Professionals discuss loans, debt, financial security at Foster panel

A panel consisting of Denise Ray, a financial aid counselor, Chris Kul, North Russell Hall Director, Holly Kelly, Supervisory Special Agent and George Springer, Merrill Lynch Wealth Management Advisor discussed the topics of student loan repayment, budgeting post graduation, financial security and wealth management. Trey Honeycutt | Lariat Photographer

A panel of professionals discussed student loans, debt repayment, identity theft prevention and wealth management on Tuesday afternoon at the Paul L. Foster Campus for Business and Innovation.

Denise Ray, a financial aid counselor for Baylor’s Student Financial Aid Office, outlined services available to undergraduate, graduate, law and seminary students, such as advice about financial aid and student loans. She spoke about different types of loan use as well as how to reduce borrowing through saving, budgeting and jobs.

Chris Kuhl, a Baylor alumnus and the Residence Hall Director for North Russell Hall, spoke to students about his personal journey navigating through student loan repayment after college. Together, he and his wife were $78,000 in debt. He said he felt trapped without a spending plan, concept of savings or spending rates.

Kuhl said he developed a spending plan for each month that divided necessities and wants. Through this, he and his wife were able to pay off their combined debt in just a few years.

“Debt doesn’t dictate your life; you can make choices to develop a spending plan so that you can live life to the fullest,” Kuhl’s said.

FBI Supervisory Special Agent Holly Kelley, supervisor of the White Collar Crime Squad in Austin and certified public accountant, spoke to the group of students about protecting Personally Identifiable Information and what to do if one’s identity is stolen. PII is any information someone can collect in order to steal your identity. This includes a social security number, email address, bank information and even a mother’s maiden name. She discussed that identity theft can occur through something as simple as having a wallet stolen to something as complex as phishing emails. Identity thieves can drain bank accounts and incur large debts. In order to protect oneself from identity theft, she recommends shredding all documents containing PII, deleting spam and using strong passwords.

“Make ‘em work for it,” Kelley said.

The last speaker, George Springer, Vice President and the lead Wealth Management Advisor for Merrill Lynch, discussed how college students should be managing their wealth and debts.

“Start early and start now,” Springer said.

He advised students to ask themselves for every dollar they spend, if it is for a need or for a want. Springer also gave advice to students about how to invest, using credit cards wisely and that a high credit score is the best asset you can own.

“My first job, I was a janitor. I didn’t inherit one penny of what I have today. I have plenty of money to spend but none to burn,” Springer said. “If this poor old boy from West Texas can do it, you can do it.”

Some students found value in the information presented by the panel.

“I thought as a senior that it was very helpful and provided information that Baylor students are unaware of,” said Buffalo senior Saxton Randle-Sims.

The panel was presented by Student Financial Foundations, a Baylor program providing peer-mentoring and student financial counseling.