The Hastings College Grad Fest happened earlier this month. Along with confirming individual graduation details, there were two seminars. One provided information on community involvement and the other was titled “Budgeting Basics.” Budgeting Basics was a lecture given by a Grand Island certified professional accountant, and she talked about the importance of investing, managing a budget and saving for retirement. All this information was incredibly valuable for a graduating senior. However, as I talked to friends afterwards, they said that they were still left confused. Having taken a J-Term class on personal finances my freshman year, I recall using information from that class during my four years here. For that reason, HC should help students early in their collegiate career and provide more resources than just a 50-minute lecture less than a semester away from graduation.
Money, whether we like it or not, is ever-present in our lives. You likely considered it way before college, whether it was figuring out how to pay for school or deciding on a career. For many of us, it is the first time that we have the freedom to spend and save without parental guidance. Consequently, the responsibility falls on the individual student to manage their wallet. The basic idea is simple enough: don’t spend more money than you have. But nobody tells us how to save and spend, or what to do when there is an emergency that requires us to make an unexpected payment. We hear that we need to start saving for retirement but we don’t know how. Nobody teaches us how to shop for food and clothes within our budget. The point is that too many of us are financially illiterate due to no fault of our own.
HC has a cornucopia of resources for issues ranging from mental health to how to travel. We know if we are sick we should go to the health center. If we need a job we go to career services. But where do we go to figure out saving for retirement or how much we can spend on groceries? There is the internet but that assumes you know where to start and if the information is good. Even that class I took my freshman year of J-term hasn’t been offered since then, according to the previous course catalogs.
As HC 2.0 approaches, I urge the administration to take two actions to help its students. First, provide resources and make the location public of those resources to all students. In doing so, your students will better be able to provide for themselves because they will know how to. The nature of personal finances can be difficult for people to talk about. Second, bring back a personal finance class. The information I got during that J-term helped me tremendously. I came out of that class feeling that I could retire successfully. When I got a job that summer, I understood the difference between an IRA and a Roth IRA and what was best for me. I learned how much money I could spend on food and clothing, while still maintaining a small emergency fund. A personal finance class would give students more financial confidence. While getting a degree is valuable for getting a job, learning about personal finances is going to help manage the money from the job.