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Financial planning classes should be required at UA

SoRelle Wyckoff

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Everyone keeps talking about this “real world” that I’m about to enter into. Apparently, on May 4 I’m going to pass through a portal into some new dimension where life is harder, and I’m suddenly responsible for all sorts of new things.

I’m not as scared as it’s suggested I should be, but when I do consider the entire scope of changes that are about to fall upon me, it’s easy to find myself overwhelmed.

Finding a job is step one, sure. And everyone’s going nuts about that. But there are a multitude of other things: changes in insurance, credit cards, taxes. And sooner rather than later, we’ll have to handle mortgages and retirement planning.

And are we supposed to absorb this information through osmosis? Or maybe when we pass through that graduation portal, we are suddenly enlightened. Are the directions hidden like a “Marauder’s Map” on the back of our diploma?

Unfortunately, personal finance is not a required course at The University of Alabama. If it were not for the UH 300 course, “Finding Financial Freedom” I’m currently enrolled in, I’d be clueless about multiple financial realities that I will undoubtedly be facing.

My parents certainly have, and will, teach me about how they handle their finances, and many of us will learn this way, through trial, error and example. Yet there is an enormous benefit from learning about a subject or skill from a professional or intellectual of that industry. We can say the same about our history classes. My parents can tell me a great deal about the creation of the Constitution, but my professors have knowledge that creates a much deeper and greater understanding.

It’s odd that our university does not offer a readily available personal finance class. I was able to take one as a non-business major in the Honors College, but otherwise, the only students that will “have room” in their schedule for any finance classes are usually limited to those in the business school.

Realistically these classes should be mandated. The educational system at our university has, unfortunately, abandoned a heavy focus on the arts and sciences. Instead, most students are majors that feed to a particular career. Journalism, engineering, marketing, social work. That’s all fine and well, but if you are going to teach classes about how to make money, you should also teach classes about how to handle money.

I see no problem requiring a class on personal finance during the four-year stint as an Alabama student. We could probably shave off an hour or two of a geography lab or a semester of computer science if we needed to. Sure, learning about rocks and atmospheric patterns was interesting, but unless I plan to go into that field, that knowledge will be discarded.

Or we could consider our math classes as an area of replacement. 100-level math classes are pretty much self-taught anyways, and usually a refresher of the math skills we learned in high school. So why not replace an online computer course with a useful application of mathematical skills in the form of personal finance?

My class and teacher have provided me with tools to manage a budget, choose the right credit card and insurance, even buy a house. I learned about how to invest in stocks and we are finishing up the semester with retirement planning. These are things I need to know now, before I start my first job, not after I’m already in need of this knowledge.

There have been stories and ESPN 30 for 30’s about athletes squandering away massive amounts of money. Some have asked, even on this page, for personal finance courses to be a requirement for student athletes, but that’s silly. It’s something we all need education in. Money can be squandered no matter the size of the pile.

The University of Alabama needs to make sure its students will leave to become a benefit to society. This includes financially; we should be able to give back and help our community rather than become a burden. Each one of us is fortunate to be in pursuit of a college education, no matter the circumstance. We must try our hardest to share this experience with as many as we can.

So whether that means a college education for our child or donating to organizations and scholarship funds, we can only do that with proper financial preparation. And such preparation must be taught now, rather than later.

SoRelle Wyckoff is a senior majoring in history and journalism. Her column runs weekly on Mondays.

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Financial planning classes should be required at UA