Millenials have grown up with a digital world at their fingertips. For college students like Mohammed Munshi, a senior studying finance at California State University Los Angeles, technology has become an inherent component in managing finances.
Munshi prefers a debit card to carrying cash. Given the option, he pays bills online. Rather than receiving bank statements, he keeps tabs on spending with a mobile device. It is completely opposite of his parents’ habits, he said, who prefer cash and checks.
But have technological advances stopped students from learning traditional skills like balancing a checkbook?
“The methods that we use to deliver and access information and finances have drastically changed,” San Diego State accounting professor Martha Doran said. “But what hasn’t and will not change is the fundamentals of money management.”
“In today’s world, we’ve gotten used to two or three decades of having more than we needed and thinking that is what we needed to be happy,” Doran continued. “We got used to seeking some of the commercial things that cost a lot more than they mean to us.”
The ability to make informed and effective decisions regarding finances — where to live, calculating disposable income available for social outings, how much to put into a savings account — is becoming increasingly important people of any age.
In an economy where nationwide student loan debt exceeds national credit card debt, Doran suggests seeking personal finance and life skills courses or joining campus organizations geared toward teaching financial literacy.
At SDSU, the Financial Planning Association hosts events for students of all majors to learn about setting financial goals, including the importance of emergency funds, how to reduce student debt and basics for investments.
Recently, even the Girl Scouts of the USA have implemented a similar program. For the first time in more than 25 years, the organization launched new badges, including 13 devoted to financial literacy.
The young girls are learning to distinguish between needs and wants, the cost of college and what to expect from credit cards and loans, spokeswoman Michelle Tompkins said.
“Children are getting a sense a little bit earlier that if you don’t take care of your credit as a young person, it will haunt you for years,” Tompkins said.
Jas Arandia, a graduate student in SDSU’s finance program and a member of the association at SDSU, said he is always surprised by the low turnout at the events, considering these are topics that seem relevant to the economic landscape.
He believes being raised in the era of credit cards has changed the way people view money, almost to the point where money has become an intangible concept. It does not hurt as much to swipe a card than it does to see the amount of money in your wallet dwindling, he said.
But while anyone can understand the basics of financial literacy, acting upon it and planning for the future is more difficult, Doran said, and sometimes young people need to learn the hard way.
“It’s part of this generation. We want things immediately and we’re really impatient,” said Casey Deguchi, a junior marketing major at California State University Northridge. “Sometimes I’m conscious of making the wrong decisions, such spending money going out for fun instead of going out for responsibility.”
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