It’s no secret that money is the key to happiness. Well, at least the proper management of money is key to constructing a stable and enjoyable life. The problem nowadays is that the financial marketplace has evolved into a confusing labyrinth of taxes and paperwork that requires financial literacy in order to make sound decisions, and millennials don’t have enough access to that valuable financial education.
A nationwide problem
The issue is so obvious that there’s a running joke that “schools teach us the Pythagorean Theorem, but not how to do our taxes.” In his 2008 speech about financial education, Ben Bernanke (the previous Chair of the Federal Reserve) said that “the financial preparedness of our nation’s youth is essential to their well-being and of vital importance to our economic future,” but still, “only eight states across the U.S. require personal finance before middle or high school graduation.”
Since then, research has shown that the number of states that require a personal finance course in high school has increased by a mere nine states, and only twenty states require an economic course, which is “less than half the country and two fewer states than in 2014.”
Thankfully, the majority of universities have various resources that can help students increase their financial literacy, should they seek enlightenment. Some universities, including USF, do attempt to distribute the knowledge among the student population by requiring students to take the Financial Literacy 101 online course, which educates students on many aspects of finances. Its content is personalized based on each individual student’s response to a survey, and it covers budgeting, banking, and credit, which makes it a good place to start educating yourself on the financial world. If you’re looking for a quick review, you can go back to that course and read over the articles it gave you.
Another of the resources offered at USF is the Student Finance Association (SFA).
I had the pleasure of interviewing the current president of the SFA, Jeremy Davis, who interns at Raymond James as an equity capital markets analyst.
He explained that the SFA aims “to develop students who are interested in finance from an early start, so most of our members are on the finance track.” That said, “it’s open to any major… anyone who is interested can join our organization. Any questions that anyone want to ask, we answer. Any knowledge we have, you have, and if we don’t know it, then we’ll look it up.”
Davis also offered some personal finance tips that can help start the path to financial preparedness of any college student.
On budgeting: “When you’re in school of course it’s going to be hard to manage your finances because you really don’t have any finances, everything you do either goes towards school or it goes towards living expenses. Once you get out of school, you should definitely set a budget. [I think] that’s one of the main things that’s lacking with millennials or young adults. If you don’t, then your money is going to go to wherever it wants to go. Your money can go very quickly.”
On saving and investing: “I believe you should at least set aside 10% of your earnings, [and] always have at least three months of livings expenses in savings. You should also invest, that’s another aspect that millennials don’t really understand as a whole. I think that people are becoming more aware, but it’s still lacking in some aspects. There are so many different investment strategies and tools you can use. If people would explore those, then their financial literacy would definitely be better than it is.”
The takeaway is that it’s exceedingly crucial for us young adults to better inform ourselves of the complicated financial world and our responsibilities to it so that we can navigate it with the least amount of debt and the most amount of profit. The information is out there, you just have to go and seek it out.
So, go and seek.
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