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Senior Spotlight: Sean Harris Examines Mount Students' Financial Literacy

For his senior honors research project, Sean Harris, a business major with minors in accounting and history, studied the literacy of Mount St. Mary’s University students regarding personal finance in the areas of taxes, health insurance, student loans and retirement plans. Assistant Professor Christina L. Yoder, Ph.D., was his mentor for the project.

Your research reveals Mount students want to develop their financial literacy. What’s one of the most valuable lessons you have learned about personal finance?

One of the most valuable lessons I have learned is do not be afraid to ask questions about anything, especially the topics that may seem trivial. It is the little things that form a solid foundation—and there is no shame in clarifying your understanding of the basics.

My advice for creating healthy finance habits is to have a reasonable budget, one that you know you can stick to and that helps you live within your means.

As a business major, what are three sources (apps, news media) you use to manage your investments, and increase your understanding of personal finance/wealth management?

Three resources I have found most useful are The Wall Street Journal, the Robinhood app, and The Mint budgeting app.

The Wall Street Journal allows me to remain up to date about world events and stay informed as to the economy and the news from a newspaper that has generally balanced reporting and focuses heavily on the business aspects of news.

The Robinhood app allows me to invest smaller amounts of money in a particular company, allowing me to, in a way, test a stock before making a heavier investment in it, and also lets me track my investments easily and on the go.

The Mint budgeting app has allowed me to be disciplined in my spending, track expenses and help me make smarter decisions with my money.

Did any of your research show a positive correlation between financial literacy and increased personal happiness or large-scale community impact/philanthropy?

Unfortunately, I was not able to fully explore that aspect within this particular research. However, a working report from the Harvard Business School written by Lalin Anik, Lara B. Aknin, Michael I. Norton, and Elizabeth W. Dunn in 2009 points to evidence supporting the impact charitable giving has on one's personal happiness. I would like to explore this topic but I was not able to in this research.

How was the experience working with your faculty advisor?

I could not have asked for a better advisor than Professor Yoder. She was always willing to meet with me and answer any question I had. She has been incredibly patient with me, has been incredibly supportive in this project and made this experience a very positive one.