Stanford offers new, expanded financial wellness opportunities for students

Personal finance courses – including a new class in the Economics Department – and advice from experts are among the ways Stanford students can improve their financial literacy and wellness whether studying on campus or remotely.

Stanford is offering new and expanded opportunities for students to improve their financial literacy and well-being. Among them are a new course and visits with financial experts and alumni. These opportunities are available remotely.

1:1 Financial Coaching is among the financial wellness opportunities available to Stanford students through the Mind Over Money program. (Image credit: Getty Images)

The Economics Department is offering its first personal finance course this spring. Students in ECON 43: Introduction to Financial Decision Making will learn about budgeting, financial planning, consumer credit, investing and managing risk, among other topics. In doing so, they will obtain a greater degree of comfort in making important financial decisions. The 4-unit course already has 158 students enrolled, and there’s still space available.

ECON 43 will be taught by H&S faculty members Michael Boskin, the Tully Friedman Professor of Economics and senior fellow at the Hoover Institution and at the Stanford Institute for Economic Policy Research; John Shoven, the Charles Schwab Professor of Economics, Emeritus; and lecturer Alex Gould. The course has no prerequisites and also satisfies the Social Inquiry WAYS requirement because it includes material related to broader societal fiscal and financial issues.

Mind Over Money

Another course offered through the Mind Over Money program, Stanford’s nationally recognized financial wellness program, is growing in popularity. A record 76 students were enrolled in Wellness 183: Financial Wellness for a Healthy Long Life winter quarter. In the 1-unit course students explored personal finance concepts connected to long-term financial health – such as credit, debt, saving and investing for retirement – as well as behavioral science to encourage good financial habits. The course promotes a psychological approach to financial wellness that leads to enhanced emotional and mental wellbeing.

Wellness 183 – taught by Mind Over Money’s director, Kelly Takahashi, and behavior design consultant Andrew Zimmerman, BS ’11 – frequently welcomed financial experts as guest speakers. Alum and author Ramit Sethi, BA ’04, MA ’05, for instance, recently spoke to the class about his financial journey. When he was a Stanford student, Sethi taught himself about money management and started a blog about the importance of practical financial wellness habits. He later turned the blog into the New York Times best-selling book I Will Teach You to Be Rich.

During his visit with students Sethi discussed how to prepare for saving, how to invest and how to spend money. He said the biggest mistake people make when it comes to managing their finances is worrying too much about fine details, rather than the bigger picture.

Three-dollar latte

“People feel guilty about a three-dollar latte, but that will make very little difference in their lifetime,” Sethi said. “There are way more important things like getting a great job, negotiating your salary, saving and investing every month.”

Sethi said a common misconception about investing is that one needs a lot of money to get started. He says that’s not true and assures students that they can and should start early.

“The important thing is to build the habit,” he said. “One thing people can do, especially in their early twenties, is to start investing even a very small amount every month because [establishing] the habit is more important than the amount you start with.”

Connecting students with financial experts through courses like Wellness 183 is one of the ways students can improve their financial confidence through Mind Over Money. Other opportunities include the 1:1 Financial Coaching program, which pairs Stanford students and postdocs with a volunteer coach to help them manage their finances or plan to achieve a financial goal. The program is growing and currently has 50 coaches, most of whom are alumni. Here’s what two Stanford students had to say about the program.

Mind Over Money’s other resources for Stanford students include year-round personal finance workshops, budget templates and tips for managing debt. Learn more on Mind Over Money’s student resources page.