How one dean broke the taboo around financial literacy

Students need more tools to prepare for financial life after college, says expert

Financial literacy courses can help students prepare for the financial challenges of life after college by removing the taboo of speaking honestly about money, Mahita Gajanan writes in the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette.

Dealing with debt

According to a 2014 study by Wells Fargo, 42% of millennials say debt is their largest financial concern, and 47% say they use more than half of their income to pay off loans.

At Chatham University in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, students can take a financial literacy course in their senior year to help prepare for managing their finances after college.

Sean McGreevey, an assistant dean for career development who teaches the course, says many students are fearful about being completely independent after they graduate. In the course, students learn about budgeting, saving for retirement, and controlling debt.

McGreevey says students often have to unlearn some myths related to personal finance. "There's this sentiment that you need a credit card, and need to use it wisely to build good credit," he says. Instead, McGreevey advises students to live within their means. "What if you bought a car that's reasonable based on your life?" he asks students.

Spending wisely

Students in the class say simply talking openly about personal finance issues is helpful. "It makes you more aware," says Chatham senior Nicole Werwie.

Erin Smith, another senior, agrees that one of the main lessons of the class is to be more mindful. "It's about you and shaping your behaviors," she says.

McGreevey tries to emphasize to students that being mindful does not always mean going without, but instead means setting priorities. For Nick Bender, a graduate student in food studies, that means setting aside money to indulge in fine wines and gourmet foods—things that relate to his work in the food industry and that he enjoys.

Related: Turns out money can buy happiness—if you spend it wisely

However, McGreevey acknowledges that being financially responsible is not always easy. He reminds students that he still makes a budget with his wife after every paycheck.

Last summer, they decided to sell some extra kayaks. "Of course, it's pretty ridiculous I had a couple extra kayaks I could sell," he quipped. But they were extras, he says, and he only needed one (Gajanan, Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, 3/1).

The takeaway: Students often feel overwhelmed by the financial burdens of post-college life, but experts say prompting them to be more open and mindful about their financial situations can help students spend and save more responsibly

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