UNLV is working to change that for future graduates by making financial literacy a part of any and every degree here. In addition to the programs already available on campus, the Lee Business School is launching two new courses this fall. These classes teach students and community members how to manage their money — and yes, even how to achieve millionaire status. (Two words: compound interest.)
What is it?
In the first course, FIN 111, students examine beginner concepts such as opportunity costs, budgeting, credit, financial planning, and student financial aid. Then they apply those lessons to their own situations to develop a plan for financial independence.
In the second course, FIN 112, students graduate from financial independence to financial success through investments. The course covers how financial markets function, various types of investing, risk/return, and valuation. Then they develop portfolio building and investment management strategies for each student.
FIN 111 and FIN 112 have no prerequisites and can be taken concurrently, consecutively, or as standalone classes. You’re bound to pick up some helpful tips and strategies, no matter where you are in your financial journey. All you need is a little interest!
Why is it being taught?
“The topic of financial literacy is inescapable,” Chi says. “The goal is to get financial security so you can get on doing what you want to do.”
Of course, the finance department has classes for finance majors, but for Chi, teaching these essential life skills to students across campus has always been top of mind. Just like physical and mental health, financial health is a key component of overall wellness, he says.
Who’s taking it?
Everyone! Both classes in the series fulfill UNLV’s general education distribution requirements, so it’s especially recommended for undergraduate students who are just starting out. You don’t need to have a background in finance to benefit. In fact, it might even be an asset to start off your financial habits with a blank slate. To combat any worries students might have, Chi explains, “We don’t want to convert everyone into finance majors. The world would be very boring if we did that! What we want to do is to inform all students of these basic life skills.”
Plus, how many other classes can you take that can so tangibly boost your bank account?
The course is also open to community members who want to learn how to stretch their wallet and — literally — invest in their future.
Who’s teaching it?
Some of the best lecturers and professors in the industry. These courses will be led by UNLV finance professors, presidents, and vice presidents of regional banks, and the president of the Nevada chapter for Chartered Financial Analysts (CFA). (Think CPA like in accounting, but the finance version).
What students might be surprised to learn?
How poor the financial literacy of our country is. Chi presents some grim statistics: One third of consumers aren’t currently saving any money; 60% of people don’t have any savings; and over half the people who do save lack the funds to cover a $1,000 emergency.
But Chi is optimistic. “We can do better, regardless of if we make $1,000 a year or $1 million a year.”
What excites instructors the most about these classes?
Chi is most excited to see people feeling less stressed about money. “We don’t want to turn people into finance lovers. We want them to manage money well so that they can focus on achieving their potential and make the biggest impact they can in their areas of focus.”
What even laypeople should know from these courses?
It’s not complicated to be financially secure, independent, and successful!
For those who want to get into investing, Chi has a quick tip: “Don’t try to pick individual stocks. Rather, buy an index fund. In the stock market, you compete with professional investors. How many of you want to compete with professional tennis players or golfers? What makes you think you can compete with professional investors and win? The good news is, if you invest in a diversified index fund and simply replicate the market return, you’ll beat the majority of professional investors over the long run.”
Where do students go next?
Most students will continue on in their university career as planned, hopefully with a better understanding of how to manage money. For students who do find themselves to be “finance lovers,” they can continue on to earn their bachelor’s degree in business administration with a focus on finance.
The reading list
Chi recommends two books for the lowdown on finance:
Extra credit: Read Daniel Chi’s column “Compounding interest can make us all millionaires, and taking interest in sharing this phenomenon can educate all Nevadans” in Vegas Inc.