Although many students receive some form of financial aid while in college, fewer receive financial literacy education. Last week, Hamilton hosted its first Personal Finance Week to address this discrepancy. The event was organized by a group of senior students, Ramon Villalona, Michael Nelson, Eudocia Montiel, and Flavia Oliveira and was “meant to increase awareness regarding steps that students can take now to secure themselves after graduation or even for retirement,” as Villalona stated.
Villalona, co-chair of the Finance Club, had the idea for a series of workshops in January, and was connected with Nelson, who had approached the Career and Life Outcomes Center with a similar thought. Oliveira, having completed a Levitt Center project on personal finance, and Montiel, president of La Vanguardia, were also interested in making the series happen particularly for the sake of students coming from underprivileged backgrounds and potentially “financially illiterate” communities.
Referring to the importance of this series, Villalona said “Many students at Hamilton don’t have financial luxury or stability at home and aren’t aware that they can begin putting money away in a Roth IRA, or what to look for in an auto insurance policy. This week is meant to bridge the gap between the intellectual work we perform at Hamilton and the tangible skills we’ll all need once we graduate.”
Each member of the group decided to cover a specific topic and organized workshops, some with outside speakers, for one day. Topics included: consumer finance, with ACCESS Federal Credit Union; savings and investing, with Northwestern Mutual; insurance, with the Burns Agency; Taxes; and SALT and student loans, with Director of Financial Aid, Cameron Feist ‘’04.
The week was also used to promote awareness about the comprehensive financial literacy service, SALT, which is available to all Hamilton students. Although registering for SALT is now part of the financial literacy training during first-year orientation, members of other classes were encouraged to sign up at stations around campus, or by themselves. Students keep their SALT membership for life, even if Hamilton decides to stop using it as a service, one of the many perks mentioned by Feist.
SALT allows users to add all their loans to one calculator, collecting all the information in one place and offering a comprehensive monthly rate. The service also helps set up budgets and choose between different payment plans. The site has tutorials and lessons about a variety of topics relevant to students and graduates, as well as 24/7 support from former loan officers through chat or by phone.
Increasing awareness about the importance of financial literacy is the first step in cultivating these skills, and offering tools like SALT make implementation easier. Overall, the group was happy with how the week went, and hopes that the series continues in the future.