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Do Financial Literacy Classes Work?

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Many colleges and universities have been implementing financial literacy courses for students following the Great Recession, in which Americans’ money knowledge (or lack thereof) was put under the spotlight.

A recent survey sponsored by Visa found that Americans rank behind Brazilians, Mexicans and Australians in financial literacy, according to an article by Investopedia. So, are recent grads using the financial literacy classes now required by some universities to tackle post-college money challenges? We spoke to two recent graduates who both took financial literacy courses in college to get their perspective.

Anna Schottenstein graduated from Ohio University in 2011, but struggled to find a job that would pay all of the bills. So, like many millenials, Schottenstein moved back in with her parents and began working three jobs to save up enough money to move out.

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Free Credit Check & MonitoringHaving taken some financial classes in college as a part of her course work to become a social studies teacher, Schottenstein felt prepared to tackle financial hurdles like setting up a budget and saving for retirement because she had learned not only the lessons she had been taught, but how to teach them to future students.

“As far as saving for retirement and budgeting, these are two things I am very aware of and confident with especially since I was teaching this to my students,” she said. “I have worked out a formula for my own need to make sure I am saving and spending appropriate amounts monthly to have some money for retirement but also have all my necessities and some of my wants.”

Though the idea of moving home didn’t thrill Schottenstein, she did find an upside to it.

“I realized that this was an incredible opportunity for me to gain financial independence with the guidance of my parents,” she said. “It was extremely nice to have free room and board so that this next year when I am completely on my own, I now have savings from this past year to rely on if there is an emergency.”

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Overall, she said the education she got in college was an added bonus to the financial lessons her parents also instilled in her.

“They made me consider the difference between what I wanted and what I needed,” she said. “They also made me aware of other people’s financial needs and the fact that I have more than most and should help others. These are things that are mentioned in school and learned there, but my parents made sure I carried out those actions — especially of donating and helping others.”

Lindsey Marmorstein, another class of 2011 grad, said family was a major factor in why she decided to take a financial literacy course in the first place.

“I originally did not want to take the class, but instead of taking an elective that didn’t relate to my future career, my mom suggested that I take the class because she felt it would be beneficial.”

Marmorstein said the biggest takeaways she got out of the class were more advanced information about retirement, car and health insurance, stocks and bonds, and loans.

[Related Article: A Financial Checklist for New College Grads]

“The biggest financial hurdle I faced after college was deciding the best way to begin planning for retirement, she said. “I was not eligible to enter my work’s 401(k) plan until after one year and one month of work. In the meantime,  I chose to open an IRA account to start saving for retirement as soon as possible.”

Even though she took a more challenging elective while her friends took easier or more exciting electives, Marmorstein says she doesn’t regret the decision.

“I would definitely recommend the class to others. I thought I knew everything about investing, saving, and general finances before the class, but I was mistaken. The class provided me with knowledge that has been invaluable in my first year out of college — from selecting a health insurance plan to picking out the best credit card to suit my needs.”

Image: dcJohn, via Flickr

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