By: CHRISTINA CLARK
Gone are the faux-checkbook balancing exercises from the high school personal finance classes.
College students are thrust into a realm that uses real money, real loans and credit that, if mishandled, can bring real consequences.
During their college career, a traditional student will be exposed to the terms “finance” and “credit” quite a bit for the first time. For the non-traditional student, there are so many other hurdles when balancing a family, a career and the cost of living and tuition. These scenarios are exactly why MoneySmarts was conceived.
“The university has developed many resources to support you in attaining your degree. The Offices of Financial Aid at each campus should be the first stop for any student needing help paying for college. The faculty and staff of Indiana University are also fully committed to student success. Ask for help. They want you to achieve your degree goal(s),” touts the MoneySmarts website www.moneysmarts.iu.edu.
In addition to the university resources, peer financial educators help to guide fellow students through the maze of money questions.
“We are here to basically help students be more informed on how to be smart with your money, especially throughout college. We understand that throughout college, students are going through a rough time with budgeting money in terms of groceries, rent, car payments, et cetera,” said Morgan Talos, a peer financial educator at IU South Bend. “[We’re] here to help you understand how to budget all of this, whether it be through loans or by paying out of pocket. We are not here to tell you what to do, but to inform and educate you on your options on how to manage your money well.”
“I think the biggest financial confusion we come across with students is when they think that if they get a credit card, they can buy anything and everything. That is not the case,” emphasized Talos. “Students need to be responsible with a credit card. We suggest that if you do not have the money, do not buy it. Or if you do use a credit card, to at least pay off the total amount that you have spent on it each month to keep on top of things. Credit cards can leave you in a huge heap of debt if you do not finance it properly.”
Four campuses currently have on-campus programs: Bloomington, Kokomo, South Bend and Indiana University-Purdue University Indianapolis. All other campuses can request online meetings.
“We don’t have an actual office space of our own just yet,” said Peer Financial Educator Stephen Salisbury. “With the remodeling of the administration building we may find something somewhere once everything has been rearranged.”
Further into the spring semester, there may be workshops and tournaments to spark additional interest in the MoneySmarts program, incorporating topics of financial aid and leadership.
For now, their website is the connection to the peer financial educators and the rest of the material available through IU. Options to interact with a live peer financial educator include one-on-one sessions either on campus or online or a group presentation on campus addressing a certain topic which can be requested online.
There is a group presentation menu available on request that explains nine topics to be addressed, with such colorful titles as: “The FUs of Finance” (budgeting basics); “GOOOOOALS!!!” (goals, goal setting and smart goals); “Drink the Financial Aid” (understanding financial aid, grants, loans, debt management and scholarship); and “The Budget Game” (interactive realities of living a budget after graduating).
In addition, the website includes links to two MoneySmarts podcasts, “MoneySmartsU” and “How Not to Move Back in with Your Parents,” each featuring multiple episodes full of useful information. There is also a series of tests focusing on financial know-how as well as money management resources, suggested courses for those looking to further their education and an informative blog.