Last year I wrote about a project my honors thesis student completed on the topic of financial literacy in business students. The hypothesis for the thesis was that business majors are more financially literate than non-business majors. On the surface, it seemed like it should be a simple answer. Business students are trained in the ways of accounting, finance, marketing, and management. Financial literacy should be a result of their education. Over 400 university students responded to a survey that included sixteen financial literacy questions from the JumpStart Coalition’s test. On average, students answered half of the questions correctly. Business students, however, did not do any better than the non-business students. As a finance professor, this was not a pleasant discovery. It turned out that only age and measures of financial experience resulted in higher financial literacy scores.
This year I had another student working on an honors thesis related to financial literacy. She, however, wanted to focus on high school education. Some states either require a high school course in personal finance or at least are exploring the idea. Given the poor results from last year’s study, we decided to take a different approach to measuring financial literacy. Financial education is not required in Mississippi high schools, but those that offer courses predominantly utilize the Ever-Fi financial education curriculum. So, we designed our financial literacy metrics from this curriculum. The Ever-Fi curriculum focuses on basic, personal finance applications that young adults are most likely to encounter within five years of high school graduation.
It’s the start of a new semester at the university, which means graduation is just months away for many college seniors. The “real world” is just around the corner, and yet I see so few students really prepared for that moment. Now, I will admit to you that in many ways I was not all that different. At this time, I did not have a job lined up waiting for me after graduation. I didn’t know exactly where I was going or what I would be doing. I was, however, actively looking for work. I had a plan, and I had been putting in the time and taking opportunities throughout my college years that would eventually lead me in the right direction.
When I graduated from college I went home for a couple of weeks and then left to take a summer job as a lab assistant. It did not pay much money, and I lived in a large house with about 25 other college students. Still, I took the opportunity to work in my field. While I was there, I got a call with a job offer related to an application I submitted months earlier. I moved hundreds of miles away, and the rest is history. The point is that I was always working towards something and answered the door when opportunity knocked. Unfortunately, I don’t see that attitude in a lot of college students today. They seem to be making a lot of mistakes when it comes to their career search and prospects.