It may sound counterintuitive, but managing your money gets easier the more you have. When you cross a certain income threshold, you can afford to pay a wealth management company to sweat the details. All you have to do is sit back and watch your money multiply.

For a broke college student, money management is a bit more hands-on. It’s important to start building a base of financial knowledge in early adulthood, but the resources at your disposal are limited. Unless you have wealthy parents bankrolling your expenses, you need to find free or cheap ways to start gaining financial literacy.

Thankfully, most universities are brimming with free financial resources for students – all you need to know is where to look. Here are a few options to get you started.

Take Personal Finance Classes

As a senior in college, I took a basic personal finance class offered through the business school. As the daughter of a CPA, I’d always had a passing interest in money management. The course taught me fundamentals like how to budget and how insurance works.

It was a helpful primer for life after college. Learning about what a deductible is and how 401(k)s work prepared me for my first post-grad job, giving me the tools to get the most out of my benefits package and entry-level income.

Many colleges offer introductory personal finance classes within the business school or finance department. Unlike other business-related courses, these classes are often open to non-business majors and usually don’t have any prerequisites.

These courses generally won’t count toward your major so consider it a fun elective to take if you have a free spot in your schedule. Some colleges only have one basic personal finance class, while others have several designed to be taken together.

These classes go through concepts like budgeting, debt management, insurance, taxes and investing. If you have questions about more complicated topics, you can reach out to the professor during office hours. Even after graduating, I would still email my personal finance professor with specific questions.

If you’re already taking the maximum amount of credit hours, you can still take advantage of a college personal finance class. Whitney Hansen, Host of The Money Nerds Podcast, is an Adjunct Professor at Boise State where she teaches personal finance. She said students who are busy or don’t have any credit hours can audit a personal finance course instead of enrolling.

Auditing means the course won’t show up on their transcript or use up any credit hours. They also don’t have to worry about attendance or the grade affecting their GPA. Hansen said she always sets aside seats for students who are interested but can’t add another class to their official schedule.

Find Personalized Help

Some colleges offer specific workshops or employ dedicated counselors to provide financial advice to current students. As more and more people push for an increased emphasis on financial literacy in higher education, these options are becoming more readily available every year.

For now, the problem is knowing where to look. If you’re a freshman or go to a large school, finding these programs can be particularly difficult.

“A lot of universities have their financial resources spread out in a few places,” Hansen said. “The best places to look are on your school’s financial aid office website, student affairs department, admissions office, and talking with your academic advisor.”

If you can’t find any personal finance workshops, you can request that the college add one to the docket. Colleges often have a special discretionary budget for student events, and anything directly aimed at promoting post-graduation financial success will be an easy sell.

“Depending on which school you attend, you may also be able to find free personal finance programs or workshops offered through student life/affairs, or as one of the spokes of your school’s overarching wellness program,” said Tara Falcone, CFA, CFP®, Founder of ReisUP and creator of online financial literacy program, LIT. “Finally, you may have the opportunity to attend free personal finance workshops led by alumni who are passionate about financial literacy.”

Go to the Library

If you’ve already got your classes scheduled or your college doesn’t offer financial workshops year-round, you’ll have to take your financial education into your own hands. Start by checking out beginner personal finance books at the college library. 

All of these books will be in the same nonfiction section, usually near business and marketing books. College libraries often have longer loan periods than public libraries, so you should have plenty of time to get through whatever you choose to check out.

If you’re having trouble finding a specific personal-finance book, you can request that the college library purchase it. You’ll probably have to talk to a librarian and fill out a request form. You could also visit the local public library and see if they have a more varied selection.

One age-appropriate selection for college students is Erin Lowry’s “Broke Millennial: Stop Scraping by and Get Your Financial Life Together.”

Lowry, also a Mint contributor, answers elementary questions like, “What kind of bank account should I open?” and “What is an emergency fund?” Her book is easy-to-read and designed for those with no prior personal finance knowledge.

Contact Your Bank

Your bank wants you to be financially successful. The more capital you earn, the more you can save, invest and borrow in the future. Because of this, your bank has a vested interest in helping you learn about personal finance. 

Many banks offer personal finance workshops to customers looking for a better understanding of their finances. These events cover topics like creating a budget, paying off debt and buying a house.

If your bank has a local branch, see if they have any workshops scheduled. Visit your bank’s website or call the branch directly. They may have in-person sessions, virtual classes or webinars. You can also ask if they have financial counselors or educators who offer one-on-one support.

Sometimes you can request the bank to facilitate a workshop for a group, like a club or sorority you’re part of.

If your bank doesn’t have a physical location near you, see if there’s a credit union attached to your school. This is common with major universities, and these credit unions may have special programming designed for college students. You may have to join the credit union to attend a workshop, but they’re often open to the general public.

The post Where to Find Free Financial Resources in College appeared first on MintLife Blog.

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Kolkata boys Rajit Bhattacharya (23) and Ankit Das (22) met as toddlers at nursery school. The two friends grew up together, attending the city’s well-known South Point School. They also landed up at the same engineering college, Jadavpur University. There they met Aisik Paul (23), who was pursuing electronics and telecommunications engineering with Rajit, while Ankit studied chemical engineering. 

The three friends often worked together for various college events and festivals. The trio was adamant about “starting something of their own” and not taking up jobs after graduating from engineering college. That’s why they chose not to appear for a single interview during college placements.

data sutram

Data Sutram co-founders Ankit Das, Aisik Paul and Rajit Bhattacharya (L-R)

In 2018, their final year of college, the batch mates set up data startup Data Sutram, after having skipped placements and amid stiff resistance from their families. 

“Jadavpur University, ranked among the top engineering colleges in India, is known for its placement record and job offers. Coming from service backgrounds, we had immense resistance from our families for not sitting for placements,” say Aisik and Ankit. 

Both their fathers had government jobs. While Aisik’s father was a deputy chief engineer at the state-run Damodar Valley Corporation (DVC), Ankit’s father was a senior civil engineer working for the government of West Bengal.

The resistance from Rajit’s folks was relatively less as his parents had an entrepreneurial background. The senior Bhattacharya, an IIT-graduate, was an engineer in a US firm, before he set up a social enterprise two decades back with Rajit’s mother, also a Jadavpur University engineering graduate. 

Besides the placements, there was also pressure from the families on the three young men to pursue MBA. The group jokes that till date Ankit's father sends him MBA preparation material.

“I think one of the fundamental reasons we didn't pursue MBA is summarised by simple data that suggests that the conversion of MBA graduates into entrepreneurs right after MBA is very low, not just in India but internationally.

“I feel what drew us to entrepreneurship was our technology's ability to make a difference to solve problems. I feel we had really good mentors who helped us bridge the business gap, to never really feel like we needed it, (an MBA)” Rajit says.

The startup was inspired by two major events that led the trio to discover “the power of unstructured data”. 

The first was an internship project in their third year, where they developed a platform that used satellite data to predict crop yield and help the government plan fertiliser distribution and subsidies across the state to encourage farmers to grow and meet demand. 

The second was when they developed a predictive analytics solution for a retail chain as part of a project that measured demographic and ethnic distributions around a store to estimate the potential sales of each grocery item. 

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What does Data Sutram do?

The Kolkata startup helps businesses increase delivery efficiency and reduce marketing burn. “With our data and insight, companies have increased deliveries by over 35 percent, increased growth of push channel by up to 20 percent, and reduced marketing burn by 60 percent,” Rajit says.

With a global shift in focus from globalisation to localisation and the boom of ecommerce, the need of the hour is hyper-local data and actionable insights, he explains. 

Data Sutram uses Artificial Intelligence (AI) methodologies such as Optical Character Recognition (OCR) and Natural Language Processing (NLP) to uncover these raw data sources and compute socio-economic parameters like demography, ethnicity, affluence, and spending capacity to understand a location and help a business. 

This is done by pinpointing new locations for business to expand, improving performance of existing assets (both physical and digital), and microtargeting the right audience for the product. 

According to market research and consulting firm Mordor Intelligence, the data as a service (DaaS) market was valued at $26.23 billion in 2019 and is expected to reach $46.50 billion by 2025, at a compound annual growth rate of 10 percent over the forecast period of 2020-2025.

Data Sutaram expects to break even in three years and hit the Rs 1 crore revenue mark within a year.

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What’s under the hood?

The Data Sutram platform comprises two parts: a data engine and a visualisation platform. The first part is an AI engine that automatically processes raw data from multiple sources, cleans, geotags, structures, and marries it to create socio-economic demographic indexes about every location at various granularity levels. 

“The data engines tap into over 178 data sources of both public and private, including satellites,” Rajit says. 

The visualisation platform is a Geographic Information System (GIS) platform that integrates data visualisation and data analytics to help clients visualise the impact of their decisions on the locations and give them insight to help them leverage the power of location data. 

“The unstructured data lying in the form of text and images within multiple sources is like raw cotton that needs to be processed, cleaned, geotagged and converted into textile that can be readily utilised by a business,” Rajit explains.

As far as competition in India is concerned, it includes the likes of Bengaluru-based location intelligence startups and GeoIq. 

However, Data Sutram believes its “ability to make use of unstructured data (in the form of images, text in different languages not readily consumable for a business) through its AI engine” sets it apart.

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Investment pitches and funding 

The startup was initially bootstrapped and surviving on revenue from consultancy projects, with six engineers on board. Three months after graduating from engineering college, the trio received a call from serial entrepreneur-turned-angel investor Sanjay Mehta to come pitch in Mumbai to be part of the first cohort of 100X.VC, a venture capital firm set up by him.

The team managed to raise its first cheque within two days of its maiden investment pitch. 

“Two weeks of the 100X.VC programme gave exposure to a huge industry circuit and funding circle opened up a lot of opportunities for us fresh-out-of-college engineers and proved to be a life-changing event,” Rajit says.

Data Sutaram raised Rs 25 lakh from 100X.VC. It is currently in talks with angel networks to raise around Rs 2 crore within the next two-three months. 

Currently the startup has a 11-member team, including the three co-founders.

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Coronavirus disruption and improvisation

Data Sutram’s focus sectors are retail, ecommerce, agri tech and BFSI (Banking, Financial Services and Insurance). Amid the coronavirus pandemic, the retail sector has taken a big hit and the startup’s clients have been unable to pay for the services. 

“However, with a quick turnaround time, our focus has shifted towards essential services like groceries and pharmacies,” Rajit says.

Just as location intelligence methodologies such as geofencing and geo-targeting are being utilised by the government to tackle the spread of the coronavirus, the same can be done to solve the bottlenecks that have come up in supply-chain logistics, he adds.

“Our platform along with the population density, store coordinates, and other external data points can predict the demand of essential commodities for every locality. The platform can track the demand real time and prevent an area from having a shortage crisis by alerting distributors, pharma and grocery chains, and authorities about an impending crisis.”

Citizens can also alert and convey their need for essential goods that they are unable to find in their neighbourhood by directly accessing the platform and submitting their query. 

“Our platform has helped one of the most reputed pharma brands of western India to deliver medicines to a larger number of housing societies in Mumbai, Pune and Thane, helping it utilise its resources more efficiently,” Rajit says. 

(Edited by Teja Lele Desai)

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