My Mandatory Class Proposal

11 03 2008

In college I thought I had learned everything.  I learned finance in and out, I learned economics, marketing, advertising, managing, forecasting, social drinking, networking, and every other aspect of business that I could think of.  I was a badass. 

Nope.  As soon as I started work, I ate my piece of humble pie. 

Why is it that I spent four years in college, graduating with honors and a dual degree, to enter the workforce and immediately be slammed by something that I had never been taught? 

Literally, the first thing I encountered when starting my new job was benefits, and I have never been taught benefits.  What kind of medical coverage do I need?  Should I get the basic plan, or the premium plan? HMO? PPO? Extra life insurance?  Flexible Spending Account?  Use it or lose it? How much will all this cost me? It was a very overwhelming experience.  

Who do you turn to in a situation like this?  It seemed like the benefits lady who talked to me on my first day was in the same boat I was in.  She had no idea what she was doing!  Other people asked questions and she stated the coverage that she elected.  Great.  How is a 40 year old, single mother’s elected coverage supposed to relate to a guy directly out of college?  Thank God I had a week to submit my elected coverage, because that gave me time to research and talk to my Dad.  Now am I confident in my selections?…Absolutely not. 

Having had this experience, I propose a mandatory class for all college seniors, regardless of their major.  This class would be taught jointly between a few different departments and would touch on topics that everyone will face after college:

  1. Résumés and cover letters: writing and critiquing
  2. Interviews: How to sound like a better you
  3. Benefits: The pros and cons of certain coverage
  4. Insurance: Life, Car, Home
  5. Personal Finance: How to Budget, and Don’t let your ego use your wallet
  6. Retirement Planning: Yes, you’re 21, but you won’t be forever

I propose that this class be mandatory for all college seniors because regardless of major, everyone will face these issues after college, and not everyone will have someone close to them bail them out (Thanks Dad!). 

I realize that all of these topics vary by person, but having someone lay out some basic guidelines that you will be tested on is something that I think everyone can agree on.  For instance: If you start out saving/investing 10% in a 401k/IRA/Roth IRA when you are in your early 20’s, you will be set for 80% income replacement when you retire (USAA Magazine), and your housing expense should be a maximum of 30% of your take home pay (many financial professionals).  Basic guidelines like these can educate people and make them more aware of their situations. 

I had great professors in college, but unfortunately only two of them did any sort of rundown on personal finance, and both of them were hurried on the last day of class.  In a few of my classes we worked on our résumés, but everyone thinks their way is the best, and I ended up with a few different versions to appease a few different people.  Interview sessions were offered by Career Development Services.  The key word “offered.”  Few people took them up on it. And I know quite a few people who graduated college with a great deal of debt.  Why?  Because they could pay off all their cards when they got jobs. 

I think a mandatory class along these lines would have a great impact on the future leaders of our country.  And maybe, just maybe, it may help make frugality a virtue again.

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7 responses

11 03 2008
Susan Kishner

Nice writing style. I will come back to read more posts from you.

Susan Kishner

12 03 2008
Olaolu Opadere

I t think this is one of the areas in which we suffering loss as a result of this age’s philosophy of self assertion. Wisdom for daily living and direction is reposed in the timeless word of God–the bible. We children of this age will do ourselves a lot of good to return to this timeless word that eternally remains true.

14 03 2008
Frugal Wench

Wow. I went to a two year college and we learned all that in our Human Resources Management and Organizational Management courses. This is why I’m a fan of two year degrees. It gives you all of what you need to get a job without the stuff you can go back later and take a little at a time to get your B.A. The fact that you didn’t learn any of these things in college makes you wonder how 4 year colleges even get accredited, doesn’t it? That being said, there probably were elective classes in these things that you chose not to take, and forgot about because of all the social drinking. 🙂

14 03 2008
danielb

@ Frugal Wench…

I’d like to take this opportunity to point out that there is a difference between social drinking and binge drinking, and I did my share of both 🙂

We worked a little bit on Resumes, cover letters, and interviews in my human resources class, but considering that the class was a sophomore level class it didn’t help much when getting ready for the real world. We still had two more years! (Although I had quite a few internships and my resume was always evolving). And Personal Finance was only touched on briefly in my high level finance classes.

I really meantioned the things because knowing how little we talked about them while I was earning a business degree, I don’t want to think about some of my friends who graduated with liberal arts degrees. I know plenty of them who didn’t and still don’t have the first clue on any of the things I meantioned.

I think these things should be taught to everyone in school, regardless of major, because they will have to get a job, and they will have to start managing money.

18 03 2008
The Best Financial Advice I Ever Got : Brazen Careerist

[…] have previously written about things that should be mandatory for every college senior to learn (My Mandatory Class Proposal) and this series is about what Dr. Chucky rushed through on the last day of class when he handed […]

19 03 2008
Andy Drish

Great post – I’m walking away from college with thousands of dollars of debt (not because of credit cards), and I still don’t know the first thing about buying a home. Isn’t there something wrong with that picture?

Could I add one more class to that list?

7. Buying a home 101: You can’t rent forever

19 03 2008
danielb

Thanks Andy!

I totally hear you about debt and buying houses, those would be great additions to the class! Also, there is some pretty good advice on buying houses in today’s post.

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