An Expert Shares Guidance on Financial Literacy

Students should learn about saving, investments, retirement, taxes, and social security, and be sure to set up a savings account, pay bills on time, and understand the details of their finances.
Student learning about financial literacy

When I was in college, the concept of financial literacy seemed foreign. There were no classes on it, there were no requirements to learn about it, and it definitely never came up in conversation among friends. However, now more than ever, knowing and understanding financial literacy is one of the most important types of armor students and young professionals like me should carry. I recently chatted with Omama Marzuq, a financial adviser with Concord Wealth Management, about this very topic and how students can think financially smart. Here's what she said.

AS: What is financial literacy?

OM: Financial literacy is educating people on various different topics regarding finances. These include budgeting, credit, investing, saving, refinancing or reducing your loan, and how and where to invest. All of these different components make finances what they are. I believe that the more people are aware of financial literacy, the more that they can get ahead of what they want to do with their finances.

AS: Why is financial literacy important for students?

OM: Financial literacy is important for students because what they are taught in school has nothing to do with managing their money. Even if they take a personal finance class or are majoring in finance, these classes don't really talk about what happens after school. The more that students are aware of what they can do with their finances, the more they can put their two feet forward when they get out of school.

AS: Do you think that schools should be required to teach financial literacy to students? If so, what does that look like?

OM: Absolutely, and not just in college, but in high school as well (because not everyone goes off to college). Schools should definitely be educating and empowering students about all aspects of financial literacy. They're already teaching students about spending money, but they're not teaching students about saving money and using that money towards whatever goal they're trying to accomplish. Once students understand saving, then they'll be able to appreciate the value of a dollar.

AS: In regards to financial literacy, what should students learn more about and why?

OM: Often, students repeat money habits as adults that they witnessed their parents doing. But the money habits that our parents show us aren't necessarily the right ones. So we need to learn what's right. Students should learn about saving, investments, retirement, taxes, and social security so they have a better understanding of how and what to do with their money.

AS: What steps can students take to become more financially literate? Where can they go for information?

OM: Students can read about financial topics. And take 20% of their earnings if they're working and save it. They should surround themselves with successful people and people who have the lifestyle that they want and figure out how they got there. They should listen to audio books and attend seminars about financial topics. Two books that I recommend are Think and Grow Rich by Napoleon Hill and How I Raised Myself from Failure to Success in Selling by Frank Bettger. What's great is that they're not books that you'll only read once and do away with. But instead, you'll always be able to refer back to them.

AS: What are 3 steps students should follow to better manage finances?

  1. Pay yourself first. The first thing students should do when they get their paycheck is pay themselves first. That essentially means putting some money into a savings account, emergency fund, or even a cash reserve account.
  2. Pay your bills on time. Next, students should pay their utilities, rent, etc. It's key to make sure that these are paid up. They should keep their bills low and try not to get into debt. They should live by the mantra, "if you can't afford it, don't get it."
  3. Have a sense of awareness. Having an understanding of what your finances look like is important. That way, if something tragic or unexpected happens, students can adjust, accommodate, and know what to do.

The sooner that students start understanding their finances, the better off they'll be!