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Financial Planning Prepares Students for Success

Monday, April 22, 2024

Budgeting, tax planning, saving for retirement - these are the kinds of skills young adults frequently wish they had been taught in school. In INS 4201/6201: Personal Finance, they have the chance to learn these skills from practicing professionals, with the same rigor as the rest of their courses. The course focuses on helping students gain an understanding of “what is enough” and the consequences of their financial decisions.

“In all the finance classes that I’ve taken, I’ve never actually learned how to budget and plan for myself,” said Annika Muyres, ‘24 BSB. “I’ve just done it roughly in my head. As I’m getting ready to graduate, I wanted to create a plan I can follow.”

Professor Andy Whitman teaches this course, which is open to both undergraduate and graduate students, in collaboration with guest speakers with deep industry knowledge. This semester, those speakers are Tim Brown, ‘99 MBA, David Foster, Bob Hall, ‘84 MBA, Todd Koch, ‘81 BSB, ‘90 MBT, and Steve Lear.

“Those professionals are the only reason I can teach this class,” Whitman said.

The professionals are eager to help, and pass their knowledge on to people who are early in their careers.

“There’s a lack of personal finance literacy at all levels,” Hall said. “People don’t know much about money. Nowadays, you can’t expect a pension. Students need to learn and make a plan to accumulate, save, invest, and retire.”

That’s exactly what students do in this course. They develop their own personalized plan that they can use as a guide to make decisions about their career and finances.

“I’ve been surprised that so many MBA students have decided to take this class,” Whitman said. “They’ve had workforce experience and are now looking for models and guidelines to help them make smart decisions.”

Whitman encourages students to experience “boots on the ground” financial planning by volunteering at Prepare + Prosper, where he is a Volunteer Financial Planner, and a certified tax processor.

The course helps undergraduate students create a realistic expectation for life after graduation. Muyres already has a job lined up - she’ll be a Strategic Assurance & SOC Services Associate at Grant Thornton  - so she has been creating her budget based on her future salary.

“I had never thought about in detail how many expenses I would have throughout the year - repaying student loans, rent, food expenses, taxes,” she said. “I’ll be taking on a lot of expenses that have been taken care of by my parents, so it’s helpful to think about what those numbers will actually look like instead of just thinking, ‘Oh, I’ll have more money than ever.’ “

For students who won’t have the chance to take this class, Hall has a few key pieces of advice:

  1. Set up financial goals, so you’re motivated to make wise decisions.
  2. Understand where you are today. Create a balance sheet and a budget.
  3. Pay attention to all the moving pieces of your financial plan: taxes, retirement savings, insurance, and more. Check in on these annually to make sure they’re running smoothly.

And perhaps most importantly, according to Hall: “Understand compound interest. Einstein called it the most powerful force in the universe, If you invest now, you’ll succeed.”