Several economists and financial experts -- including a former US treasurer -- came to the University of Missouri on April 17 to share their knowledge and experience at the fifth annual Personal Finance symposium. The theme of this year’s forum was sustainable family finance, and by occasion, it took place during MU’s sustainability week.
Robert Weagley is the chair of the Personal Financial Planning Department in MU's College of Human Environmental Sciences and one of the symposium organizers. He says an important part of sustainable family finance is transferring knowledge and values to the next generation.
“It’s not just about transferring money,” he says. “It’s about transferring believes and goals and systems of life. Then how you transfer all that throughout time? And often times it is tied to our finances.”
Anna Cabral, the US treasurer under George W. Bush, focused her forum points on spreading financial knowledge and improving financial literacy. She says many people just don’t have access to the right information which can lead to risky financial decisions.
“I came from a home where we had absolutely no knowledge about how to manage money and it really showed,” she says. “My parents were really poor – never put two nickels together – so I didn’t learn it at home. But when I finally did learn a little bit about it, it’s not that hard. It’s just that you’ve got to be exposed to the concepts. You know, you have to know how to balance your check book, how to create a budget – simple things.”
Cabral says it’s important not to ignore the problems if they occur. She also says people should do financial checkups, just like a regular health exam with your doctor.
“I think you should do a financial checkup every single year and do it on a regular basis and look at how much money is coming in and how much money is going out,” she says. “What kind of debt do I have? How do I reduce this debt in the most basic ways? What can I do to squeeze a few more pennies out? What are my long-term goals? If I really want to retire and enjoy retirement shouldn’t I start saving fairly young?”
As US Treasurer, Cabral worked on the White House financial literacy program. She says it’s crucial to make the information accessible to those who need it most.
Her message definitely reached some in the audience. Elissa Dolbeare is a senior at MU.
“The most important thing that I learned as a student was to take what we are learning in this closed little room and bring it to the people who don’t have access to the information that we’ve just heard today,” she says. “And there so many opportunities for us to do that, so sometimes we forget about it.”
The symposium usually attracts about 200 participants. Many of them are MU students studying Personal Financial Planning and consulting.
This story originally aired as part of Business Beat, a weekly program about business and economics in mid-Missouri.