Personal Finance 101

New Georgia Tech elective teaches students how to manage their finances before they graduate and embark on careers.
Jonathan Clarke, associate professor of finance in the Scheller College of Business, developed a new personal finance class open to all majors. (Photo by Christopher Moore)

Jonathan Clarke, associate professor of finance in the Scheller College of Business, developed a new personal finance class open to all majors. (Photo by Christopher Moore)

Induja Kannan is majoring in finance, but that doesn’t mean she knows how to manage her own finances.

To fix that she signed up for Georgia Tech’s new personal finance course. The one-credit elective shows students how to set a budget and manage expenses. It includes a focus on investing at an early age.

“I really hadn’t put a lot of consideration into my own finances and thinking about everything that goes into setting my budget and balancing my current expenses and putting away for the future,” said Kannan, a third-year student. “I just wasn’t aware of everything I didn’t know.”

Increased awareness is just one lesson students get from the class, said Jonathan Clarke, associate professor of finance in the Scheller College of Business.

While most students wanted to jump to the sections on investing, Clarke structured the course to open with fundamental lessons on budgeting, setting financial goals and managing debt.

Clarke has experience teaching personal finance. He’s taught the subject for the National Football League and developed the Wall Street on West Peachtree summer program for high school students.

The elective is open to students from all majors.

“I thought I could design a course for Tech students that touched on all of the basics of personal finance,” said Clarke, associate dean of undergraduate programs in the Scheller College. “It’s important material. Being financially secure can lower stress and improve mental health.”

Steven Girardot, associate vice provost for undergraduate education, approached Clarke about developing the class after hearing students wanted more information on this subject. Financial literacy among students is also a priority of Complete College Georgia, he noted.

During a recent class, they discussed the volatile stock market and Clarke advised students not to panic. He reminded them to look at what will happen over the course of 50 years, not five days.

During other classes they weighed the questions that should be asked when determining whether it’s better to buy or rent a home. They reviewed car buying tips, such as negotiating the car purchase price and trade-in value separately. They discussed retirement investments and how to choose a health insurance plan.

Jordan Bergenfeld, a fifth-year mechanical engineering major, signed up for the course after asking his advisor about a class on investments.

“I’m getting job offers and I don’t know how to evaluate them when they’re talking about stock options and other benefits,” he said. “I really just want to make sure I’m doing what I can to have a good financial future. I’ve already recommended this class to a bunch of friends.”

The class will be offered again this summer, Clarke said. He’s exploring ways to offer the class online and to make it a permanent fixture at Georgia Tech.

Apurva Kasam, a fourth-year business administration major, will graduate this fall and appreciated learning how to balance expenses and savings.

“This should be a required class for everyone,” she said. “Georgia Tech does a good job preparing us for our careers. This class is about giving us the personal preparation for our lives.” 

Students listen in Georgia Tech’s new personal finance course. The one-credit elective started this semester and is open to all majors.  (Photo by Christopher Moore)
Students listen in Georgia Tech’s new personal finance course. The one-credit elective started this semester and is open to all majors.  (Photo by Christopher Moore)