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Finance Professor Greg Pierce On Making Smart Financial Decisions In College

College may seem like a relatively financial responsibility-free four years for students who still live under the guidance of their parents or haven’t been exposed to the terrifying reality of recurring bills. Others are more familiar with the reality of money due to student loans and other factors like part-time jobs and work-study.

College, however, is the perfect time to develop money-conscious habits that have been proven to have a massive effect later in life. Teaching students the ins and outs of personal finance is one of finance professor Greg Pierce’s main goals.

Pierce mainly teaches introductory and fundamental finance courses, which cover both personal and business finance topics. He also offers his own finance tutorials online. As a result, Pierce is as concerned with his students’ performances on assignments as he is with equipping them with principles of finance that they can apply throughout their lives. 

Pierce also offers advice on handling student loan payments. Pierce advises students not to take on more than they can handle when it’s time to start paying their loans back, because it’s just as important to pay close attention to long-term debt as it is to pay attention to short-term debt.

“How much is too much?” Pierce said. “The question is how are you going to pay that back? Finance helps you think critically about these issues.”

By utilizing finance principles, a student can begin to calculate loan payments and understand how much they’ll need to pay back over a certain period of time. 

“If you learn the fundamentals of finance, you should know and understand when you have to start paying it,” said Pierce. “Always my recommendation is to pay that off as soon as possible.”

Pierce focused his advice on students graduating and entering the workforce but made it clear that the same advice applies to everyone. Pierce stressed the importance of saving money and said that it’s never too early to start doing so. He advises students to take 10% of their salary when they start working and invest it “where you can’t get at it.”

Pierce explained that it’s very important for students to be careful with their spending. Creating a monthly budget in Excel and sticking to it is extremely advantageous, he advised. Many college students will find themselves with financial issues because they were not smart with their spending while in school.

With the use of Excel, a student can make a simple spreadsheet of how much money is available, how much money can be spent, and how much money needs to be saved. That way, progress can be easily tracked, which means everything when you’re thinking five years out and have a long-range perspective, as he advises.

Pierce also suggested that students attend financial literacy webinars and complete self-study modules on their own to bolster their personal knowledge and understanding. 

Penn State offers a financial literacy webinar through the Sokolov-Miller Family Financial and Life Skills Center called “MoneyCounts: A Financial Literacy Series. Finance 108, a personal finance course, is also offered at Penn State through the Smeal College of Business.

Pierce also suggests taking look at the work of Penn State alumna, Farnoosh Torabi, a successful journalist, author, and personal finance expert.  She’s the author of the book You’re So Money: Live Rich, Even When You’re Not and is the host of the “So Money Podcast,” on which she answers money-related questions. Torabi was just in town last week as the Homecoming grand marshal. And while at Penn State, she actually took Pierce’s class.

But aside from the extra things you can do if you truly have an interest in managing your finances effectively, Pierce concluded with a basic, personal finance maxim that encapsulates almost all his pointers: “Save early, and save often.”

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About the Author

Jarod Kutz

Jarod Kutz is a junior majoring in public relations and minoring in business. Growing up 45 minutes away in Altoona, he knew Penn State was going to be his destination after high school. You can find Jarod watching his favorite sports teams (Boston Red Sox, Boston Celtics, or Indianapolis Colts ~ don't ask him how), eating Chipotle, or scrolling through social media. Follow @kutz53 on Twitter or shoot him an email at [email protected].

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