January 28, 2020

Dollars and cents: Incorporating personal finance into student experience

Most people don’t like talking about money — but Matt Roling isn’t most people.

Roling, who is the accounting department chair in the Mike Ilitch School of Business, is working to spark meaningful conversations about finances to help students set themselves up for success.

“What you don’t know can bury you when it comes to finances,” Roling said. “Half of the adults in this country couldn’t write a $400 check that would clear their bank account — that’s a systemic problem. The only way it’s going to change is if we start equipping young people to better understand their personal finances.”

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Roling worked to develop a new course, BA 1200: Personal Financial Planning, to teach students the skills necessary to build good financial habits. The course is offered as a general education elective and has proven popular among students from all majors. The course will be offered in Spring/Summer and priority registration opens Feb. 3.

The course includes an overview of money-management basics, such as budgeting, cash management, taxes, major purchases, insurance, estate planning, consumer behavior, investments and credit. Roling said the class also includes discussion around the psychological and behavioral elements associated with financial wellness.

“There are many similarities between your physical health and your financial health. Sometimes decisions impacting both come from the same part of the brain. The class looks at ways to adapt and create an environment that’s conducive to better decisions,” he said. “It’s not a moral failing to be in debt. Just because you’ve made some bad financial decisions doesn’t mean you’re a bad person. Those decisions don’t define you — you just need to be able to come up with a plan to pull yourself up from them.”

The Personal Financial Planning course fits into Wayne State’s broader goal of helping all students succeed — in the classroom and in life. In collaboration with the Office of the Provost and Financial Aid, Roling led the development of a series of videos highlighting important topics around financial health. The videos, which feature accounting students from the Mike Ilitch School of Business, cover the true cost of college, how to pay for college and personal finance. You can view them as they are released on Wayne State's Financial Education YouTube channel.

“The one thing that all young people have is time. Building wealth is the marathon of a thousand steps and becoming poor is the death by a thousand cuts. Either option takes time, so the more we can empower young people with the information and skills to be money smart, the better we’re all going to be in the long run.”

Additional financial health information and resources are available through the Dean of Students Office’s Warrior Life and Wellness program.

To learn more about BA 1200: Personal Financial Planning, contact the Ilitch School’s Undergraduate Student Services Office at 313-577-4505.