Wednesday, May 20, 2009

Personal Financial Planning

By far the most useful class I have taught so far is Personal Financial Planning. It allowed me to get to know students better, and see their lives changed in regards to their finances. This was very rewarding.

The first task I gave students, even before the semester started, was to begin keeping a spending diary of all their purchases. Students saw for the first time where their money was going. It suddenly made sense why they couldn't afford, for example, the computer they needed-- that money was going to Sonic and McDonalds twice a week. The church was also getting left out, not getting nearly 10% of their income.

Students used their diaries to figure out how much money they needed to live on. Over the course of the semester, they budgeted amounts for spending into categories and then adjusted those numbers based on what they saw their needs were.

I assigned them to do an allocated spending plan, where every dollar of income gets allocated to a specific spending or saving category. I also required them to keep track of their allocated spending, when they went over in one category it meant they had to subtract from another category.

They found this difficult, but several of them "got it" by the end of the semester. Now they're saving for cars, weddings, student loan repayment, emergencies, etc.

We primarily studied saving, investments, insurance, home and auto purchases, and estate planning. The text was pretty good. I incorporated some expert guest speakers to cover areas I was not knowledgeable about.

I think the biggest mental "click" came when I gave a homework assignment to talk to their parents about wills and life insurance. Many of the students found out that if their parents were to die, the courts might decide who got what because there was no will or trust established. Many of their parents hadn't thought about life insurance, hadn't saved much money, and the student would be left trying to cover the cost of the funeral and figuring out how to get custody of a sibling while paying the parents' mortgage. This was a horrifying reality check for several of them.

Through the papers they submitted I was able to get to know their backgrounds and financial situations-- something I would never learn in another class. Some of them come from very tough situations at home, others have parents who are very responsible. Most all of them desire godliness, which is great.

Overall, I think they felt pretty good about what they'd learned. I learned a good bit too. I think the class ought to be a general ed. requirement on campus.

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