Most people learn their spending habits from their mother, usually by the age of 7. For Michael Thomas, a Ph.D. student in UGA’s financial planning department, his mother taught him to face money matters head-on. Despite growing up in a single-parent home where dinner was often sausage with Ramen Noodles, Michael’s mom never backed away from managing their financial affairs.
“There are so many situations in life where it’s easy to go into avoidance mode and hope that things will get better, instead of doing what you can to make it better,” he said. “Winning is taking a first step, and as long as you’re doing that, good things will happen.”
This is a message he carries with him as he works on his dissertation. Michael arrived at UGA in 2014 to pursue his master’s degree. However, an opportunity arose for him to go the doctoral route, and receiving a graduate assistantship in the College of Family & Consumer Sciences made it a reality.
“Without having a graduate assistantship, I’m not sure if I would have been able to pursue a doctoral degree,” he said. “Having the assistantship allowed me to follow my passions by helping to create programs that impact kids and adults.”
The subject of Michael’s dissertation is financial well-being in low-income households. He is researching why some low-income families demonstrate better financial well-being than others, even if they’re equally constricted in their spending ability. A major factor he has found is access to social capital, or a safety net, when financial issues arise.
“Financial well-being is subjective,” he said. “It’s more complex than how much money you have in your bank account.”