It’s blatantly obvious to me, based on the amount of debt and financial trouble Americans manage to get themselves into, that many people out there don’t particularly know what they’re doing, when it comes to money. People spend more than they should, spend more than they earn, borrow more than they can repay, and don’t save for college or retirement.
And it starts early. Almost three-quarters of college students make risky financial decisions, according to a study from the University of Arizona, including maxing out credit cards, carrying a balance, paying bills late, and taking out payday loans.
I spoke to a financial planner a few months ago who thought that colleges should be required to offer a course on personal finance, and that students should be required to take it.
Guess what? In Burlington, Vt., at Champlain College, that’s exactly what’s happening.
Well, not exactly. But according to this New York Times article, the college requires undergrads to attend two “financial sophistication” courses on credit and basic budgeting, and it plans to add more on student loans, buying or leasing a car, and understanding the value of employee benefits.
I think this is an outstanding idea. When I was in college, I took a class on personal finance, and I still use the information I learned there. But even that class didn’t offer information on topics that trip up college students all the time, such as student loans and credit.
Frankly, a course on student loans and credit might be appropriate in high school, when students are about to run the gauntlet of college applications and financial aid. And the whole thing might be moot if parents were taking a more active role in their children’s financial education.
Did your college offer a personal finance course? And did you take it? (And if either answer is no, do you wish you’d had the option, or that you’d taken advantage of it?)
(Photo by nikkirosety on Flickr.)