In the past, I rented too much apartment in Chicago on not enough salary; planned poorly for my MBA, resulting in lots of student loans, which I’m still paying back; and bought a house in South Bend, thinking I’d be there for years, only to take a job with IU a year later and moving—taking a big loss on the home as a result. I’ve made several other stupid financial decisions in the nine years since getting my undergraduate degree, but listing those would go well past my word limit.
What’s been great about the (almost) three years since the creation of Indiana University’s Office of Financial Literacy has been talking with others who have also made unwise financial decisions, and hearing about their passion for helping students understand how to avoid those mistakes and gain the knowledge to be responsible managers of their money when they graduate. Not only that, it’s been amazing to be a part of a university so committed to helping their students that its willing to invest resources in unconventional ideas to provide such important knowledge to its students.
Those unconventional ideas created IU MoneySmarts, a unique approach to teaching students about their financial lives. Our goal is to provide knowledge of a critical life skill in a light-hearted, approachable way. Our web site, which has been visited over 40,000 times since our launch in January 2013, contains quizzes, connections to financial coaches, and links to our podcast series. On the recent podcast “How Not to Move Back in With Your Parents,” you’ll hear me and several other special guests talk to financial expert Pete the Planner and IU senior Alex Eaton about the stupid financial things we’ve done for college love, food, and the student loan refund check. For everybody involved, it’s a chance to educate by reflecting on —and laughing about—our most embarrassing decisions.
Our goal should be to create a financially smart student body—one where the outside world is well aware that a Hoosier is someone who has all of the MoneySmarts needed to make an impact at the personal, business, and community levels. Whether you’re a faculty or staff member or a student and/or a parent, use your financial lives—good or bad—to educate those around you about how to make wise financial decisions.
We know we’re making strides in the right direction. In fact, University Business magazine recently named our program a Model of Excellence—a great honor and validation of the work we do every day.
We’re always looking for fun ways to engage students in finances, so let me know if you have a great idea on something we could do to help spread the word about our services. If we do our job right, we’ll be graduating some of the most well-rounded students in the country … and all of my financial mistakes will be worth it.