Money Makes the World Go Around: Personal Finance for College Students

Money. It's a five-letter word. It's a word everyone is familiar with. Seemingly simple, it's the nucleus of modern society. It's like the Cabaret song goes, "money makes the world go ‘round."

It's also the thing college students are most concerned about. According to Ohio State University's National Financial Student Wellness Study, over 72 percent of students feel stress regarding their personal finances, and nearly 60 percent of students worry about not having enough money to pay for school.

Forbes reports that student loan debt in the US is now at over $1.5 trillion, the highest it’s ever been. Alongside student loan debt, the high cost of living, stagnant wages, and increasingly expensive housing has led to a financially-stressed student population.

Santa Monica College (SMC) has taken several steps to provide assistance for students. In addition to offering several courses on personal finance, the business department has a Personal Finance Resources page, which has a list of links to budgeting tools, information about managing credit, advice about banking and loans, and a debt calculator.

For students unsure of where to begin, Professor Jenny Resnick, who teaches accounting at SMC, suggests students start by understanding their financial situation. "Keep track of how much you make and how much you spend, what you own and what you owe, and set financial goals for yourself. Get started now with financial planning. It is never too early or too late to get started."

Resnick also warned students not to compare themselves to others, as everyone has a unique life situation.

Perhaps one of the most valuable resources the business department offers are the free personal finance workshops, which take place during the spring and fall semesters.

"In each one-hour workshop, we try to expose students to two vital topics in financial planning, anything from banking, savings and budgeting, credit card debt, auto loan, managing your credit, investing basics, tax planning," Resnick said, who organizes and oversees the workshops.

The second workshop, for example, covered credit card debt and investing. "We need to be disciplined," said accounting professor Gregory Brookins to a lecture hall full of students. "You have to know what you want versus what you need."

The final workshop of the semester, which took place on Thursday, May 9, offered advice on tax planning and budgeting. "Most people always think about making money, but they don't think about the tax consequences," Professor Cesar Rubio said. "If you want to become a very financial literate person, you need to understand tax. You need to understand what tax is all about."

The personal finance workshops will be offered again during the fall semester. Students may visit SMC's Personal Finance Resources web page for further information.