Beyond the Numbers: Finance course tackles life’s big questions

September 29, 2020

Personal Financial Planning helps students identify strengths, values

SAN ANTONIO – A finance course at the H-E-B School of Business and Administration is going beyond the numbers and seeking to answer some of life's more meaningful questions. Who am I? Why am I here? What is my purpose?

Unlike most finance courses, Personal Financial Planning (BFIN 3310) is not numbers driven. Instead, students are given the opportunity through writing assignments to identify and explore their inner motivations and personal strengths. With this knowledge in hand, students develop a plan to accomplish their life's goals using the tools of personal financial planning.

Associate Professor of Finance Dr. Tim Griesdorn, who teaches the course, says its value extends beyond just business students. In fact, Personal Financial Planning has no prerequisites and is open to all UIW students.

"BFIN 3310 has the power to change lives, increase student retention, and set us apart from every other school out there. Nowhere else are students going to learn the financial life skills they need to be successful in any career they choose," Griesdorn said. "COVID-19 has people struggling to make ends meet, but we aren't showing our students how to comparison shop for basic services like cellphones and insurance policies. More than ever we need to help future students understand the power of persisting until they complete their degree program."

Most of the grades for the course come from writing assignments for which there are no right or wrong answers. The course asks you to think about and answer deep spiritual questions like, "what is my passion, purpose and calling in life?"

Griesdorn says the course is structured to help students explore the answers to these and other questions through a sequence of unique assignments.

"First, I strive to delegate power and authority to the students. I tell them I don't have any of the answers, but I am a fellow traveler on this path. Together we will all work on the same assignments, but each will have a different experience. A classroom culture of trust and openness is stressed at the very beginning," Griesdorn said.

One of the first assignments is to identify and visit on-campus resources, such as Career Services, the Testing Center, Counseling Services and others. Next is a values assessment which brings to the surface the values that drive each student's decision-making process. A strengths finder test then helps students determine which personality type they have and the skills associated with each strength.

"This often gives them a great elevator speech when interviewing and can act as a guide when making career decisions," Griesdorn said.

Once students have started to establish who they are, the course shifts to creating a roadmap for the future with assignments on goals, habits, passion, purpose and service to others.

"Then we can start to use the tools of financial planning to help them turn their dreams into concrete action plans," Griesdorn said. "This is where the tools of comprehensive financial planning are used to buy a house, insure the house, get a budget together, research careers, and how much they will earn out of college, and make end-of-life decisions with a living will."

The overall goal of the course is to give students the time and opportunity explore who they are and where they want to go in life, and then teach them the skills needed to get there.

Personal Financial Planning is offered in the fall and spring. It is a required course for finance majors and is part of the Certified Financial Planner™ certificate curriculum.

Contact Dr. Griesdorn ( to learn more about the course. Students who want to enroll in the course should contact their advisors about incorporating it into their schedule.

Learn more about the finance program at UIW.