Wednesday, February 9, 2011

Financial Advice from a Fellow College Grad

Financial tips you should know


This year, I let myself off easy. I resolved to find the newly minted college graduate who knows more about money than any other 22-year-old in the country and let that person dispense the week’s wisdom.

Alas, there is no N.C.A.A. tournament bestowing blue ribbons for financial competence. And even the GMAT exam for business school applicants does not measure its takers’ skills in balancing checkbooks or deciphering the company benefits pamphlet.

So instead I came here, to Texas Tech University, home to what is arguably the best undergraduate financial planning program in the country. And I spent hours picking the brain of Madison Nipp, who graduated earlier this month with the highest grade point average of anyone in the major.

As I previewed this exercise for friends and colleagues, most of them expressed surprise (often pleasant) that it was a woman who took the crown. But Deena B. Katz, an associate professor in the Texas Tech program, said it made sense to her. “Women have better communication skills. And financial planning is about people more than portfolios.”

Ms. Nipp, who looks and dresses her age but has the soft-spoken competence of someone much older, will begin counseling people on their portfolios for the financial services giant USAA early next month. Here is a preview of what she may tell them, drawing, in part, on personal experience. Plenty of the advice, it turns out, is useful for people far older than new college graduates.

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