Financial guru tells Stark students the key to good finances

Think college students are too young to be thinking about retirement? One financial expert says – think again.

Liz Pulliam Weston, a personal finance columnist, spoke at Kent State Stark campus Monday, as part of the campus’ featured speaker series.

Weston writes a nationally syndicated column “Money Talk” for MSN Money and the Los Angeles Times. She also frequently appears as a commentator on National Public Radio’s “All Things Considered.”

In her speech, Weston advised college students in money management. She encouraged them to avoid “toxic debt” and to began saving for retirement immediately.

“The key [to finances] is finding out what’s important to you and how to make your money work to get there,” she said.

Kent State Stark senior Kelly Stuhldreher said even though she created a retirement fund, saving for it is not a top priority.


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“I think more about loans than retirement,” she said. “It’s more immediate. You need loans before you can get a job. And you need a job before you can retire.”

Weston classified federal student loans as “good debt.” She said it’s an investment in a student’s future.

“A lot of people don’t believe in good debt,” she said. “But a financial planner knows that there is some debt that will help you get ahead.”

Weston gave students a rule to follow when it comes to taking out loans: Do not take out more in loans than you expect to earn your first year in your field after graduation.

Kent State Stark sophomore Joey Fisher said he is concerned about repaying his loan debt.

“My parents and I have talked about — if I go to the main campus — how I’m going to be able to pay off all the loans considering my major,” Fisher said. “Being a music education major, I’m not going to be getting paid a lot of money getting out of school, so it’s going to be difficult.”

Weston said the first step to money management is following a budget. She has adapted a budget solution for personal finances called the “50/30/20.” It breaks down how someone’s money should be spent according to must-haves, wants and savings. Weston said a must-have is an expense that cannot be put off such as shelter, utilities, food and insurance. Everything else is classified as a want since it can be forgone without any immediate consequence.

Fisher said he sometimes spends too much money on what Weston would classify as a want.

“I think I should definitely get myself in a budgeting class because I don’t budget my money at all,” Fisher said. “Once I finally start working and having a career, then maybe I’ll start realizing that I probably should not spend so much money on pointless things.”

While Weston doesn’t recommend that students deprive themselves of all luxuries, she said it’s important for them to maintain some of their frugal habits beyond graduation.

“It’s really important when you get out of school to keep living like a college student,” she said. “Just keep living like you’re broke for a little while longer — you will be so far ahead of your peers.”

Contact Alison Ritchie at [email protected] and Isaac Profitt at [email protected].