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What the Finance?!


Ben Jourdan

Well, folks, if you haven’t heard from your television, radio, newspaper, mom, or pocket book, the world economy ain’t doing too hot.

Among other things affecting it, we have the uncertainty of the Eurozone’s fate (more specifically Greece and Italy); the rising tensions of the Occupy Wall Street movement (and the world for that matter); and a recent poll from CBS News/New York Times that showed a U.S. congressional all-time low approval rating of 9 percent. As a result, markets have seemed to take on the characteristics of your crazy, gambling, bi-polar Uncle Larry and have caused investment analysts and Chicken Littles alike to scream, “THE SKY IS FALLING!”

So what is any good American, El Pomar Fellow, and nonprofit executive director supposed to do in the face of this turmoil? As a recent college graduate with a business degree, I recommend one thing: education.

The following was taken from the Federal Open Market Committee’s meeting minutes on August 9, 2011:

“The Committee agreed to keep the target range for the federal funds rate at 0 to 1/4 percent and to state that economic conditions are likely to warrant exceptionally low levels for the federal funds rate at least through mid-2013.”

How many people know what that means? Who knows what effect this will have on the U.S. and world economies? What, exactly, is the Federal Open Market Committee?

I suggest three ways for “beginners” to learn about the economy and finance. The first, and what I believe to be the most helpful, would be to take a class on basic finance. Locally in Colorado Springs, UCCS and Pikes Peak Community College offer courses on introductory finance and economics.

Second, there are tons of books that can ease you into learning about these topics. My favorites are “Personal Finance for Dummies,” “Economics for Dummies,” and “Freakonomics.” Don’t let the titles turn you off. The content is good, very helpful, and easy to understand.

Then, finally, there are great tools you can use via the Internet to help you understand tricky financial lingo. My top pick is Investopedia. Simply, type in a term into the search bar that you do not recognize and Investopedia provides you with a definition that a 3rd grader can understand. The site also has tutorials and articles that guide “beginners” of finance on current issues.

But get ready. You are certain to sound really cool when you start talking about P/E ratios and U.S. Treasury Bond yields to all your friends at your next cocktail party.