May 9, 2002
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
With May 14 "Financial Bootcamp,"
Smith Is Giving Graduating Seniors One Last Chance To Get Smart
About Money Before Heading Out Into The 'Real World'
NORTHAMPTON, Mass.-Since enrolling
at Smith College four years ago, Adele Johnsen has taken classes
in art history and astronomy, religion and international politics.
She can identify constellations and analyze Shakespearean poetry,
but she admits she's still somewhat in the dark about one of
life's critical topics: personal finance.
Fortunately, Smith's Women and Financial Independence (WFI) program
is giving Johnsen and her classmates one last chance to learn
about managing money. From 2 to 5 p.m. on Tuesday, May 14, the
WFI program will offer a seniors-only seminar titled "From
Backpack to Briefcase," designed as a one-shot financial
boot camp. Taught by Smith College economics professor Randy
Bartlett, the seminar will address, in intensive fashion, key
concepts college graduates will need to know about managing their
earnings, investments and debt when they enter the real world.
"This year, a lot of my attention has been devoted to finding
a job and figuring out where I'll be living when I graduate,
" Johnsen explains. "I haven't been very focused on
learning how to manage my student loan repayments, let alone
determining what percentage of my paycheck I should save for
"I realize I'm going to have to confront those kinds of
decisions very soon, and I'm eager to learn how to do that beforehand,
rather than picking it up along the way and risking expensive
Johnsen is not alone in her lack of financial acumen. A survey
recently released by the Federal Reserve Board indicates that
few students know much about money matters. Fed Chairman Alan
Greenspan has called for schools to do a better job of teaching
basic financial concepts, asserting that improved financial literacy
among young adults could keep them from making potentially disastrous
financial decisions later in life.
Financial literacy is particularly important for women, explains
Smith economics professor and WFI director Mahnaz Mahdavi, because
women live longer than men but spend less time in the labor force
and typically earn less money.
"Traditionally, women have been told not to worry about
money, that someone else will take care of all that," Mahdavi
observes. "But at Smith we're committed to making sure that
our students understand that they are not truly independent until
and unless they are financially independent."
In preparing to teach the seminar, Bartlett recognizes that he
has a lot of ground to cover in just three hours. But he's confident
he knows his audience.
"I'm taking my cues from my daughter, a junior in college,"
he explains. "I'm thinking about what she should know when
she leaves college and what she does know now, and there's a
big gap there that I want to help bridge."
Handling taxes, dealing with student and credit card debt and
placing money aside for retirement are among the issues Bartlett
hopes to address in the seminar. He also plans to dedicate time
to answering students' specific questions, the topics of which
might range from analyzing a benefits package to the financial
considerations underlying whether to buy or lease a car.
The WFI program was launched in the fall of 2001. Funded with
$2.5 million in seed money from Goldman, Sachs & Co. and
Smith alumna and trustee Ann Kaplan, the program features a series
of workshops, panels and non-credit courses, all designed to
instruct Smith students in matters of personal finance. The
WFI also operates a drop-in center, where students can bring
their financial questions to economics faculty members and trained
Smith College is consistently ranked among the nation's foremost
liberal arts colleges. Enrolling 2,800 students from every state
and 55 other countries, Smith is the largest undergraduate women's
college in the country.
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