Students should aim to improve their financial knowledge before graduating from college. Otherwise, they will succumb to temptations and live in bondage to debt. Further, debt will prevent them from pursuing projects and activities later in life. Not only does debt create a financial burden, it generates emotional stress that can stymie an entire family. It is debilitating!
Handling finances well means learning to choose wisely. And learning to discern and choose wisely should be an important lesson students acquire at college. This ability applies not only to finances but every area of life. Indeed, I think learning to choose wisely should be a continuing process as students journey through life. To be sure, folks must deal effectively, at each life stage, with important lifestyle decisions.
Students might not be able to take formal credit courses in finances; however, on their own, they should set out to learn to handle finances well. Certainly they should do this before taking on student loans. Meanwhile, I believe, before leaving college, each student should follow the six steps below to learn and develop his or her financial knowledge.
Six steps to improve financial knowledge
1. Start developing a personal mission statement
2. Start working with a budget today
3. If in debt with students loans, start planning for repayment
4. Identify spending drivers and start working on needed lifestyle changes
5. Start an emergency fund
6. Get a trusted accountability partner
Start developing a personal mission statement
Your mission is your purpose in life–what you are all about. It needs to be clear, complete, concise. It will help direct your path. If you follow Jesus, let Him guide you. A clear mission statement will help you choose wisely. Most of all, it will help you avoid rabbit trails and other traps along the way. My personal mission statement is to teach biblical stewardship and preach God’s word faithfully.
What if you can’t find your purpose? That’s fine. Keep praying about it. Meanwhile, be alert to your circumstances and opportunities that come your way.
Start working with a budget today
A budget is nothing more than your best estimate of time, talents, and resources needed to carry out your mission. It is a stress reliever. It will help you see opportunities and challenges in advance so you might plan to seize them, or avoid them.
If in debt with students loans, start planning for repayment
Luke 14: 28 reminds us to count the cost before acting. It applies specifically to becoming a disciple of Jesus, but I think we should heed it for all decisions. If you have student loans today, you should prepare a debt repayment schedule to learn what debt obligations might be at graduation. Too many students complain to me about students loans after graduation! Before taking on debt, take time to understand the amount of loans you are likely to hold at graduation, and the likely effect it might have on you then.
Identify spending drivers and start working on needed lifestyle changes
You don’t control money, you control your decisions to spend. So, you need to understand what “drives” you to spend. Your spending drivers must be your control focus. Identify these areas and decide changes needed to control them. Often, it’s tradition, and assumptions we make about needs that cause us to spend. The best example I have seen is people’s perceived need for a telephone land line. For many folks, it’s redundant.
Start an emergency fund
Which of your stuff might break, need replacement, or otherwise create unexpected spending while at college? You don’t know for sure, but you should look at your possessions and answer that question. How old is your computer? Do you have a car? The idea is to realize that things break and when that happens, to repair them will affect your budget. Try this Capital Fund to help you prepare for the unexpected.
Get a trusted accountability partner
Do you have a buddy whom you can trust? Someone who does not judge you or lecture you. However, someone who will be honest with you and help you understand when you are moving away from truth and into rationalizations? I believe someone like this can help you work through and stay with these six steps. Ideally, there could could be mutual accountability as that person works through his or her plan, too.
God alone knows the future. Still, I think we should be alert to what’s happening, and under His direction, plan to be good stewards. That’s the essence of these six steps–learning and applying good stewardship of resources entrusted to us.
© 2016, Michel A. Bell
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