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Financial Literacy

To be financially literate is to have the skills and knowledge to make informed financial decisions and understand the products and services that impact your financial wellbeing. The Financial Aid Office strives to educate, motivate and support UW Oshkosh students throughout their college career by giving them the tools to build a stable financial future.

Research shows that as little as 10 hours of personal financial education will positively impact a student’s spending and saving habits.


A financial literacy tool made specifically for college students.

Your Life, Your Money

A PBS series to help you make smart money decisions.


Identity Theft

Six  Ways to Protect Yourself Against Identity Theft

  1. Do not over-share on social networks. Always have your privacy settings at the highest level. Do not share facts like your exact birthday or other information that could be used to answer security questions, such as your mother’s maiden name.
  2. Keep your anti-virus and anti-malware software up to date. Not only should you have the newest version of software on your computer but you should also keep the financial information that is on your computer to a minimum.
  3. Handle financial documents with care. Keep only the documents that are necessary for taxes or other purposes in a safe location. All other documents that have personal information on them should be shredded.
  4. Create strong and different passwords. It is important to have special characters in your passwords and they should only be known to you. You should have several different passwords; using only one or two passwords makes it incredibly easy for criminals to steal your identity.
  5. Be careful with unsecured Wi-Fi. You should never do online financial transactions over an open network. Criminals are very skilled in hacking your password as you type it into your computer. Only do your online banking at home on a secured Wi-Fi network.
  6. Monitor your credit and bank accounts closely. By monitoring your credit and bank accounts, you will be able to spot anything out of the ordinary as soon as it happens. The sooner you report any odd activity to your bank or credit card company, the less damage will be done to your accounts.

How could my identity get stolen?

  • Internet information: Signing up for any website will require a lot of your personal information. Many websites will sell that information to others without your consent.
  • Skimming: Criminals are able to collect the information after your credit card by using an electronic device called a skimmer.
  • Dumpster diving: Searching through garbage looking for credit card bills or bank statements that contains all of your financial information.
  • Stealing your mail, wallet or purse: When the criminal takes your credit card or bank statement.
  • Fraud: When a criminal poses as your landlord or employer and asks for your personal and financial information.
  • Shoulder surfing: Be careful when you are typing in your passwords if you are in a public place. Anyone could be looking over your shoulder.

Banking Basics

Banking Basics —by Better Money Habits

Where does my money go?

  • Checking: This is the account that you withdraw money from when you write a check, make a purchase with your debit card or get cash from an ATM. The money in this account is money that you plan on spending.
  • Savings: This account is meant to keep the money you want to save. It has more protection so you should keep most of your money in your savings. Savings accounts earn a small amount of interest, so the more money you have in your savings the more interest you will earn each month.
  • Certificate of Deposit (CDs): A CD is a great way to earn more interest on your money than if it were just sitting in your Savings Account. You set aside a certain amount of money for a specific amount of time, anywhere from several months to several years. This money will earn a higher rate of interest because you promised to leave it in the bank for a certain amount of time. It is a great, safe way to earn more interest on your savings.

Banks v. Credits Unions

Here on campus we have the UW Credit Union. But what is a credit union? And how does it differ from commercial banks like Chase and the Bank of America?

Credit Unions are nonprofit organizations and are created and owned by their members. Any profits that the company makes are paid back to the members through dividends.

Commercial Banks are corporations who are owned publicly by stockholders. Commercial banks have nationwide branches that make it easy to connect with your bank anywhere in the United States.

Credit Cards

Different Kinds of Credit Cards

  • General-Purpose Cards: These are the types of credit cards that can be used almost anywhere such as Visa or MasterCard.
  • Private-Label Retail Cards: These cards are issued by a specific retailer, such as Target or Cabela’s. Generally these cards can only be used in the store that supplies them. However, more retailers have begun issuing cards that can be used like a general-purpose card.
  • Unsecured Cards: The credit card issuer will extend a line of credit based on your credit history. Most general-purpose cards are administered this way.
  • Secured Cards: These cards are backed by funds that you put into a deposit account, so if you do not pay your bills the credit card company can collect the money by default.

Must-Know Terms

  • Credit Line/Limit: The total amount you can charge on your credit card each month, including interest and fees.
  • Annual Percentage Rate (APR): The percent interest that is charged on your balance carried over from the previous month.
  • Grace Period: The number of days you have to pay your bill in full before interest accrues. Not all credit cards offer a grace period, so make sure the credit card you choose has one.
  • Cash Advance: Withdrawing cash from an ATM or bank using your credit card instead of your debit card. Most credit cards will charge you for taking a cash advance, so do not withdraw cash using your credit card unless it is absolutely necessary.
  • Authorized User: Any person who has permission to use a credit card but is not responsible for paying the bill.


Credit card companies make most of their money issuing fees. Be cautious when you choose your credit card company and be familiar with the fees that may apply to you. Here is a list of common credit card fees:

  • Annual fee: A yearly feel charged for the convenience of having a credit card. This fee can be anywhere from $15-$300. When picking your credit card, look for the one that has the lowest annual fee or no fee at all.
  • Application fee: A fee charged when you apply for a credit card. This fee is usually $10-$15.
  • Cash advance fee: A fee charged for using a credit card to withdraw money from an ATM. Almost every credit card charges for taking out a cash advance, and it is usually 2-5% of the cash you take out.
  • Balance transfer fee: A fee charged when you transfer a balance from one credit card to another.
  • Finance charge: A monthly interest charge for the convenience of carrying a credit card balance beyond the grace period. This charge won’t affect you if you pay your bill in full each month.
  • Late fee: A charge for making less than the minimum payment or making a payment past the due date.
  • Over-the-limit-fee: Having a balance above your credit limit.
  • Returned check fee: Having a payment check returned from your bank because there was not enough money in your account to cover the payment.
  • Foreign transaction fee: A fee charged on transactions made in a foreign currency.

Credit Scores

A credit score is a number used by financial institutions that represents your calculated measure of risk. It is calculated by taking into account numerous factors in your credit history.

What does a credit score do?

A credit score will help you to determine your ability to get a mortgage, car loan, credit loan, school loan, etc. It will also determine the rate at which you get your loan. As your score increases, lenders will be more willing to give you larger loans at a lower interest rate.

What affects a credit score?

  • Whether or not you pay your bills on time
  • How much money you owe
  • How much new credit you have
  • How long you’ve been establishing credit
  • The variety of credit that you have (credit cards, mortgages, car loans)

What is the range of a credit score?

Most credit scores range from 300-900, however they can vary based on the institution that calculates the scores. Having a score of 720 or higher will allow you to receive the best interest rates.

How do you improve your credit score?

  • Review your credit report for any possible errors
  • Refrain from opening a lot of new accounts over a short period of time
  • Pay your bills on time and in full
  • Don’t open an credit lines you don’t plan on using
  • Pay off any credit card balances without transferring them to a different card
  • Do not close paid-off accounts that you don’t use anymore, because the credit history will stay with you as long as you keep the account open

How do you get your credit score?

There are three main credit report agencies online where you can get your credit report and credit score:

  1. Equifax
  2. Experian
  3. TransUnion


How to create a budget

Budgets are personal and should be tailored to you and your lifestyle.

  1. Gather every financial statement you can. This includes bank statements, investment accounts, recent bills and all information regarding your income and expenses.
  2. Record all of your scores of income. You should record your income as a monthly amount.
  3. Create a list of monthly expenses. Make a list of all the expected expenses you plan on incurring over the course of a month, such as mortgage payments, car payments, insurance, groceries, utilities…anything you spend money on!
  4. Break expenses into two categories: fixed and variable. Fixed expenses are those that stay relatively the same each month and are required to support your way of living (mortgages, car payments, credit card payments). Variable expenses change from month to month (groceries, gas, eating out).
  5. Total your monthly income and monthly expenses. Ideally your income should be more than your expenses, because this will allow you to pay off any debt or put your extra income into a savings or retirement fund.
  6. Make adjustments to your expenses. Look for expenses that you can cut back on, mainly variable expenses (like shopping or eating out) to help save money.
  7. Review your monthly budget. It is important to make sure you are staying on track with your budget. At the end of each month, check to see if your actual expenses were close to your budgeted expenses and make adjustments to your budget if necessary.

Setting Financial Goals

  1. Short-term goals can be accomplished in less that three months, and include saving for things like a newly released album, weekend getaway, or tickets to see a concert/sporting event.
  2. Intermediate-term goals can be accomplished in less than a year, such as buying a new laptop or television.
  3. Long-term goals take more than a year to accomplish, such as saving for a new car or retirement.

Be SMART with your goals:

  • Specific: “I will eat out only once a week” is more focused than “I will eat out less than I used to.”
  • Measurable: “I will spend $50 on groceries each week” can be easily tracked and monitored whereas “I will spend less on groceries” cannot be measured.
  • Attainable: “I will save $10 each week” is more practical than “I will save $40 each week” when you don’t have a lot of money.
  • Relevant: “I will start looking for internships” is more relevant to you as a college student than “I will start looking at houses.”
  • Time-Based: “I will start looking for a better credit card company in three weeks after I pay my bills” is a time-sensitive goal, rather than “I will start looking for a better credit card company sometime soon.”


Types of Income

Earned Income is the most common way of making money and is generated by working (i.e. a job, owning a business, consulting, etc).


  • You do not need to start-up capital to start earning an income.
  • You can start investing in other things if you want to.
  • Its the best and safest way to buildup your savings.


  • Once you stop working you stop making money.
  • To make more money you have to learn a new or more valuable skill, or work longer hours.
  • Earned Income is taxed at a higher rate than any other type of income.

Portfolio Income is generated by selling an investment for more than you paid for (i.e. trading stocks or bonds, buying and selling real estate).


  • Once you have the knowledge you can continue to earn more and more money (compound your return).
  • Portfolio assets are usually held long-term and therefore taxed at a lower rate.


  • It takes special knowledge to be able to trade stocks or sell real estate.
  • It is very risky to invest in something you have no control over, like the stock market.
  • In order to invest you need a decent amount of savings in case you lose money or your investments.

Passive Income is generated from assets that you have already purchased or created (i.e. rental income, creating and selling books, patents, etc.).


  • Once you make a good investment the income will continuously come in year-after-year, with little work on your part.
  • Passive incomes tend to be taxed at a lower rate.
  • Many passive investments can be funded using borrowed income.


  • You need to have knowledge of investing before you can expect to make this kind of income.
  • This is the most difficult income to generate.

Financial Success

We all want to be financially independent, but financial success does not happen overnight. It takes time to plan, save and invest in your future. Here are a few guidelines to get you started on your path to financial freedom.

  1. Establish goals
  2. Take stock of your current financial situation
  3. Create a spending and savings plan
  4. Establish an emergency savings fund
  5. Invest diversely
  6. Make sure you’re covered (get insurance)
  7. Establish a good credit history
  8. Eliminate your debt

Paying Back Student Loans

It may seem like a daunting task but there are many tools at your disposal to make paying off your student debt manageable.
GradReady has a Loan Counselor Tool to help you make a repayment plan:

  • Update your loans: You can upload and keep track of all of the loans you have accumulated throughout your college career.
  • Ability to pay: You can upload your budget (if you have one) or manually add your income and how much of it you can spend on repaying your loans each month.
  • Create a strategy: GradReady will provide a variety of different repayment options so you can pick which one is best suited for you.
  • Implement strategy: Create a plan on how to carry out the strategy you chose and start repaying your debt.

Great Advice for Graduates

Hours and Location

Dempsey Hall, Room 104
Walk-In Hours:
Mondays and Fridays
8:00 a.m.–4:00 p.m.
Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday
10:00 a.m. - 3:00 p.m.
Schedule an appointment with your fiancial aid Counselor
Office Hours: 8 a.m.–4:30 p.m.

Mailing Address

Financial Aid Office
UW Oshkosh
800 Algoma Blvd.
Oshkosh, WI 54901

Contact Us
 (920) 424-3377
Fax: (920) 424-0284