Personal finance series aims to make students financially literate

Photo by Austin Hronich

Photo by Austin Hronich

by Kayla Reuche, Staff Writer

Simpson College’s department of business administration and economics is hosting a new six-part series on personal financial management that is open to all students.

About 60 students attended the first session on Sept. 18 in Hubbell Hall regarding spending plans and banking. The number of attendees was in line with the business department’s hopes, said Mark Juffernbruch, department chair of business administration and economics.

The large amount of debt students typically accumulate was a motivating factor for this series, Juffernbruch said.

“People may learn eventually – 10, 15 years down the road – but if we can give the students the tools and the knowledge right now to be making those decisions right now, from the very onset, I think they’re going to make a career’s worth and really a lifetime’s worth of well-thought out decisions,” Juffernbruch said.

This isn’t the first time Simpson has offered a financial literacy course. A former professor at Simpson, Ruth Robinson, spoke at the session and said the college has offered it since the students in attendance were in elementary school.

But this is the first year the college has offered a financial literacy course as a stand-alone class, available to every student, at no cost.

In the past, financial literacy was offered for credit and resembled a typical course. Student responses through course evaluations were typically positive, Juffernbruch said.

No matter a student’s age, this is a series everyone can benefit from, Juffernbruch added.

Bobbi Sullivan, director of career development and civic engagement, agreed that this series could benefit all students.

“I think the sooner that a student can start to grasp some of those concepts and really make some strong goals from themselves, the better,” she said.

According to the Financial Industry Regulatory Authority, an organization that regulates brokers and Wall Street, Americans have low financial literacy. In 2015, it found that 63 percent of participants couldn’t answer more than three out of five financial questions correctly, which was a steady increase from the previous six years.

The numbers indicate people in the United States are becoming less financially literate.

This is a trend Simpson is trying to reverse.

The first personal financial management session started by discussing spending plans. Students received a spending plan outline and were encouraged to complete it.

“Everybody should be living on some kind of spending plan,” Juffernbruch said.

If not for anything else, students can at least see where they’re spending money, he said. It allows them to make more informed decisions.

After the spending plans portion, two guests from TruBank spoke about banking. They covered a variety of topics ranging from the types of accounts and products they offer to loans.

One of the first and most important steps in banking is to build a relationship with the banker, according to Michelle Grismore from TruBank.

“I think the first steps at a bank is to build a relationship with your banker because that’s going to come in handy later in life,” Grismore said.

Building relationships allows the customers to get to know their banker and helps them figure out which accounts and products will be best for them. The relationship will also prove beneficial when it comes time to buy a house or car.

Another area of focus was individual retirement accounts. It may seem eons away, but now’s the time to start thinking about it, especially for those who are about to graduate, said Eileen Thompson from TruBank.

According to the National Foundation for Credit Counseling, 27 percent of adults don’t save anything for retirement, which is a route Thompson didn’t recommend for students.

“It’s really hard to start putting that money away, but you’ll thank everybody later on if you do start letting that money accumulate,” she said.

Junior neuroscience major Katrina Hartman admitted she came because she felt very undereducated about personal financial management.

She plans to attend every session to prepare for her future.

“It’s like the most applicable life skill for every person,” she said.

Five sessions remain. They’ll focus on loans, investing, insurance, real estate and taxes. Students can attend any number of sessions they want for free. Area experts will present on some topics, while others will be headed by the department, Juffernbruch said.

The next session on Oct. 3 will be about credit and student loans. A staff member from the financial aid department will be presenting, Juffernbruch said.