The Central Student Government, in conjunction with PNC Bank and the University of Michigan Credit Union, hosted an “Achieving Financial Wellness” event in the Michigan League Monday night. The evening started off with Orlando Simon, attorney at Student Legal Services, explaining common forms of identity theft on campus.

Simon talked about important resources and steps to take if you fear you are a victim of identity theft. 

“First thing you need to do is go and file a police report,” Simon said. “Without a police report, you will not have the validity to go to your bank (…) to start mitigating the damage.”

Simon explained how important it is to know what to do about identity theft, as it can affect anyone at anytime. 

“Nobody can protect you from identity theft, that the bottom line is that your information is out there,” Simon said. “You’ve probably heard of the dark web. Your information is available to buy. It’s more about who has it and is able to use it.”

According to Simon, one strategy people can use is regularly monitoring one’s credit report for anomalies. The most common credit reporting resources include TransUnion, Experian and Equifax. 

“Those three reporting agencies basically dominate the market and that’s where most people’s consumer information,” Simon said. “When someone says they have a credit score, one of those three probably generated its own.”

Simon’s final talking points centered around recognizing fraudulent efforts by scammers to collect financial information from students. 

“The kinds of scams we are seeing are getting more and more sophisticated,” Simon said. “They rely on basic psychology, they play to people’s fears or hopes.”

Mark Munzenberger, University Credit Union financial education specialist, began his portion of the event by setting a baseline definition for financial health.

“You are financially healthy when you have a sustainable amount of debt,” Munzenberger said. “One of the most frequent things I do when I work with someone I calculate a debt to income ratio.” 

Additionally, Munzenberger emphasized the importance of establishing credit as a college student. Munzenberger explained how interest rates for car loans, mortgages and general loans can all depend on having a long-standing, healthy credit score. In some cases, having only 80 more credit score points can cut your interest rate in half and save a borrower thousands of dollars down the line. 

“If you do need to borrow money in the future, a credit history will set you up for success,” Munzenberger said. “Most landlords and property managers will want to see credit history.”

Regarding savings, one of the most commonly known financial literacy topics, Munzenberger explained the importance of the “bucket system.” 

“Always teach people make sure that when you start creating a savings plan you really try putting it in buckets,” Munzenberger said. “An emergency fund will be in a bank or a credit union. Living life funds for spring break should be in a bank or credit union. Retirement funding should be in investments like mutual funds, stocks, and bonds.” 

After the event, LSA junior Tyler Ziel said he appreciated learning about 401(k), retirement fund, benefits.

“I think the break down of your credit score is really important,” Ziel said. “It is easy to see a score and not know what kind of factors contribute to that. I think that 401k benefits are really important. A lot of people when they search for jobs focus on the food and event perks of employers rather than 401k which is much more long term and should be more heavily considered.” 

Engineering junior Sadie Cox said the event’s message of preparing for financial success early resonated with her.

“When you turn 18, that’s your first opportunity to start building credit that will carry you well past college and into your adult years,” Cox said. “I think it’s important to start forming good habits now, so when you have an income you will have a budget and be able to achieve your long term financial goals.” 

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