By Patrick Barron, Opinion Writer
College students are more educated and equipped to handle the intricacies of today’s economy when compared to previous generations. However, one area in which college students sorely lack in is personal finance. Although college students are book smart, unfortunately lots lack personal finance skills, which is street smart.
In addition, when I say personal finance I am not discussing the complexities our of financial system such as our federal banking system or international trade. I refer to the basics such as tackling debt (exuberant student loans, seniors), budgeting or simply saving money now for later. We have different motivations for our actions. In terms of learning personal finance, mine is personal, be in a stronger financial position in the future so I can have the option to give back to others.
For one thing, knowing a thing or two about personal finance may cause us to be extra attentive to our financial aid package. Did you know there are millions of dollars in free scholarships out there for students? Applying to ones where you have a higher likelihood of winning is the most efficient use of your time.
Moreover, timeless advice college students need to heed, it is not how much you make, it is how much you keep. For one thing, we wrongly conflate people who have money with wealth. That in itself are two different topics, which those who are aware know its delineation.
For a world full of options, it can rather difficult to maintain discipline when exercising making decisions. However, it is not impossible and the same mentality lens itself as it pertains to exercising fiscal responsibility.
With that said, there are gaps in financial education when it comes to gender, race, among others. We cannot change the past, but we must acknowledge the systemic oppression of people of color and find solutions for the future.
According to 2017 U.S Bank Student Financial Literacy Study, “African American and Hispanic students are more likely to be involved in household finances.” There is no mistaking the causality.
Furthermore, college students can take several simple steps on the path to financial literacy. First, there are online courses, one credit called Personal Money Management (full disclosure: I am enrolled in the class and I am not paid by anyone to endorse it). For the majority of students, you will notice an uptick in your knowledge in personal finance. Second, there is a great resource, which eradicated numerous barriers to entry in learning. It is the Internet. Right at the disposal of our fingertips are countless books, websites or lectures oftentimes free which educates those interested in expanding their knowledge. In this iteration, students can learn about personal finance on their spare time.
Yet with all of these free and easily accessible resources out there, you would expect people to take advantage of them. Sadly, this is not the case since perception does not align with reality. One sensible solution to counter this is to require financial education courses in both high school and college. Being aware of such a large component of one’s life earlier causes all the difference in being approved or denied for a mortgage when purchasing a home. In other words, it will pay off huge dividends in the future.
Moreover, the 2017 U.S Bank Student Financial Literacy Study stated, “half of students say that their finances control their life.” There are extenuating circumstances outside of our control, but some we can control so let our finances be one of them.
Therefore, what are you waiting for, the path to learning personal finance is clear. The only question, will you choose to walk in it?
A version of this article appeared in the Tuesday, January 30th print edition.
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