Forming Financial Habits in the Formative Years
As a college student, figuring out where to begin when it comes to personal finance can be frustrating.
At the University of Central Oklahoma, however, students have access to finance professors who can give advice on how to start.
“Everything has a financial part of it and so I think the first part of budgeting is knowing where you currently are,” said Stephen Black, professor in the UCO finance department.
Finance professor Julie Cumbie said that one way to figure out where you are financially is by starting a financial journal. Students in Cumbie’s personal finance classes are often required to keep such a journal to see where they are financially and go from there.
The next step is to budget finances.
“So many of them [students] think budget is a bad thing because it sounds like it’s a big constraint, that it’s bad bad bad, but it’s not,” Cumbie said. “You should think of it [budgeting] as a seven-letter word for freedom, because if you have a budget then it allows you to have financial freedom because you know how your money is being spent and you can plan.”
Starting next fall there will be a program on campus designed to help students with finances and personal finance strategies like these free of charge.
Black said the university is currently training staff on campus from several different departments to become financial counselors.
The training is sponsored by MidFirst Bank, but the university is expected to pick up most of the cost.
“It’s a certified training program that they will be certified to do this and so this is not something we’re making up,” Black said. “We’ve got some examples of other programs that we are going off of to do this. We feel like it’s a service that students need.”
These financial counselors will maintain current responsibilities on campus, with the added responsibility of financial counseling. Black said that the financial coaches will likely set aside time for students to sign up for appointments. The location for counseling sessions has not yet been determined.
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Another important step in personal finance is setting up financial goals and start saving money.
“When we say financial goals those are really all your goals, because your finances have something to do with each of these, Black said.
Black said a good way for college students to set financial goals is to save for wants and pay for them in cash.
“The general rule of thumb is to try to get to 10 percent of whatever you make and save for retirement,” Black said. “If you can’t get there in college that’s fine, if you have a job and you can put away anything away just to get started that’s a good way to train yourself on saving for retirement.”
There are also things to watch out for when practicing personal finance, such as not using credit cards to pay bills, not borrowing more money than can be paid back and not overspending on entertainment.
“If you are living in a lifestyle in college that you couldn’t afford when you get out of school, you’re probably spending too much and borrowing way too much,” Black said.
There are alternatives to spending too much money on entertainment. For instance, instead of going out and spending a lot of money at restaurants, movies, etc, do something that would cost next to nothing with friends.
“You can enjoy life with friends and family without spending lots of money if you use a little bit of imagination,” Black said.