Comedian talks financial literacy

Comedian and financial adviser Colin Ryan spoke on campus this week about pursuing dreams and a healthy financial future.

Ryan states, “When I look at my life, I see all these decisions that I made without good advice, without feeling like I could talk to anybody, afraid to admit that I’d seem dumb for not knowing more about money and how it works.”

Addressing the audience, Ryan asked, “What would you like to do with your life?”

Several students answered. Aurora says she wants to create with her hands and buy a letterpress. Nick says he wants to be a voice actor and natural history teacher — Zack, a National Geographic photographer. August wants to travel full time.

“If you have a dream, and you believe you can do it, I believe you can do it. I’m not going to tell you, you can’t. When you save money, you buy yourself time, time to get good at your dream, time to meet people who will help you get a job you love. Your money is your mobility,” Ryan says. “Eighty percent of adults are not passionate about the work they do.”

“In order to get money, you need skills. The first skill is to decrease your debt. This is the reality about college. You are here. This is a business transaction. You are here to learn, to acquire skills to get you where you want to be. When you leave college, you have a number it becomes a part of your financial reality. Don’t borrow more for college than you expect to earn your first year out of school,” Ryan says.

According to Ryan, the average debt for a graduating UAA senior is $28,001. On top of that, the average senior leaves college with $4,000 in credit card debt.

Ryan says when talking about debt, people usually disengage and even tend to go out and purchase more items.

“Don’t keep digging yourself into a deeper hole,” Ryan says. “Be proactive. Every dollar that you save is a dollar that you have. Live with loans, not on them, put off rewards, save what you can, pay off your debt, get started as soon as you can.”

The Office of Financial Aid hosted this event in an effort to give students more access to financial literacy.

Director of Financial Aid Sonya Stein states, “It’s (financial literacy) very important for everyone really — but especially for college students, because these four years of your life, students can make some very big mistakes that can affect their future, so we are hoping that a little bit of information that Colin provides can make a positive change in people’s lives.”

Stein encourages all students to think seriously about their financial futures and start taking steps to set themselves up now while they have the opportunities.

“One of the things I love most about my job working in the Financial Aid Office is I have the opportunity to help students not to make the mistakes that I made in college.” Stein says. “I borrowed too much, more student loans than I needed. I took those refund checks and did not spend them appropriately. I spent them on fun things, going out and having fun. I wish I would have had some of this information when I was 18, 19 or 20 years old before making those bad decisions.”

“I really hope that people can believe in that message, and put it to good use. If they have questions, we are available in the University Center. There are several websites available for more information about financial aid. One of the services that UAA provides is called the cash course, and it’s on the UAA Financial Aid website. It’s a free service and provides all sorts of financial literacy information, from budgeting, to information about loans, interest and how to repay loans in a timely manner,” Stein said.

Ryan also suggested several websites during his presentation that help with tracking money. can assist you in coming up with a monthly budget. His website, has both financial literacy success and horror stories. If you missed the show, there are also videos you can view of Ryan’s comedy.

Ryan states, “Don’t buy something you don’t have money for. You should be thinking, ‘If I have to borrow it, then I can’t afford it.’”

“What would happen if you lost your job, or had some unexpected medical expenses? How would you pay it back?” Ryan asked. “It’s important to create some sort of budget. Only 30 percent of adults budget.”

Ryan also says a good way to start making a budget is to make a list of things you spend money on, and then categorize them. If you spend money on something small, like chips and a soda, it’s still part of a larger picture.

“You will learn a lot about yourself once you start budgeting, and it can be humorous,” he said.

“I think that the biggest thing I discovered is I was one of those people who said I was frugal, and then when I started budgeting I was like, ‘Oh no, I’m not actually,’” Ryan said. “The biggest thing for me is I discovered I was spending almost $50 a month on ice cream, because I just loved it. It’s easy to be like, ‘Oh, I think I had it last week or whatever,’ and to just rationalize it away, but when you track it, it’s like, ‘OK, this is actually what’s happening.’”

“And if I could insert another thing which I’ve learned is that people may not see in you the potential to do something big in your life, but it’s in there. I started out just like everyone else, searching for something that I was passionate about, and now to be able to travel around and to share things I believe in and have a good time with students, I feel very lucky,” he says.

Ryan also encourages kids to try out as many things as possible. He started out as a writer and journalist.

Ryan said those things did not match his personality, and he eventually came to the conclusion that they were not good fits for him.

After working in an accounting firm and on several medical projects, a friend invited Ryan to an acting class. He was terrified, but after the class knew comedy was his calling.

“When I found this work, I just knew,” he said. “And that’s what’s nice, it’s like you’ll hit, when you find it, you’ll know.”

This was the first financial literacy event hosted by UAA.

Stein says, “We are thrilled at the turnout, and so the whole evening to me was a success, looking out and seeing all the students who came really inspired me. So I’m definitely going to do it again and make sure we get some repeat performances.”


UAA’s Financial Aid Office can be contacted at 907-786-1480.


Written by Suhaila Brunelle

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