Daniel Fox is Chair of the Economics and Finance Department and Associate Professor of Law at Ashland University
A 2019 Employee Financial Wellness Survey, by PwC, revealed that fifty-nine percent of the employees surveyed cited financial matters as causing them the most stress. While matters like relationships, job, and health concerns were top stressors for some respondents, financial matters was cited more than all of these other life stressors combined. With rising student loan debt, credit card, and other consumer debt, it is not surprising that a high percentage of working Americans feel financially stressed. Additionally, the impact of the COVID-19 virus on the U.S. economy is likely causing more anxiety as job security becomes more questionable. College students are also facing financial pressures as they navigate an uncertain economic future where job outlooks are ambiguous and student loan debts continue to rise.
Unless college students are enrolled in a business program or take a personal financial management course, most have little exposure to financial education. Upon graduation, many graduates are unprepared for the financial realities of working and living on their own. Student loan repayment, credit card debt, and general living expenses leave many struggling to pay their bills. While most agree that college students need financial education, adding it to the general education curriculum in most universities is a difficult and burdensome process.
An alternative to creating a personal financial management course for all students across the university to take is to integrate the fundamentals of financial management across multiple courses. An instructor who is not formally trained in personal financial management might be surprised how easy it is to incorporate financial learning outcomes into their courses. In the following sections, I highlight strategies and suggestions for this.
Educate Students on the Career Opportunities in Your Discipline
A fundamental of financial security is being able to support yourself and your family. A college degree is a wonderful accomplishment, but without gainful employment upon graduation, the financial benefit of the degree becomes suspect. Every college course is part of a well-established discipline, with logical career pathways upon completion of the required coursework. It would be extremely helpful to add a learning outcome to a course helping students identify career opportunities and entry-level compensations in the discipline the student is learning about.
The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics provides an online resource called, the “Occupational Outlook Handbook.” It provides a powerful source for current information on hundreds of occupations. Students can research career statistics such as starting pay and the projected job outlook for the next decade for most occupations. The handbook also provides information on the work, working conditions, training and educational requirements. Instructors can provide additional insight into the careers since they are specialists in the discipline. Understanding one’s earning potential over a period of time is fundamental to long term financial planning and security and would be beneficial to college students prior to joining the workforce.
Integrating Personal Financial Management Examples
A major part of financial education is learning how to use quantitative calculations and formulas as part of analysis to plan for the future. Instructors who teach math or quantitative courses can easily include a personal financial management example in his or her course. Students respond more positively to quantitative problems when they can personalize the calculation to their own life. Budgeting, planning to save for a home, and funding a retirement account are all essential parts of financial planning and security. The quantitative knowledge needed to successfully use these tools is taught in many disciplines. Integrating a few personal financial management problems in a quantitative course can serve a dual purpose. Students demonstrate competency in working a mathematical equation but also learn how to use that formula in making a financial decision.
Many believe that successfully managing the financial aspect of their lives requires exceptional math and quantitative skills. While helpful, often far more important to financial success than quantitative skills are a person’s determination, work ethic, discipline, and self-accountability. Any financial planner will tell you, without personal motivation, financial security will be elusive to most. Reinforcing these soft skills in courses will further prepare a college student for the future financial challenges in a changing world.
These key components—providing students with career and compensation information and integrating quantitative and qualitative financial examples are all realistic and attainable objectives that can be achieved within many courses at U.S. universities. This in turn will ensure that college graduates are joining the workforce with greater financial security, and more primed for economic success.
For more tips and insights on promoting student success after graduation, visit the career preparation section of Today’s Learner.