Personal Financial Literacy

  • Financial Literacy Classes

    Want to incorporate financial literacy into your class?

    •  There are seven modules including topics like bank accounts, credit scores, mobile payments, credit cards, and investments. It is geared for 1020 courses, but anyone at Tennessee Tech can self-enroll by setting up an account with their Tennessee Tech email. Once students complete all seven modules, they can print a certificate of completion. 
    •  There are 15 modules including topics like bank accounts, credit scores, mobile payments, credit cards, investments, mortgages and loans, insurance, taxes, paying for higher education, and identity theft. Anyone at Tennessee Tech can self-enroll by setting up an account. with their TNTECH email. Once students complete all 15 modules, they can print a certificate of completion, which will have their first and last name on it. Faculty who will not require all 15 modules should contact Sharon Holderman about monitoring students' progress.
    • Financial Literacy Presentations based on Dave Ramsey's college curriculum are available to select upper-division business courses, student organizations, and athletics. Contact Sharon Holderman ( to schedule a time.

  • Dave Ramsey's 7 Baby Steps

    Dave Ramsey's 7 Baby Steps are a money management plan for any time in your life.

    Overview of the seven baby steps

  • Saving


    Three Reasons to Save

    Emergency fund:

    • college students should have an emergency fund of $500
    • keep this money in a separate bank account from your regular money
    • it is for EMERGENCIES ONLY (i.e. unexpected expenses, not spring break or Christmas presents)

    To buy stuff:

    • you should save up money first, and then pay cash at the time of purchase
    • ideally do not borrow the money or use credit cards
    • not only does this avoid debt, but this helps curb impulse buying and make sure you really want to make the purchase

    To retire rich:

    • don't wait until your 40s or 50s to think about retirement
    • the earlier you start, the better off you are due to compound interest (see below)
    • if your company offers matching, TAKE IT (hint: that's free money)
    • a Roth IRA saves you a lot of tax money down the road (see the guide to the left)

    Compound Interest

    Compound interest means you earn interest on the money you invest and the interest you earn. For example, if you invest $1000 over the course of a year, and at the end of the year you earn 10% interest on your money, you'd have $1100. The next year if you invested another $1000 to make $2100, then earned another 10% interest, you'd have $2310 at the end of the second year. So you get interest on the money you put in and the interest that you already earned.

    The chart below (aka the Ben and Arthur chart) demonstrates what a difference it makes when you start early. See this chart online with explanations on

    Compound interest chart

  • Budgeting

    Forms and Resources

    Tips for Budgeting

    Budget basics

    • Tracking (documenting your money after it's spent) is not budgeting. Budgeting is planning how to spend your money before you spend it.
    • Your budget does not stay the same every month. It will change and reflect differences in income and expenses between different months.
    • Budgets don't require you to do a lot of math. Use calculators, spreadsheets, online budget tools, and anything else that makes it easy!
    • If you follow a budget, you can still do fun things...just plan them in your budget.

    Make it realistic!

    • If your budget is not realistic, you won't follow it, and then you'll give up on budgeting altogether.
    • Don't make your grocery budget so tight you can only eat ramen noodles and macaroni and cheese. You probably won't follow that!

    Zero-based budget

    • A zero-based budget means that you plan every penny so that your income matches your total budget expenses.
    • This doesn't mean you waste money. In your budget you will also plan for saving, paying off debt, etc.
    • If you leave "extra" money in your budget without a plan, it will disappear without you knowing where it went.

    Use cash

    • Ideally use cash for your purchases because that helps prevent spending money you don't have.
    • When you don't use cash, use your debit card or write a check. This is like spending cash directly out of your bank account, just on a short delay for bank processing.

    Check your bank account

    • Check it every day whether you make a purchase that day or not.
    • Be sure there are no errors in your transactions or balances.
    • You need to know when things are deducted whether it is a debit purchase that takes a few days or any automatically deducted expenses and bills.
    • Overdraft fees are very expensive and add up fast. Avoid them by knowing your bank account balance at all times!

    Making choices

    • To follow your budget, every purchase you make is a choice. You have to choose whether to get a fancy coffee drink every day and have less in savings or maybe get coffee every other day to save more.
    • In order to make these choices, you'll have to say no to some things. But if your budget is realistic and in your best interest, it gets easier to say no.

    What to do with your extra money

    • The two most common ways you get "extra" money:
      -extra money left in a budget category at the end of the month (i.e. you didn't go out to eat as much as you planned). 
      -if you get paid every two weeks, there are months where you get three paychecks.
    • Have a plan for this extra money and how to use it....otherwise you will wonder where it went!

    Advice for the first 6-12 months after graduation

    • Live conservatively! Don't go spending lots of money just because you are earning a full-time salary.
    • Live at home if you can or have a roommate. It's not forever, just 6-12 months.
    • Learn what your take home pay looks like after insurance, taxes, retirement, etc. are taken out. You will learn what lifestyle you can afford.
    • Take time to understand how much you spend on groceries, student loan debt, and other budget categories before you start signing apartment leases, mortgages, car loans, etc.
    • It is much easier to upgrade your lifestyle after you get settled than it is to downgrade your lifestyle after you've signed contracts.
    • Focus on the things you need and start cheap; do not focus on the things you want (buy a couch, maybe used or cheap until you can upgrade and there's no need to buy a fancier car when your existing one works).

  • Debt

    Forms and Resources

    Things to Know About Debt

    Ideally we'd all like to avoid debt. Debt costs you are paying someone interest/fees for the privilege of owing them money. Although we want to save up for purchases first, that doesn't always happen. So here are some great resources to help you understand and manage debt.

    When You Need a Car...

    • Ideally, buy used cars - they are a better buy
    • Financing a new car is just a long-term commitment to a monthly payment
    • Leasing cars are just a long-term rental: you'll pay money and have nothing to show for it at the end of the lease

    Here's a better option:

  • Your Credit Score

    What Is a Credit Score?

    How is your FICO score determined?

    • 35% of your score is based on debt history
    • 30% is based on debt level
    • 15% is based on debt duration
    • 10% is based on new debt
    • 10% is based on debt type

    It is NOT attached to how much money you have or your income. Read more details at Dave Ramsey's Foundation U.

    Protect Your Credit Score

    Although you can function in life without debt and a credit score...that isn't everyone's reality. If you have a student loan, credit card, finance your cell phone through your carrier, or have any other type of debt, you have a credit report and a credit score. If you have a credit score, protect it!!

    Best ways to protect your credit score:

    • make at least your minimum payments on ALL your debts
    • make your payments ON TIME
    • check your credit reports regularly for errors (see instructions below)

    How to Get Your Credit Reports

    You should be reviewing your credit reports on a regular basis to make sure they are correct. Here is how to do that FOR FREE:

    To check your credit report:

    1. go to
    2. follow the prompts to get your free credit card report
    3. You will have the option of choosing one of three credit agencies: TransUnion, Experian, and Equifax. You can get a free report from each agency once a year. The best way to continually check your credit report is to check each agency every four months. For example, get a report from TransUnion every April, Experian every August, and Equifax every December.

    Every time you get your credit report, check every category for errors. Any mistakes should be corrected through the credit agency providing the report. FYI these reports will not contain your credit score.

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