Making sense of your personal finances: New UTM course teaches undergraduate students how to handle their money

Tuesday, October 10, 2017 - 8:56am
Sarah Jane Silva

personal finances(L-R) UTM undergraduate students Christine Joy Valenzuela, Hergun Gill, and Michael Parks. Photo by SJ Silva.


For the first time ever, the Department of Management at UTM is offering a thirteen-week course titled, Introduction to Personal Finance (MGT130).

Open to all undergraduate students, the class meets every Tuesday from 1:00 p.m. to 3:00 p.m. to explore tools that will help them manage their finances with a focus on cash flow analysis, asset management, taxation, risk management, retirement planning, and estate planning.

“I took this course so I can learn how to invest my money in a smart way,” said 20-year-old, third-year student Christine Joy Valenzuela, who is currently pursuing a double major in biology and psychology.

The second of five siblings, Valenzuela says that she can’t rely on her parents to help pay down her student debt. “When I graduate I don’t know if I’m going to get a job right away or I might decide to go to graduate school and more debt is going to accumulate.”

“By investing I will be accumulating some extra money on the side which will help me in the future to pay for my OSAP, and if I want to buy a house or maybe even travel.”

For Hergun Gill, 21, the start of university was both exhilarating and overwhelming.

“When you first start university you have like four credit card companies that are just sitting at frosh week preying on all the new students that are coming in,” said Gill, now a fourth-year student studying criminology and psychology.

Before taking Introduction to Personal Finance, Gill never learned the basic tenets of personal finance, and spent most of his undergraduate years rather adrift.

“I was one of those students who signed up for three credit cards in my first year,” he said. “Even by my third year I never knew how to come up with money at the end of the month, and any money that I did get I was blowing through it.”

When it comes to money, especially at a young age, it can be very risky to figure it out along the way.

“When you go to a bank and you ask for advice, you feel like there is a little bit of an agenda behind it whereas here you get unbiased information as opposed to someone trying to sell you a product,” said first-year psychology student Michael Parks, 35.

“You can’t help but be interested in things that will affect your day-to-day life,” he added. “I wish we had more access to courses like this.”

Wanting to make financial literacy relatable to students and to their experience, Mitchell Huynh, lecturer for Introduction to Personal Finance and an executive director at Experior, has structured the course as both a personal finance as well as a mentorship class.

 “Students want to know how they can structure what they have today and grow it as fast and as efficiently as possible so they can retire a lot earlier than their parents and have the lifestyle that they’ve dreamed of,” said Huynh, a UTM graduate and the current host of two financial advice television shows on Rogers and Cogeco.

“All that boils down to is financial planning and how we can grow additional cash flow and reuse that cash flow for many different purposes.”