“I don’t do numbers!”
That is a direct quote from my wife, an amazing artist. Luckily, since I am a finance professor, she does not have to encounter numbers and financial concepts very often. However, for our online students at Johnson & Wales University—specifically, those taking Master of Business Administration (MBA) courses or those taking undergraduate business classes—finance concepts and calculations cannot be avoided. They are part of the core business and MBA curriculum, so chances are you’ll need to buckle down and get them done. (And you can’t transfer them to your spouse!)
Now, I know that not all of our students who are taking finance or accounting courses love numbers and financial concepts. In fact, I have had several students who struggle. If you are not a finance or math person, don’t stress! Here are five tips for succeeding in finance courses:
1. Use your resources.
There are many great resources available to you as an online student at JWU! First, your professor can help you by answering questions and providing feedback (see #4). For those who struggle with numbers, be sure to use the many technical resources available to you. I prefer my HP 10bII financial calculator, but my students use Excel or online financial calculators as well. Find the tool(s) that work for you and learn how to use them. If you’re still stuck, you can reach out to your academic advisor to talk about opportunities for tutoring and academic help.
2. Understand the problem you are being asked to solve.
Take the time to read each question thoroughly and identify the case facts. Try writing the question out. For someone who is struggling with financial concepts, understanding the question may help determine what information is needed to answer it. For example, if the question is about how much someone needs to save to meet their retirement goals, I know I must first understand what their goals are and what their current savings profile looks like.
3. Use visuals to understand the hard concepts.
At times, creating analogies or using images may help students understand the big picture. I am currently using “concept mapping” in my Behavioral Finance Course (FISV 6430) to help students see concepts visually and find that it is really helpful.
4. Ask questions.
I enjoy getting emails or course questions from my students because it indicates that they are engaged and interested. Recently, a student asked a question on how to solve one of those retirement goal scenarios, and I provided her with a step-by-step process. She was a bit surprised that I was that detailed, but I was more than happy to answer her question.
5. Take away as much as possible, even if it’s hard.
There is a vast diversity of careers available to you requiring many different skills, especially if you’re taking general business classes. I understand that not everyone in my courses is a finance major or will pursue a career in finance; however, I think there are valuable things in these classes that can help any student in their career. I hope you take away something from my courses that helps you later on in life.
The great news is that financial calculations and concepts are learned skills. If you use your resources in your courses, you can master these concepts, even if you’re not a finance nature. By the way: My wife, the amazing artist who does not do numbers, just completed her degree after a break in studies. Can you guess her major? Finance—but you probably already saw that coming.