It’s easy for students to feel lost and confused when it comes to finances in a world of growing economic complexity. A 2016 survey done by Adecco Group indicated 74 percent of recent graduates feel college did not prepare them for the “real world.”
BYU’s Financial Center reports the average BYU student accumulates $15,000 of student debt. While this number is better than the national average of $35,000, it still poses a threat to students’ future financial success.
Many students, like BYU sophomore Matthew Traenor, realize they don’t know how to take on future financial challenges, such as buying a house, choosing insurance, and living on a budget and building good credit, in addition to handling the cost of college.
“Banks and loans and stuff — my parents have always just handled that,” Traenor said. “If I had to buy a house right now, I literally have no idea where I’d start.”
Luckily, there’s still good news for students. BYU campus is filled with opportunities for students to learn valuable financial skills so they can leave campus prepared to face the “real world.”
One resource students can use is the Financial Fitness Center. This office, located in the ASB, has resources and counselors available to help students manage their money wisely, especially during their time here at BYU.
Megan Hanks is a peer financial counselor at the BYU Financial Center. She said one of the ways they help students most is by helping them reduce their student debts.
“I think students are often decent at managing their money, but they don’t understand how many scholarships and grants are available,” Hanks said.
Financial Fitness Center manager Paul Conrad said most schools’ finance centers are mainly worried about keeping students out of student debt since it reflects poorly on the college if a student isn’t able to pay off their student loans. However, Conrad said BYU’s center takes it one step further.
“We want to help you not only make good decisions while here, but be prepared for your whole life,” Conrad said.
Conrad said a student’s time at BYU is the best time for them to learn financial skills.
“Don’t think, ‘Once I graduate I’ll get serious about this.’ Get serious now,” Conrad said. “Whether you’re a music major or an engineer, there’s one thing we all have in common: we have to manage our money.”
Students can set up a free meeting with the Financial Fitness Center online.
BYU also offers finance classes for those interested in learning more to help their financial future. BYU associate professor of finance Bryan Sudweeks teaches two personal finance classes to help students achieve financial success.
“The classes are hard, but no one likes doing things that are hard,” Sudweeks said. “They either have to learn it now from professors with no ulterior motives, or they’ll learn it from a professional in the future who may have reason to make questionable decisions.”
Sudweeks recommends all students take a personal finance class during their time at BYU, and his students support the idea.
“It’s the most practical class I’ve ever taken. I take classes I’ll never use and learn stuff I’ll never use, but this will come in to play all the time,” said BYU business management senior Justin Taylor.
BYU students Taylor Sutterfield and Brad Dial both took Sudweeks’ personal finance class as well, and agreed it was the most practical class they’ve taken at BYU. Sudweeks suggests interested students enroll in Personal Finance (FIN 200), or Family Finance (SFL 260), both of which will help students manage their money now and in the future.
For anyone looking to learn more about how to manage money, there are also free courses available online. Anyone can access the materials from BYU’s Personal Finance classes, complete with the full textbook, documents used in class and video lectures from each class period on the BYU Marriott School of Business personal finance website. The website was put together by the Marriott School of Business and Finance and the textbook was written by Sudweeks, who updates the book every year.
“It’s not enough to just ‘talk about budgeting,’ or ‘talk about investing,’ you have to budget to learn about budgeting, you have to invest to learn about investing. That’s what these courses do,” Sudweeks said.
Sudweeks said this information was made free to the whole world because the Marriott School of Business understands the importance of financial literacy.
There are many resources available to help students manage their financial future. Sudweeks said there’s no need for any BYU student to leave college feeling like they aren’t prepared for the “real world.”