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Personal finance is the financial management which an individual or a family unit performs to budget, save, and spend monetary resources over time, taking into account various financial risks and future life events. When planning personal finances, the individual would consider the suitability to his or her needs of a range of banking products (checking, savings accounts, credit cards and consumer loans) or investment private equity, (stock market, bonds, mutual funds) and insurance (life insurance, health insurance, disability insurance) products or participation and monitoring of and- or employer-sponsored retirement plans, social security benefits, and income tax management.
Before a specialty in personal finance was developed, various disciplines which are closely related to it, such as family economics, and consumer economics were taught in various colleges as part of home economics for over 100 years. The earliest known research in personal finance was done in 1920 by Hazel Kyrk. Her dissertation at University of Chicago laid the foundation of consumer economics and family economics.Margaret Reid, a professor of Home Economics at the same university, is recognized as one of the pioneers in the study of consumer behavior and Household behavior.
In 1947, Herbert A. Simon, a Nobel laureate, suggested that a decision maker did not always make the best financial decision because of limited educational resources and personal inclinations. In 2009, Dan Ariely suggested the 2008 financial crisis showed that human beings do not always make rational financial decisions, and the market is not necessarily self-regulating and corrective of any imbalances in the economy.
Therefore, personal finance education is needed to help an individual or a family make rational financial decisions throughout their life. Before 1990, mainstream economists and business faculty paid little attention to personal finance. However, several American universities such as Brigham Young University, Iowa State University, and San Francisco State University have started to offer financial educational programmes in both undergraduate and graduate programmes in the last 30 years. These institutions have published several works in journals such as The Journal of Financial Counseling and Planning and the Journal of Personal Finance. Research into personal finance is based on several theories such as social exchange theory and andragogy (adult learning theory). Professional bodies such as American Association of Family and Consumer Sciences and American Council on Consumer Interests started to play an important role in the development of this field from the 1950s to 1970s. The establishment of the Association for Financial Counseling and Planning Education (AFCPE) in 1984 at Iowa State University and the Academy of Financial Services (AFS) in 1985 marked an important milestone in personal finance history. Attendances of the two societies mainly come from faculty and graduates from business and home economics colleges. AFCPE has since offered several certifications for professionals in this field such as Accredited Financial Counselor (AFC) and Certified Housing Counselors (CHC). Meanwhile, AFS cooperates with Certified Financial Planner (CFP Board).
As the concerns about consumers' financial capability have increased in recent years, a variety of education programmes has emerged, catering to a broad audience or to a specific group of people such as youth and women. The educational programmes are frequently known as "financial literacy". However, there was no standardised curriculum for personal finance education until after the 2008 financial crisis. The United States President's Advisory Council on Financial Capability was set up in 2008 in order to encourage financial literacy among the American people. It also stressed the importance of developing a standard in the field of financial education.
Typical goals that most adults and young adults have are paying off credit card/student loan/housing/car loan debt, investing for retirement, investing for college costs for children, paying medical expenses.
Personal circumstances differ considerably, with respect to patterns of income, wealth, and consumption needs. Tax and finance laws also differ from country to country, and market conditions vary geographically and over time. This means that advice appropriate for one person might not be appropriate for another. A financial advisor can offer personalized advice in complicated situations and for high-wealth individuals, but University of Chicago professor Harold Pollack and personal finance writer Helaine Olen argue that in the United States good personal finance advice boils down to a few simple points:
The limits stated by laws may be different in each countries; in any case personal finance should not disregard correct behavioral principles: people should not develop attachment to the idea of money, morally reprehensible, and, when investing, should maintain the medium-long term horizon avoiding hazards in the expected return of investment.
Key areas of personal financial planning, as suggested by the Financial Planning Standards Board, are:
According to a survey done by Harris Interactive, 99% of the adults agreed that personal finance should be taught in schools. Financial authorities and the American federal government had offered free educational materials online to the public. However, according to a Bank of America poll, 42% of adults were discouraged while 28% of adults thought that personal finance is a difficult subject because of vast amount of information available online. As of 2015, 17 out of 50 states in the United States requires high school students to study personal finance before graduation. The effectiveness of financial education on general audience is controversial. For example, a study done by Bell, Gorin and Hogarth (2009) stated that those who undergo financial education were more likely to use a formal spending plan. Financially educated high school students are more likely to have a savings account with regular savings, fewer overdrafts and more likely to pay off their credit card balances. However, another study was done by Cole and Shastry (Harvard Business School, 2009) found that there were no differences in saving behaviours of people in American states with financial literacy mandate enforced and the states without a literacy mandate.
One thing to consider with personal finance and net worth goals is depreciating assets. A depreciating asset is an asset that loses value over time or with use. A few examples would be the vehicle that a person owns, boats, and capitalized expenses. They add value to a person's life but unlike other assets they do not make money and should be a class of their own. In the business world, for tax and bookkeeping purposes, these are depreciated over time due to the fact that their useful life runs out. This is known as accumulated depreciation and the asset will eventually need to be replaced.
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