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RSM McGladrey and UI Team Up To Help Students Understand Finances

Gary Previts and Mike Thomas Financial planning is more complicated than ever, and even more so for college students who have to balance finances with the usual concerns of grades, studying, jobs and figuring out what they want to do after they graduate.

That lack of financial literacy will be examined in a forum sponsored by the RSM McGladrey Institute of Accounting Education and Research at the University of Iowa's Tippie College of Business. The forum, "Financial Literacy for the New Graduate," will be held at 6 p.m. Monday, Oct. 23, in Room C20 of the Pomerantz Center. Admission is free.

"We have seen a generally low level of financial literacy among college students, and unfortunately, many of them graduate without learning much more about managing their finances," said Ramji Balakrishnan, director of the RSM McGladrey Institute and a professor of accounting. "As a result, many don't have the knowledge they need to understand credit card interest rates, mortgages, retirement plans, or to answer other questions about how to spend their money."

The forum will feature two speakers who show students how to manage credit card and student loan debt, and discuss the importance of saving in a retirement plan as early as possible, while explaining the difference between IRAs and Roth IRAs. Following those discussions, students can participate in a financial literacy quiz game for prizes, with the winner receiving an iPod Nano.

Balakrishnan said this year's RSM McGladrey forum is different from those in year's past, which tended to focus on more accounting industry topics. "We wanted to do something that students would find useful from a practical standpoint that's not covered in the curriculum," he said.

He said financial literacy seemed like an obvious topic because it has become an important issue to accountants and other financial experts who see more and more people who not only don't manage their money well, they don't know they don't manage their money well.

"Many surveys show that Americans' level of financial literacy is abysmal and because of that, they make a lot of decisions that hurt them financially," he said. "For instance, many don't understand that taking money out of ATMs that aren't owned by their banks can cost them hundreds of dollars a year. If they make just little changes, they can save lots of money."

The topic is so important, in fact, that the American Institute of Certified Public Accountants (AICPA), the professional organization that represents American accountants, has made financial literacy education one of its priorities this year. One of the two speakers at the McGladrey Forum is Gary Previts, incoming president of the AICPA and one of the leaders of the organization's push to increase financial literacy. He is also an associate dean at Case Western University in Cleveland.

The other speaker is Mike Thomas, a financial advisor in RSM McGladrey's Wealth Management practice.

Balakrishnan said he hopes students take one message away from the forum: "start investing early, start saving early, and know your financial responsibilities."

The RSM McGladrey Institute was founded in 1984 with contributions from McGladrey & Pullen partners who are University of Iowa accounting graduates. The Institute sponsors accounting research, hosts annual public forums on contemporary accounting and auditing issues, provides undergraduate and graduate students access to professional research and educational materials, and is a resource for the media on accounting, auditing and stock market matters.


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