Real-world money management

Bel Carden, Contributing Writer

As students begin to consider their futures after the University, many worry about faring in the real world and surviving its problems. How do taxes work? How do I pay my bills? How do I manage my money responsibly? To ease these anxieties, the University created Management 314: Personal Finances — a half-credit course focused on teaching students how to handle their finances after graduating from the University.

“The purpose of this course is to introduce important financial concepts that will help students make sound decisions both now and after graduation,” Associate Professor of Accounting Cindy Guthrie said. “Managing personal finances for the first time or taking on more financial responsibility as a young adult’s career and personal circumstances change can be daunting. Among the most common money mistakes made by 20-somethings are failing to plan, borrowing money for emotional purchases, and postponing savings plans.”

Prior to teaching accounting at the University, Guthrie was a financial planner who assisted individuals and couples in making smart financial decisions. Through these financial decisions, Guthrie’s clients could better attain their personal goals. 

Additionally, through her experience as a financial planner, Guthrie saw how damaging mismanaging finances could be to a person’s life. “I discovered that a lot of people made a big mess of their financial lives by overspending, getting into debt, and making poor choices about matching savings goals with investment options. Disagreements and stress over finances can cause serious relationship rifts and is a leading cause of divorce,” Guthrie said.

However, after seeing the troubles her clients endured in regards to their finances and financial decisions, Guthrie was inspired to teach financial literacy. “I want to help students avoid common pitfalls and have more confidence and less stress in money management,” Guthrie said. “Other professors who teach the course have a similar passion.”

Management 314 is a combination of lecture, group exercises, short videos, and quizzes ranging in topics from budgeting, taxes, rental agreements, credit cards and loans, credit reports and credit scores, insurance and saving and investing. Throughout the semester, students work on a personal budget project, for which they pick a reasonable starting salary for a career they hope to pursue following graduation. Based on this salary, students calculate their take-home pay after taxes, find an affordable apartment and form of transportation, as well as budget for all of their living expenses, debt repayment, and saving goals. This project can be especially helpful for seniors, some of whom have already decided on jobs and therefore can apply their budget to real life. 

However, this personal finance course is beneficial to students of any major at the University. Emma Dolen ’20 is currently taking the course, despite not being enrolled in the Freeman College of Management. “I think this class is really helpful for students. I am a chemistry major and feel very prepared to go onto graduate school in chemistry,” Dolen said. “Before this class, I had no idea how to even do my own taxes. I took this class to help me save and manage money in ‘the real world’ and feel like it is preparing me well to do that.”

Similarly, Ashley Vecchio ’20 discussed her motivation behind taking this course. “I took this class because I really did not have a solid understanding of how taxes, insurance, and some other topics worked. I wanted to be fully prepared for life on my own after college and this seemed like a no-brainer class to take,” she said.

Students across the nation have debated whether or not, and to what extent formal education prepares them properly for the real world. Isobel Lloyd ’21, another student enrolled in Management 314, shared this belief prior to taking Guthrie’s course. “[One] of the complaints students all over the country have about the education system is not ever knowing how to complete real-world tasks, such as taxes,” Lloyd said. “This course is challenging that flaw in the education system by ensuring that students have a good foundation of the basic skills needed in order to succeed financially after graduation. By taking this course while you are still in college, you are able to begin thinking about and preparing for a successful life after graduation.”

Lloyd took this class, like many of the other students enrolled, to be proactive. “I was intrigued by this class because all of the topics covered were things that I didn’t know how to do,” Lloyd said. “I was passionate about wanting to be proactive in learning how to survive after Bucknell on my own, without being completely attached to my parents’ hip. I wanted to start learning about how to manage my money so that I could make smarter decisions both now and in the future.”

Through taking Management 314, students are fully ready to move onto the next step of their lives following graduation at the University. 

Next fall, the course will change names to Accounting and Financial Management (ACFM) 314, but it will still be the same class. If this half-credit does not fit in your schedule, Guthrie strongly encourages students, especially seniors, to attend the one-day seminar, “Beyond the Bucknell Bubble: Personal Finances in the Real World.” Guthrie and three other ACFM faculty will hold this free seminar in January. Although “Beyond the Bucknell Bubble,” does not cover all topics in the same amount of detail as Management 314, it will still provide students with the financial essentials to survive in the real world.

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