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Savvy students reap financial rewards
MISSISSIPPI STATE – Financial stability may seem impossible during the college years, but students who take the time to learn about money management will reap positive rewards.
Mississippi State University students can get college credit for taking control of their financial futures. Each fall and spring semester, Sheri Worthy, a professor in MSU’s School of Human Sciences, teaches consumer economics to show students how to make informed financial decisions now and throughout their lives. She said the 3000-level class is open to anyone, and the only prerequisite is college algebra.
“In addition to practical topics such as budgeting and investing, we discuss consumer protection legislation and fraud,” Worthy said. “We incorporate activities that help students analyze their income and expenses and track their spending habits so they can see where their money is going.”
The basic premise of financial stability is controlling expenses so they do not exceed income. The next step is to save money for emergencies or special purchases. Worthy recommended using gimmicks or tricks to make saving money fun.
“If you have money automatically deducted from your paycheck into a savings account, it’s gone before you see it, and you won’t miss it,” Worth said. “When you save money at a store, write yourself a check for what you saved and put it in your savings account.”
For those who need to take more drastic steps, one strategy is to put their cold, hard cash in the freezer.
“If you’re trying to save money, put either the cash or your credit card in a sealable bag, put it in a coffee can, fill the can with water, and put it in the freezer,” Worthy said. “You’ll have to thaw it before you buy anything, and that extra step will buy you some time to reconsider your planned purchase. Make sure you remember where you put the can, and don’t let anyone throw it away.”
Many people appear to have their finances in such great shape that they never have to worry about budgets, credit card debt or school loans. However, most successful people were once struggling college students who had to learn about money management the hard way. For others, strong money management skills led to a career.
Don Zant, vice president of budget and planning for MSU, said his best piece of advice for students is to think and plan before making financial decisions, particularly when it comes to debt.
“That credit card or car loan may seem to be good idea when you first think about it,” he said. “However, before you enter into debt, you should have a plan on how you will pay it back. That new car may look great, but can you afford it along with your other expenses? Is it your best option?”
Zant said the entertainment options available to students need to be balanced with the serious task of training for a career, which for some may include their hard-earned money management skills managing their money.
“Don’t be in such a hurry to graduate that you miss out on once-in-a-lifetime opportunities,” he said. “As you look at areas to major in, think about not only what you would like to do, but what are you good at, and what you will do with your education or degree when you graduate,” Zant said. “I changed my major to accounting my junior year because I was good with numbers, and I knew what I could do with my degree.
“When I graduated more than 20 years ago, I never would have guessed where I would end up, but I am still in the accounting industry and love my work, so that decision has served me well,” he said.