UMass Online Course Spotlight: Personal Finance

For over 30 years, one of my passions has been personal financial planning. When I first came out of graduate school – way back in the early 1980s, I was fortunate to land a job as a planner at E.F. Hutton and Company, a Wall Street based investment banking and brokerage firm known for its advertising tagline: “When E.F. Hutton speaks, everybody listens.”  Hutton was also making a name for itself in the field of Personal Financial Planning and I worked in their Providence office providing fee-based planning services to high net worth clients. That’s where I first learned that one of the secrets of accumulating wealth is an integrated approach. All areas of personal finance need attention to maximize and preserve wealth including budgeting, borrowing, risk management and insurance, income and estate taxes, investments, and retirement assets. Although I found investing the most exciting part of the puzzle, I learned that you can’t focus on just that to grow your net worth. Before you invest in stocks, bonds, real estate, etc. you must have certain foundational things in good order.

In FIN320 Personal Finance, our online course that serves as an introduction to personal financial planning, I take students through the personal financial planning process including how to:

  • Set financial goals
  • Manage a career
  • Manage a budget
  • Use math to calculate present and future values, annuities, and loan payments
  • Mitigate risks
  • Manage credit
  • Buy a home
  • Start investing program
  • Plan for retirements

Although I teach other courses in our accounting and finance curriculum at the Charlton College of Business (UMASS Dartmouth) and enjoy them all, I believe this is the most useful of them all… and one of the most popular that I have taught over my 30 years as a professor. As a CPA and a practicing professional financial planner, I have seen the mistakes people make with their finances and many people have told me that they wish they had ramped up their financial literacy with a course like this one while still in college.

This course also is appealing to people who are interested in entering the financial services field. Certainly this course could be a first step toward making personal financial planning a profession via jobs such as planner, advisors, stock broker, investment and insurance sales or perhaps achieving certifications and designations in the field such as the CPA, ChFC, CFP, CLU, CFA, and RIA. If you work at a bank or credit union and want to learn more about financial products or just want to make sure that you do all the right things running a household. This course will not position you to become certified as a financial planner overnight but it could be a stepping stone, as it was for me, into the financial planning world. I took a similar course at Providence College when I was an undergraduate student and it sparked my interest in a field that has exploded and is expected to continue to grow. According to CFP board: “Americans are struggling to pull their finances together and plan for the future. The financial planning profession is growing to address that need, with the career path expected to grow 41% by 2016, according to Money Magazine and”

The course will run from Jul 21, 2015-to Aug 19, 2015 and is 100% online. I utilize our basic Blackboard system which is easy and straightforward to use and a robust learning system called McGraw-Hill’s Connect – which is paired with a very readable personal finance textbook. Students will work on a case solution that will require they examine various areas of personal financial planning concern for a family.

There are no prerequistes for the course and therefore everyone –business and nonbusiness majors and nondegree seeking students are welcome. This is a course that might satisfy an elective (3 credits) or it may simply be a valuable self-improvement exercise for anyone who wants to ramp up their financial literacy and open up some options and strategies for financial security. I have received very positive feedback from this course.

I try to bring my own perspective to this course as someone who has not only been a full-time professor at UMass for 30 years, but has continued to consult and advise in the personal financial planning field.

I can also be reached via email at:

To enroll in the course, visit UMD’s University Extension site, where registration is ongoing. You can also read the course description and download a copy of the syllabus.

Professor Michael P. Griffin, CPA, ChFC, CMA, CFM
Accounting and Finance Department

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