collage of money, charts, student working and graduating

Office for Financial Success

For many of you, aside from receiving the Financial Tip of the Week, you may not know a lot (anything?) about what other educational efforts we’re involved in. Let me share more with you about our Office for Financial Success (OFS).

History

About two years ago, several ingredients came together (an open faculty position in the Personal Financial Planning Department/ College of Human Environmental Sciences; generous funding from State Farm Insurance to remodel office space; and me [Dr. Mark Oleson]. I had been at Iowa State for the prior 6 years running their Financial Counseling Clinic when the opportunity came knocking). The OFS officially opened its doors in fall of 2005 with two primary missions in mind: (1) Provide training opportunities for undergraduate and graduate students in the Personal Financial Planning Department; and (2) Provide educational services and resources to the University and University Community. The OFS is in place to provide unbiased information to individuals at all stages of life [with the obvious primary target being college students]. We provide resources in all aspects of personal finance: remedial issues (debt management, bankruptcy, credit card, student loan problems, etc.); productive issues (investing, insurance, homeownership, etc.) and all areas in between. This service function is the one that I will outline in this weeks tip …

Financial Tip of the Week

The weekly blog, our most visible service [tens of thousands of subscribers nationwide], has received national recognition for its educational efforts. I’ve been sending a “Financial Tip of the Week” for over seven years (about 10 months in the blog format). The weekly tip is the primary springboard directing people to OFS services (classes, workshops, etc.).

Individual Counseling Services

The OFS offers personalized financial counseling services [free to students]. We offer counseling face-to-face, over the phone, and via e-mail. We try to make our services as accessible to as many as possible. The OFS houses one of the MoTAX (Missouri Volunteer Tax Assistance) offices that assisted over 1,000 people [in the OFS – more were served in other parts of the State] with taxes this past season. We are also the only University-run program in the country approved by the US Dept of Justice to provide the pre-filing financial counseling required for those seeking bankruptcy.

Group Workshops/Seminars

We regularly provide information [on a myriad of topics] to different groups: residence halls, fraternities/sororities, professional student groups, classes, summer/new student orientation, community groups, etc. Workshops can be requested via the OFS website.

Personal Finance Courses (Financial Survival/Financial Success)

The Personal Financial Planning Department offers many valuable classes on a wide range of personal finance topics. Since arriving at MU, I have added two 1-credit courses to that curriculum (designed for non-majors). Financial Survival is written as a ‘front end’/underclassmen course: understanding student loans, credit/ credit cards, financial pitfalls, etc. Financial Success is designed to be a class taken on the back end [as one approaches graduation] to address issues such as managing debt after graduation, 401(k)/IRA plans, general investing, insurance, homeownership, and other post-graduation financial issues. Both courses [currently] are available fall and spring semesters; Financial Survival is also available this summer.

Web Resources

Most people today use the Internet to gather information. The OFS website was created to provide a resource that could direct consumers to useful financial information. Information about budgeting, debt management, credit/credit cards, investing, taxes, insurance, student loans, and a lot of other issues are all available on the OFS website.

I am pleased with the great things the OFS has done in such a short period of time. The Personal Financial Planning Department, the financial backing for the OFS, deserves much of the credit for its early successes since their support is the reason we exist!