FMCC and ivy leagues colleges now teach financial literacy

Financially speaking, there are two Americas. While estimates vary a bit, it is generally accepted that between 6 and 12 percent of U.S. families are millionaire households—meaning that if you do not count the value of their homes, after you subtract all their debt from what they own—stocks, bonds, mutual funds, cars, insurance policies, and all other assets, they have one million dollars left over—not rich by today’s changing definition of wealth, but certainly comfortable.

On the other hand, according to a recent Bankrate Security Index computation, approximately 28 percent of American families live paycheck to paycheck and have virtually no emergency savings whatsoever. Add to that a current Federal Reserve Bank G-19 report; it states that the average credit card debt per U.S. household is $8,500. And according to a recent College Board study, the average student loan balance per borrower has now topped out at over $35,000.

Yup, two Americas. Much has been debated about the growing inequality gap between the affluent and the struggling, and with the 2020 Presidential election in sight, much more will undoubtedly be discussed — or perhaps shouted. Rather than fighting, the good news is that there is a growing consensus that financial literacy is one sure-fire way that can help pave the path to prosperity for many. More and more high schools, community colleges and four year colleges are indeed teaching financial literacy. Recently, even Harvard College, one the world’s most famous and prestigious Ivy League educational institutions, has started teaching financial literacy, offering its first-ever Personal Finance workshop series for undergraduate students in April 2019. In May 2019, Princeton students attended that university’s first Financial Literacy Day.

Yet, when it comes to who was first in financial literacy instruction, it seems that it may well be FMCC that has been leading the way. FMCC first offered a full 3-credit SUNY approved Personal Finance college course in Spring 2018 — no day-long workshops here — we’re offering 15-week college-credit courses with 3 hours per week of SUNY college-level instruction. BUS 162, Personal Finance, is offered each Spring and is now in its third year at FMCC.

Topics include: planning for financial success, optimizing saving and credit decisions, making the best vehicle and housing choices, basic tax planning, beginning investing in stocks, bonds, mutual funds and Exchange Traded Funds (ETF), managing student loans and educational expenses, and the fundamentals of insurance.

One of the students’ favorite Personal Finance course topics is the ins and out buying a car—new vs. used, buy vs. lease, dealer vs. bank financing—and of course, how to negotiate the best deal. One student, after talking the course and buying a car with the process he learned in class, has emailed and said that he saved more than the cost of a full year’s tuition at FMCC and was even offered employment at the finance department of a local automobile dealer!

And that’s just the beginning: each Fall FMCC also offers a 3-credit college course called BUS 262, Fundamentals of Investments. Topics include: the basics of stocks, mutual funds, and bonds, as well as key investing principles such as diversification, asset allocation and the risk reward tradeoff. A real favorite with the class, students receive a subscription to a simulated online investing trading account that contains $100,000 of cyber-cash. Students trade stocks and other securities for an entire semester — led by an instructor who trades and invests (yes, there is a big difference between trading and investing) with real investment accounts that are fully funded with actual dollars.

Both courses are taught by a CPA who has taught college students of all ages at four different colleges since 1992. But that’s for starters. FMCC is so committed to financial education, that it is building a $300,000 Financial Technology Center (FTC). The FTC is being privately funded by the FMCC Foundation —not the College — no Fulton or Montgomery taxpayer dollars are being used for this project. It will feature state of the art technology like live streaming stock quote tickers, world clocks, financial news monitor feeds and computers that can be used as simulated trading stations.

So, come learn about personal finance and investing at FMCC, and like students at Harvard and Princeton, put yourself on the road to financial independence and the American dream.

Laurence K. Zuckerman, CPA, MST is an Associate Professor with the Business Division at Fulton Montgomery Community College/State University of New York and is the creator of the Personal Finance and Investments courses at FMCC. He is also a lead contributor to the Financial Technology Center that will be built at the College. Professor Zuckerman may be reached at [email protected] or at 518-736-3622 ext. 8937

By Josh Bovee

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