Last week I talked about what I believed to be potential shortcomings of our university’s curriculum in terms of encouraging a more well-rounded education. I hate to belittle the value of the education I am receiving but, this week I have one other minor issue I want to nitpick at for a different reason, that they are not encouraging one practical course that we should all be taking. This is, of course, a class on Personal Finance.
Penn State does currently offer a course on “Personal Finance” (FIN 108) but it no way is it required nor does it seem to popular as it currently has a whopping 40 students registered to take it this upcoming spring, as of press time Wednesday.
I am a finance major and not only does this class not fulfill any degree requirements of mine, but I honestly didn’t even know about its existence until I looked it up for the purpose of this article.
Personal financial literacy is a key skill to have in today’s world, yet we are not required to learn anything about it. Most, if not all of us, will be applying for credit cards, getting mortgages for our home, making car payments, saving for retirement and our children’s education. Do you even have any idea of how much income you will need to save in order to live comfortably during your retirement? These are not middling problems that the fringes of society experience.
These are not miniscule issues that only the extremely poor or inconceivably wealthy encounter. No, these are the major issues that will plague every single one of us day-to-day, month-to-month, and for the long term for the rest of our existences’.
Why is this not a requirement for every single degree at every university in America?
In an impromptu poll of my roommates, a landscape contracting major, a health policy administration major and an economics major, when asked, “What do you know about personal finance?” they respectively replied, “Wait, What?” “Not enough and I need to learn more.” and “I mean ... I don’t know.”
One of them did not even know how to write a check let alone balance a checkbook. I’d be willing to bet they are not in the minority, either.
In fact, this seems to be an issue all across America. The National Financial Educators Council has compiled a staggering list of frightening statistics regarding the level of financial literacy among Americans and I would like to highlight a few: Only 59 percent of people aged eighteen to twenty nine pay all of their bills on time every month, ten percent of Americans with mortgages reported missing payments or being late on payments within the last year, 54 percent of college student respondents had overdrawn their bank account and 81 percent underestimated the amount of time it would take to pay off a credit card balance by a large margin, and around 69 percent of parents admit to feeling less prepared to give their teenager guidance about investing than they do having the “sex talk” with them.
All of these problems could be alleviated by requiring students to maintain some level of financial literacy.
Our university, like most, is great at providing us with an education that will enable us to accumulate wealth for the rest of our lives, the scary thing is, though, most of us don’t know what to do once we get it.
Tim Wessel is a senior majoring in a finance and is The Daily Collegian’s Thursday columnist. His email is firstname.lastname@example.org.