Dollars Making Sense: New UWG Program Promotes Smart Money Management

Staff Report From Newnan CEO

Friday, September 8th, 2017

A key to helping students understand financial wellness and embrace fiscal responsibility is highlighting the freedom that money provides.

That’s the basic premise of Dollars Making Sense, a new program being developed by Kim Holder, director of the University of West Georgia Center for Economic Education. Often spending in one area restricts spending in another. Recognizing and understanding our power to choose can lead to better money management.

“Every decision we make is a financial decision, but we often don’t acknowledge that,” said Holder, who also serves as an economics lecturer at UWG’s Richards College of Business.

“The first step is to change your mind set about money being bad,” Holder continued. “Having money means having freedom to do the things we want. Each of us gets to decide what we do with our financial freedom.”

Research shows that today’s students share a common concern about managing their money. A study by Wells Fargo found that 54 percent of millennials consider debt to be their biggest financial concern. Thirty-nine percent of those taking part in a survey by Fidelity said they worry, at least weekly, about their future finances.

Older generations are also feeling the impact of not understanding the importance of properly managing their incomes. The Financial Industry Regulatory Authority’s Investor Education Foundation found that half of all U.S. residents have no rainy-day funds and nearly half have less than $10,000 set aside for retirement.

“Once we realize that each of us has a personal responsibility to educate ourselves along with those around us, we can all make small changes and reap rewards in our personal lives as well as within our surrounding communities,” Holder said.

Most importantly, students are asking for help. The National Financial Educators Council found that adults between 18-24 identified money management as a high school course that would have benefited them the most.

“At UWG, we’re working to meet that need and challenge students to think proactively about their financial fitness, starting with ‘What does having money or the freedom it provides mean to you?’” Holder said. “It may mean choosing not to have coffee today because you’re saving to travel.”

Holder calls the program a curated group of financial resources that allows students to choose what they want to study and tailor learning to their own needs.

“Flexibility is very important,” she said. “My goal is to make it easy on students’ time, interesting to complete and informative.”

Dollars Making Sense will be offered as a free class to registered UWG students through CourseDen. It will be delivered in a series of modules, including written pieces and videos.

“Spend five minutes a day with the modules starting this fall,” Holder said. “Let it transform you.”

In addition to the open course, the UWG CEE will continue working across the campus and within the surrounding community to offer a bevy of financial wellness activities.

“Dollars Making Sense is really a collection of programs,” Holder said. “Students can use the open course, go to themed events on taxes, savings or student loans to stay financially fit, or even take our interdisciplinary financial decision-making course for academic credit.”

“You can go as far as you like,” she continued, adding that as the program grows, students who complete certain criteria will be recruited to help teach newer students. “We will train them in financial coaching so they can serve as peer mentors to future students.”

Holder will also use Dollars Making Sense to reach out to other disciplines and student support programs across the university. The UWG CEE has already successfully collaborated with Financial Aid staff, the West Georgia Regional Library system and the English department faculty with great success.

Students have had on-campus opportunities to learn about budgeting, saving and extreme couponing as well as complex financial literacy topics like insurance, investments, taxes and student loans. In the coming year, UWG is expanding our collaborative efforts to reach more topics in more areas, including how to evaluate different types of financial aid, how to build good credit, pay taxes and even how to protect against identity theft.

“At its best, financial wellness and financial topics are not limited to a single discipline, but instead can be woven throughout the curriculum,” Holder said. “Discussions about money, wealth and finances appear throughout literature, music, history and science. I’d love for each of us to work together to help students talk more openly about these issues, increase their financial awareness, and improve students’ lives. After all, working to change the future for our students through education is at the heart of what the University of West Georgia does best.”