home Opinion Let’s talk about money: financial literacy in college

Let’s talk about money: financial literacy in college

Claudia M. Zedda

According to a new survey, four in 10 college students say they struggle to afford living expenses, while 88% of them worry about money. SpunOut and the Irish League of Credit Unions found that higher education students stress about finding a job, travel expenses, rent, books and affording college fees. In order to cover living expenses, the majority of students (71%) plan to work part-time, others are supported by their parents and work part-time (59%) and finally, 40% are covered by the student grant. When it came to financial topics, 26% of those surveyed said they don’t know much about finance at all. Over half (52%) said they have some understanding, while 20% said they have a good understanding. 

When it came to specific areas of finance, 79% of students affirmed they were not knowledgeable about Personal Contract Plans (PCPs); 31% were not knowledgeable about mortgages and 40% did not know how to invest. When asked what financial topics they would like to know more about, the majority (73%) wants to know how to invest; 60% of them said they would like to improve their money management/budgeting skills; over half (51%) would like to know more about mortgages. The survey also reported that the majority of students (72%) learn about finance from their family and friends, followed by news websites and social media.  

Being financially literate means to understand concepts such as savings, investing and debt, which lead to an overall sense of financial well-being and self-trust. The goal of financial literacy is to establish a feeling of control over your finances while using your money as a tool to make choices that build greater life satisfaction. Financial literacy plays a huge role in students’ lives as it equips us with the knowledge we need to manage money effectively, even when we don’t have much in our bank account. 

Many people take decisions about their finances, but they don’t always feel comfortable to do so, nor knowledgeable enough to evaluate the wide variety of services available to them. Obviously, the financial decisions students make in college will have a significant influence on their life after college. Moreover, their financial situation in college can have a great impact on your academic performance. A study by Lyons (2003) showed that one in three students reported their financial situation to be ‘likely’ or ‘somewhat likely’ to affect the ability to complete a college degree. Another study by Walker (2004) reported that students receiving at least partial coverage from their parents for tuition fees and other college expenses were more likely than self-financed students to fail their courses, to be placed on academic probation, or to get lower grades. 

If you are struggling to get your finances right, here’s a few tips that can be helpful for you. Did you know there is a Student Financial Supports and Advice Service in UCC? This section provides a number of financial services to full-time and part-time students who are struggling financially while in college. As part of their services, there is also a section dedicated to budgeting, which will guide you through a few simple budgeting practices that can make your college life a little bit easier. 

A budget is a simple exercise where you calculate the cost of living for a certain period of time (i.e. the academic year) in relationship with your available income. Ideally, the income should be higher than the expenses. On the website, you will also be provided with useful material such as an Excel Monthly Budget Spreadsheet, a Spending Recorder and a Money Planner. You will also find useful tips and tricks to save more effectively, and you can also book an appointment with the student budgetary advisor if you wish. 

Spunout also offers a few tips for managing your personal finances (check out “Making a budget and sticking to it!” on their website) and a chat service where you can advice on financial wellness (check out “Need some guidance about financial wellness? Chat with us now”). The chat puts you in touch with a Youth Information Officer who can help you with topics such as budgeting, finances, student loans and scholarships. The service is available Monday to Friday between 4 pm and 8 pm. 

As we get used to being on campus again and deal with fees, rent, bills and food, being able to manage your money is a vital skill that can really make the difference. Economic stability contributes massively to our mental health and well-being. Financial literacy can help you manage your money more effectively, but if you are experiencing serious financial difficulties, please reach out to either studentassistancefund@ucc.ie or studentbudgetingadvice@ucc.ie