Rent or Buy? Invest or Spend? New Course Teaches Financial Literacy

Posted: November 23, 2009 at 1:00 am, Last Updated: January 25, 2010 at 3:25 pm

By Nicole Hitpas

A new course helps avoid pitfalls.

Financial responsibility reaps financial security.

Should you lease a car or buy it? Buy a house or rent it? Open a 401K or an IRA? Invest in stocks or bonds? File your own taxes or pay someone to do it? Stick with your current insurance provider or change?

These are just a few of the questions answered in the School of Management’s new course, MSOM 491: Managing Personal Finances. Offered this spring, the course teaches basic financial literacy skills and emphasizes the importance of developing financial goals and how financial decisions affect those goals throughout one’s lifetime.

“The course covers a broad range of highly relevant topics ranging from establishing personal financial goals to the costs, benefits and risks of consumer debt to long-term savings and investment strategies,” says Assistant Finance Professor Steve Pilloff.

“By the end of the semester, students should have a solid understanding of all key elements associated with managing personal finances.”

The course is open to all Mason students, regardless of major, and has no restrictions or prerequisites. Only one section will be offered this spring and it will be taught on a pass/fail basis by Finance Instructor Shelly Canterbury, who developed the course with assistance from her colleagues Pilloff, Finance Professor Gerald Hanweck and Associate Dean Alison O’Brien.

Managing credit wisely is an important skill.

Managing credit wisely is an important skill.

“The goal of the Managing Personal Finances course is to instill an understanding that prudent financial responsibility over a lifetime will reap the rewards of financial security,” says Hanweck.

“The course will convey the idea that students have it within their power to make responsible financial decisions and can avoid the pitfalls that many Americans are presently succumbing to, as well as to quickly identify and prevent being manipulated and victimized by scams and other fraudulent activity.”

Throughout the semester, each student will develop an individual financial plan — reflecting his or her career aspirations, spending habits, risk tolerance and familial responsibilities. By the end of the course, each student should have a well developed strategy for earning, saving, investing, protecting and spending his or her money.

Eventually, the School of Management will offer additional financial literacy courses that target the needs of individuals in specific life stages.

This article originally appeared on the School of Management web site.

Write to mediarel at gazette@gmu.edu