The average American spends at least thirteen years of his life receiving a formal education. He can find the third side of a right triangle, identify organs in the human body, and explain how Hitler rose to power in 1934. He graduates and enters the world ready to find a job and start a life. He must pay his student loans, open a retirement account, manage his taxes, and maintain good credit. And yet, he does not understand the first thing about financial management. This is a problem.
According to the New York Times, 66 percent of millennials graduate college with student loans but only 24 percent are financially literate. Until more schools integrate financial management into their curriculums, students must acquire this pertinent knowledge themselves.
At William and Mary several clubs help students do just this. I met with Connor Matuszewski, President of the BBA Investment Club to learn how they do it.
What is Investment Club and how did you get involved?
“You hear about Investment Club, and it sounds pretty scary. I got involved pretty late as a sophomore when a friend brought me to a meeting. When it comes to the technical side of finance as a freshman or sophomore there is really no way you can understand it unless you go out and take initiative.”
How and when was the club founded?
“The club has been in operation for over 10 years. It started with $20,000 donation from Raymond A. Mason and we’ve grown to about $27,000 right now. At weekly meetings we have pitches for new stocks along with updates on the portfolio from our junior analysts. We’ve actually trailed the S&P 500 since we started, but I think the value given to the people that come to our club overtime far outpaces whatever we are trailing the index by. It’s more about getting undergrads excited to do the equity research.”
Is this club only for people interested in finance jobs?
“Absolutely not. I’ve seen kids who do Investment Club, Finance Academy, and then go off and do something completely different. There’s no really set formula for developing financial literacy or breaking into finance. I encourage students to do their own reading from reliable news sources every single day.”
Have you had any great guests speak to the club?
“Recently we had BB&T Capital Markets stop by for a visit. It’s great because they actually walk you through an investment banking deal, and even give you resources on what an analyst does. They show you how they would proceed in communicating with clients and getting the deal done. They want to make sure people get a shot and understand what investment banking is.”
How do you feel about depictions of the financial world in pop culture?
“Movies can definitely sensationalize things. Imagine what NAVY Seals thinks when they see how Hollywood depicts them. These portrayals are exciting but not always real. The financial world is really about analyzing the excel spreadsheet, reading publications, working with a team, and making fiscally responsible decisions. But if a movie gets you interested in finance, then that is awesome for us and awesome for you. Financial literacy is important for everyone whether they like it or not.”
Connor certainly has a thorough knowledge of finance but he participates in much more than just the club. He plays for the William and Mary Club Baseball Team and participates in the Kappa Sigma Fraternity. He aspires to be a NAVY Seal after graduation. More students need to realize that you do not have to be a potential stock broker to participate in activities related to financial literacy. Until more schools integrate programs like this club into their curricula, it is on the students to prepare themselves.
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