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Inaugural Conference Addresses Financial Literacy of College Students

Monday, December 5, 2016

Students at the Pitt Business Financial Literacy ConferenceFinancial illiteracy is a problem for many college students, even those with quantitative skills. In order to address this trend,  the University of Pittsburgh College of Business Administration and Alpha Kappa Psi, a professional business fraternity, worked together to create the inaugural Financial Literacy Conference involving business executives and experts on financial literacy.

The conference, held this past October at the William Pitt Union Center, consisted of four seminars: understanding the consequences of spending, negotiating for better compensation packages, making business environment comparisons, and budgeting in college and the real world.

The spending seminar, "Money 101: Our Money Choices Have Consequences – Helping Students Learn to Choose Wisely," was delivered by Gene Natali, senior vice president at C.S. McKee, a Pittsburgh-based institutional investment management firm.

Money 101 is indeed the missing semester at many U.S. high schools and colleges. Every school will educate future doctors, electricians, engineers, mechanics, and also some dropouts. Yet, 100 percent will have to make decisions about money. The consequences of early financial decisions can be far-reaching, sometimes permanent. But not all decisions have negative consequences. In his seminar, Natali discussed how age is an opportunity to transform the lives of a generation.

The compensation seminar, “Understanding your Compensation Package,” was delivered by Tracy Turman, former HR Director at Microsoft and current HR Manager at Puget Sound Energy. Her seminar focused on aspects of compensation packages often overlooked by students as they enter into the corporate world. Oftentimes, people focus on starting salaries but forget to think about other benefits such as 401k contribution limits, stock options and vesting periods, and the amount of paid-time-off.

Turman also dove into the art of salary package negotiations and informed students that oftentimes companies send out offer packages with the expectation negotiations will follow. Thus, the beginning offer may be on the low end of what the firm is actually willing to give out to prospective employees.

Another seminar, “Understanding the Differences Between Large and Small Businesses,” was delivered by Dominic Verdi, a partner in Assurance at EY, and Vic Bovalino, VP of finance at Burgatory and Surefire Hospitality Group. They discussed the cultural and compensation differences present within their firms. Often times larger firms offer higher salaries but smaller firms provide additional benefits that, when added together, might amount to the same or even more than the salary offered by large firms.

The final seminar, “Budgeting in College and in the Real World,” was delivered by Derilyn Freeman, a registered representative at New York Life. Her interactive seminar flipped the concept of budgeting on its head. Rather than thinking about a budget as a spending limit, one can think of a budget as a way to get more of what you actually want and need. Additionally, Freeman spoke about budgeting techniques and shared useful apps that assist in budgeting.

"We received great feedback from our speakers, who were impressed with the student turnout and engagement. They were particularly impressed with the questions that were asked, and were happy to see young students taking the initiative in learning about this important topic," said Evan Turman, the president of Alpha Kappa Psi.

Associate Dean Audrey Murrell was very impressed with the conference. “The student organizing team took the leadership role and devoted a lot of time picking topics that were directly relevant to students,” said Murrell.

Due to the success of the conference, Turman hopes it will occur every fall. More information about a future financial literacy conference will be posted on the organization’s website.

Prior to this conference, Clinical Assistant Professor of Business Administration Jay Sukits held several conferences focused on improving the financial literacy of college students.  Read an article about one of his events.