The world of financial security is vast and unknown to most college students and recent graduates. Headlines of corporate hackings and identity theft contribute to the notion that our financial wellness is continuously threatened; however, if steps are taken to protect your finances, as well as your identity, financial security is quite attainable. While identity theft and hacking can seem menacing, a lack of financial literacy can be equally detrimental.
Especially for new university graduates, it can be hard to know where to start when it comes to taking mature and responsible steps to protect your finances. Roy Lirio, director of Student Fiscal Services, defines financial security as “being able to be informed and plan for the future.”
This understanding of current financial standing, as well as future expenses, can be achieved in a multitude of ways. Lirio’s department teaches financial literacy through Budgeting 101 workshops. For those who can’t make it to these workshops, he recommends looking at mymoney.gov or exploring the library for a book on personal budgeting that’s right for you.
Before working toward a foundation of financial knowledge, Lirio asks students if they have a savings account. “If the answer is no, my first response is: Open a savings account,” Lirio said.
Having a real fund for the future will motivate you to engage while learning about your finances; in other words, having savings makes financial planning more real. Lauren Olson, project manager in financial education strategy for U.S. Bank, notes that in their studies, students reported that they’ve “learned the hard way” about the nature of personal finance — such as being met with an “insufficient funds” message.
“Establishing a strong credit history can set you up to get a loan for a major purchase — like a car — on your own once you start working,” Olson suggested. Getting a credit card in college can make a big difference in working toward financial independence post-college. U.S. Bank also offers online modules, which students should take advantage of to increase their financial literacy.
Once you’ve tackled this, and have a basic understanding of your finances, students can begin to put thought into protection against external threats to their finances. It’s important not to be an alarmist about these threats, because if some basic steps are taken, you can protect yourself.
Most of this involves being conscientious and consistent with internet safety rules we’re already familiar with. Lirio notes that security can be threatened when a student is “sharing their user ID and password.” He reminds students instead to go through the formal channels when sharing pertinent information (such as sharing your loan information with a parent or guardian).