For some UIndy faculty members, the work of educating extends well beyond the classroom. Two finance professors have become go-to sources for Indiana journalists struggling to make sense of the latest business and economic news, whether it involves the maneuvering of national powerbrokers or simple pocketbook issues for the folks at home.
Associate Professor Matt Will is particularly popular with TV stations for his ability to boil down complex issues into simple analogies. He brings not only his academic expertise but also a personal background in the business world and a well-connected finger on the pulse of major local companies and their leaders.
“Talking to the media is a logical extension of teaching; the only difference is the student is sitting in front of a TV and not in the classroom,” says Will, who also serves as director of external affairs and coordinator of the MBA curriculum for the School of Business.
“Educating the public about these important financial topics and current events fits perfectly into our mission of ‘Education for Service.’” In the first six months of this academic year, Will granted more than 20 interviews on topics including unemployment figures, gasoline prices, airline and bank mergers, and the extension of federal tax cuts. He has made multiple in-studio appearances at WTHR-Channel 13 and WXIN-Fox59 and has been a recurring expert panelist for the weekly Inside Indiana Business broadcast, carried statewide on WISH-Channel 8, WFYI-Channel 20, and a dozen other stations.
He also hosts a weekly half-hour radio show, Your Money, Saturday mornings on UIndy station WICR-FM/HD (at 88.7 FM).His colleague Rachel Smith, associate professor and coordinator of undergraduate programs for the School of Business, also has won fans among reporters and their audiences for her willingness to explain the often abstract world of money. Her background, prior to joining UIndy full-time in 2005 includes work in accounting and financial planning, as well as serving as a financial analyst for Thomson Consumer Electronics.
This year alone, Smith has weighed in on interest rates, holiday retail trends, the auto industry, and general principles of finance for outlets including WTHR, WISH, the Indianapolis Business Journal, and Fort Wayne Journal Gazette. She also is a regular contributor to the Indianapolis Star’s business blog, the Bottom Line. “My goal is to help average people understand what’s going on in simple terms, so that they can understand how it will impact their lives,” she says. “And this really does complement my teaching.”
The media work, she adds, is the flip side of her ongoing effort to bring current events into the classroom. The projects she assigns to students are often based on the latest news, and sometimes, when a meeting with a reporter is scheduled just after a class, she asks the students for ideas about what points to make in the interview.
“We’re seeing more demand by recruiters and companies for students who are well versed in real issues like outsourcing and competition,” she says. “I tell my students, we don’t just want you to learn the theories and formulas. We want you to be able to think and analyze the implications of what’s happening.”
Personal finance tips for 2011
—Establish a budget and stick with it. Consider using a free web-based tool, such as www.mint.com, to track expenses and plan for the future.
—Commit to paying off debt. Start with your highest-rate, non-deductible interest debt, which is usually credit card debt.
—Use only one credit card, for living expenses in your budget, and pay it off each month before the due date to avoid interest and penalties. Or use a debit card or cash to avoid risk of ballooning credit card debt.
—Build an emergency fund equal to six months of living expenses in a low-risk money market fund. This will help protect you against foreclosure, high credit card debt, or bankruptcy in case of a job layoff, as well as covering unplanned expenses such as medical costs or car repairs.
—Contribute to your company’s 401K, at least up to their maximum match. You receive the double benefit of tax reduction and automatic return from your company’s match. Increase your contribution when you receive a raise—you won’t miss it!
—Do not invest based on emotion and market fluctuations. Maintain a long-term investment strategy focused on an appropriate asset allocation for your time horizon.
—Rachel Smith, PhD, Associate Professor of Finance