College Connect: Financial Planning: Save Now or Pay Later

Posted By Crystal Beasley

By Killian Wyatt

Never before have people had to make so many financial decisions on their own. Most college students aren’t prepared for these choices, but they can take steps now to secure a solid financial future.

“Financial planning is not just for old people,” said Duncan Williams, an assistant clinical professor who teaches financial planning at the University of Georgia. The increasing complexity of financial decision making makes it necessary for students to think ahead, he said.

For instance, the burden of choosing health insurance and retirement plans is now falling on individuals. “It used to be that your entire family was covered under one basic plan” through your employer, said Williams. Retirees would receive pensions “where [they] get a paycheck until [they] die.” This is no longer the case.

With healthcare costs and longevity increasing, many employers are leaving these choices up to individual employees. This is bad news, said Williams. “Financial literacy rates are extremely low,” so “people are not prepared to make good financial decisions for themselves,” he said.

Williams said college students should take a basic financial literacy class and save money early in their careers. “Every time you get a raise early on in your career, save half of your raise,” he said. People who don’t prepare for these income shifts watch their lifestyles expand without thinking about it. “All of a sudden they ask, ‘Where did the money go?’”

Maria Berdon, a junior financial planning major at UGA, is a long way from retiring, but she has already begun planning her financial future.

Last semester, Berdon had to keep a budget in a spreadsheet for a class assignment. After tracking her expenses for months, Berdon discovered an uncomfortable truth: “I spent too much money,” she said. Even as she tracked her budget, Berdon found herself splurging on online goods. “It’s easy. Boom. You buy it and two days later it’s there.”

Though she sometimes gave into impulses, the financial planning student admitted that the spreadsheet was a serious disincentive to spending money. Every impulse buy “has got to go on that spread sheet,” she said.

Berdon still keeps up with the spreadsheet. “That’s a good starting point, just knowing where your money goes,” she said. “I’ve kept track of it and now it’s more manageable.”

Killian Wyatt is a student at the Grady College of Journalism and Mass Communication at the University of Georgia

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