Business & Government

Take Control Of Your Money During Financial Literacy Month

An instructor from Texas A&M’s Financial Planning Program says it’s more important than ever for young adults to manage their personal finances wisely. Here’s how.
By Texas A&M University Division of Marketing and Communications April 19, 2024

Close-up of dollar banknotes and coins
Texas A&M’s Financial Planning Program offers a variety of opportunities for Aggies to learn more about managing their personal finances and setting themselves up for financial success.

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April is Financial Literacy Month, and for Texas A&M University’s Financial Planning Program, it’s an important chance to highlight the basics of smart money management.

Established within the Department of Agricultural Economics at Texas A&M’s College of Agriculture and Life Sciences, the program is training the newest generation of CERTIFIED FINANCIAL PLANNER™ professionals for the fast-growing career field, while also fostering basic financial literacy in thousands of Aggies through its core elective course, Foundations of Money Education (soon to be FINP 235 and FINP 335).

Texas A&M Lecturer Nick Kilmer ’04 leads the class, which focusses on key topics like budgeting, investing and building credit. He spoke with Texas A&M Today about the growing importance of smart financial planning for young people, while also outlining some initial steps students can take to set themselves up for lasting financial success.

What is financial literacy?

Financial literacy is simply a basic understanding of the most fundamental concepts that influence our day-to-day financial decisions and long-term financial well-being. Such concepts include investing, inflation and compounding interest.

Being financially literate doesn’t result in financial success; it’s simply a starting point on a long road to financial security and freedom. There is a lot to know about money, and without the right knowledge, we can’t make the best decisions for ourselves. Which is why it’s critical for young adults (even children) to pick up a book, take a class or start listening to financial podcasts and then never stop learning.

How have barriers to financial success changed in recent years?

Wealth (what you own minus what you owe) is the most significant indicator of financial success, and over the last several decades, the wealth gap has continued to widen in America. Part of this is due to an increase in consumer debt, which is directly influenced by inflation, and now tops $17 trillion nationally.

At the same time, there is an even stronger relationship between income and wealth than in the past (higher income families hold a greater portion of the aggregate wealth in America than in previous decades). As a result, maximizing earnings and controlling indebtedness are possibly even more crucial for young adults than for the generations that came before them.

What are some common mistakes people make when dealing with their personal finances?

A large portion of the students I engage with exhibit shame and guilt regarding their lack of financial knowledge and current financial circumstances. This often leads to paralysis or even flight from developing their financial skills. Assuming that their peers know more about money, and allowing this to negatively impact their financial growth, is a major mistake that should be avoided at all costs. Just accept that none of us know enough about money, and that you should just keep moving forward financially, no matter how many seemingly “dumb questions” you have to ask. As I tell my students all the time, the only dumb question is the one left unasked.

Two other common misconceptions that young adults often have are that they should postpone building credit and investing in a Roth IRA until after college. In both cases, time is money. Long-term, postponement will cause you to pay more in interest on your consumer debts and earn less in return (and possibly pay more in taxes) on your investments.

What can students do now to set themselves up for long-term financial success?

College graduates have significantly higher lifetime earnings on average, so it’s even more important that our Aggie students cross the finish line, best positioning themselves for higher earnings, and ultimately greater wealth.

At the same time, they can help to minimize the lifetime interest they will pay by starting to budget and build their credit scores now, while they’re in college. When used properly, a credit card can be the gateway to a better credit score for college students. Finding a credit card with no annual or monthly fees on, borrowing less than 10% of its credit limit every month, waiting to receive the credit card statement, and then repaying that small balance in full during the credit card’s two-to-three-week grace period, is an easy way to do it without paying any interest in the process.

Budget your income and expenses, and use the miracle of compounding for you (by saving and investing your net income), rather than against you (by waiting to build your credit score until you need to apply for a sizeable auto loan or mortgage).

a photo of a young man in a suit speaking with a woman in a plaid blazer
Students speak with industry professionals at the Financial Planning Program’s Fall Conference.

Texas A&M Financial Planning Program


What are the benefits of good financial planning?

For many of us, our finances represent the great unknown, creating anxiety. Regardless of the situation, the financial planning process can provide some immediate mental relief by allowing us to take inventory of our finances, identify our financial aspirations, and then see progress as we work toward them as individuals, as a couple, or even as a family (shared financial goals are always the best because we have someone to celebrate with at the end).

The long-term benefits of financial planning are so much greater, though. First and foremost, they include the ability to enjoy your prosperity without fear and to give generously to others. Indirectly, younger Americans (maybe your little brother or sister) will also benefit by seeing and following your example, creating a generational wealth cycle of sorts.

What should people know about Texas A&M’s Financial Planning Program?

Managing our own finances is an enormous step in the right direction, but sometimes we need the help of a professional. Professional financial planning, when done well, changes lives and makes society better. Americans need help understanding and navigating the increasingly complex world of personal finance, and they need confidence that the professionals providing this help are the most competent and ethical in the industry. Guided by the Core Values central to our university — excellence, integrity, leadership, loyalty, respect and selfless service — the Aggie Planners graduating from the Texas A&M Financial Planning Program are ideally suited for the job.

If you, or someone you know, loves working with money and helping people, consider visiting to learn more about our bachelor of science, minor and extended learner certificate programs in financial planning.

For more information about the Financial Planning Program’s elective offerings, including Foundations of Money Education (FINP 235) and the Financial Readiness (FINP 335) course designed for members of the Corps of Cadets, visit

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