that, and saved up a good chunk of cash, which I later used to pay for college tuition.

And, while I pay my own rent and bills and buy my own food like most college students, I’m just scraping by. I have two jobs but am not making money and am definitely not saving any. All the money I’ve earned working during my summers has been spent, because I haven’t managed it wisely.

I’m not blaming anyone but myself for my own poor money management, but I wish my high school or Virginia Tech had required a personal finance course so I could get “the big picture” early on.

It’s really easy to spend money when you have it-or think you do. For me and my summer jobs especially, I felt like I was rich, working so much and making so much! In turn, I spent too much. I didn’t think about the “boring stuff,” like how much I would need for rent for the upcoming semester, or how much I would have to spend on food each month, or even about that dreaded semester textbook bill. I didn’t budget. I didn’t save. I didn’t want to think about it, so I didn’t. But I should have.

A personal finance course in college would hopefully be successful in instilling a smart money management mindset in students. It would teach us how to budget, how to set aside money for savings, how to be prepared in case of an emergency, and how to not spend all your summer’s earnings before summer is over. Like Lindsey says too, it would teach us about world finance and the stock market. But most of all, it would prepare students to be able to get on their feet financially after graduation. It’s a life skill we all need.