Lakeland University News

LU students get financially fit

LU students get financially fit

News

LU students get financially fit

Erin Schwoerer is a junior at Lakeland University, and while money and costs are certainly important, thinking about retirement and being financially independent aren’t necessarily her primary concerns.

Schwoerer was one of 27 students enrolled this fall in Lakeland’s Personal Finance course, and she and her classmates have a new appreciation for financial planning and plenty of new skills to map out their future.

“This course has been so beneficial by giving ideas and tips on how to improve your finances both now and in the future,” said Schwoerer, a double major in history and accounting from nearby Cleveland, Wis.

“We've learned about different ways that financial experts look at personal finance and how to invest, save and pay off debt. I've learned about and implemented having a high yield savings account, along with changing my investments to more index and mutual funds since they typically have better return.”

The course, which is taught by Associate Professor of Accounting Brett Killion, used to be a three-week offering in May, but has grown into a 14-week course.

It is required for Lakeland students majoring in business administration and accounting, as Lakeland is among the few schools requiring a personal finance course for those majors.

Students learn to manage their finances, wealth building strategies, debt management strategies and advice on common personal finance decisions. Topics include saving, budgeting, banking, types of credit, credit scores and reports, investing, insurance, retirement accounts, vehicle purchases, housing decisions and taxes.

“This is a life skills class,” Killion said. “Students learn how to use money to pursue their passions, dreams, and hopes.”

One assignment had students develop a “dream life” that included their personal bucket list, the cost of items on the list and development of a plan to afford them.

“In this class we focus on the skill of spending,” Killion said. “We follow the philosophy of best-selling author Ramit Sethi and teach students to find out what makes you happy and spend extravagantly on those items while cutting mercilessly on everything else.

“There are several reasons young people don’t invest. One, they are scared to lose money. Two, they don’t know how to start. Three, there are so many investment options out there and they’re not sure which one is best. This course helps them.”

For the final exam period, students had 1-on-1 meetings with a financial advisor. Students brought any projected student loan debt, their current net worth statement, investment risk tolerance and their “Design Your Rich Life” assignment and worked with the advisor to create a personal plan.

Advisors on hand included Jason Anger ’21 of Oostburg Financial Services and Ethan Grunke ’22 and Jeremy Burri of Veritas Financial Services.

Joining virtually was Brad Barrett, a certified public accountant and the co-founder of Choose FI Media, Inc. He is a co-author of the “Choose FI: Your Blueprint to Financial Independence,” which Killion uses in the class.

Barrett met virtually 1-on-1 with four students during the final exam time. “To say I was impressed is a massive understatement,” said Barrett, whose podcast "ChooseFI" is among the most popular nationally for financial independence. “It's astonishing how much they learned and internalized in just one semester."

“Each of them asked me incisive questions that really had me thinking deeply, and it was so interesting to see them relate their own situation currently to where they want their futures to take them.”

Barrett said most Americans have no personal finance background, so for college-age students to learn these skills now will set them up for post-graduation success in life.

“The pursuit of financial independence is a life superpower, and Brett masterfully taught these students,” Barrett said. “I told him that if every college student in America had him as a personal finance/Financial Independence professor that this world would be a lot better place.

“I'm completely unaware of any other university in America that has a requirement like this, which is a true shame. Money, when used as a tool to get more freedom and autonomy in your life, can be your greatest asset, or money can be a lifelong point of immense stress.”

Schwoerer was one of the students who met with Barrett, and she said their discussion, much like the rest of the class, was eye opening.

“Even though we talked about it in class, hearing from him that there is no straight forward path was definitely refreshing,” she said. “Being able to talk to someone who has achieved financial independence and now is helping others was amazing. Honestly, that was the most fun I had taking a final.”

While Schwoerer has a way to go before hitting retirement, she’s confident with the skills and road map she’s acquired to help her get there.

“This class, in my opinion, is a must-take for all students,” Schwoerer said. “It doesn't just talk to you about saving money or making a huge salary to be rich, but it also doesn't teach you to be on a strict budget that will ultimately cause you to fail and fall into debt.

“It's hard to believe that just little changes will impact your life so much. This class shows how, on an ordinary salary, anyone can become an automatic millionaire or retire early.”