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University Offers Seniors Special Workshop on Personal Finances

Whether it’s learning to manage a budget, minimize debt or develop a long-range investment strategy, every Furman University senior will have the opportunity to master the fundamentals of financial literacy by the time they graduate this spring.

Beginning Jan. 25, the university will offer all seniors a free, comprehensive, six-part “Personal Financial Literacy” workshop that will give them the tools to navigate the complicated and often confusing financial landscape they’ll encounter after leaving the university.

Furman business professor Tom Smythe will facilitate the workshop.

Furman business professor Tom Smythe will facilitate the workshop for seniors.

“The Furman Advantage promises every student a range of experiences that prepares them for a successful future beyond the classroom, and this workshop will address some of the most important financial realities the graduates will face,” said George Shields, Furman’s Vice President for Academic Affairs and Provost. “We hope every senior will take advantage of this important opportunity.”

The non-credit workshop will be offered at two different times.  Weekly classes will be held Wednesdays (5:30-8 p.m., Jan. 25-March 1) or Thursdays (5:30-8 p.m., Jan. 26-March 2). The workshop will be facilitated by Furman business professor Tom Smythe, who teaches a course on personal finance.

Those interested in learning more or signing up for the workshop should contact Stephanie Ferguson at

Here are the topics that will be covered during the six-part workshop:

Session 1: Budgeting

The most critical aspect of any enterprise is to effectively match expenses with income.  Historically, Americans have spent more than they have made, making the process of planning for kids’ college education, car purchases, retirement, vacations, and many other big ticket items next to impossible.  The monthly budget is the basic foundation, so individuals and families need to ensure that they do not spend more than they make.  This seminar will provide tips for identifying and tracking expenses, walk through the process of identifying income and expenses, and discuss the need for an emergency fund and how to achieve it.

Session 2: Managing Credit

While budgeting is the foundation of the personal financial planning process, understanding how to manage credit is the next step to financial security.  The United States is the largest borrowing nation on the planet. Most people carry very large credit card debts, have car loans, and home mortgages. This seminar will help graduates understand the cost of such activity and outline ways to minimize debt. The primary way to “handle” debt is to pay it off, which will require strong discipline that is aided by the budgeting process.

Session 3: A Primer on Risk and Return

This seminar will explain the concepts of risk and return as they apply to investments, mutual funds, and retirement planning. Topics include defining risk, basic measures of risk, the concept of diversification, and applying diversification to investments.

Session 4: Mutual Funds

Even just 20 years ago, people thought that “investing” was only for the wealthy.  In today’s world, almost every adult is—or should be—thinking about investing. This is due in large part to the fact that people are having to fund their own retirements through individualized retirement accounts like an IRA, Roth IRA, 401(k) and the like. This seminar will cover the basics of mutual funds, why they are the best investment vehicle for most individual investors, and discuss factors the graduate should and shouldn’t use when making mutual fund choices.

Session 5: Retirement Planning

This may be the single biggest area that most Americans fall short in their personal financial health. Some put off planning for retirement because it seems so far in the future; some believe that Social Security will provide adequate income for retirement; some believe they don’t have the money or skills to plan for retirement. This seminar will focus on why it is critical to save for retirement, introduce ways of estimating future expenses for retirement, and look at the most common investment products available for retirement savings.

Session 6: Risk Management

While Americans fall short with their retirement planning, they know that retirement is coming and generally know that they should plan for retirement.  In contrast, with the exception of life insurance, people tend to overlook the broader area of risk management (i.e., protecting what they have in the event of a catastrophic event).  Of the risk management items overlooked most commonly is disability insurance. Also, people often purchase more life insurance than they need or the wrong type of insurance. This seminar will look at how to manage the risk, in a way that is most economical to the individual.

Last updated August 5, 2022
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Clinton Colmenares
News & Media Relations Director