Alum Paul Pradel: Navigating the financial side of a pandemic

April 21, 2020 - Liz Schondelmayer

Paul Pradel is a 1993 graduate of Michigan State University’s College of Social Science. Paul graduated with an Interdisciplinary Studies major and now owns a financial consulting company called Pradel Financial Group

On April 16, the Department of Human Development and Family Studies, together with MSU Extension, the Gast Business Library and MSU Federal Credit Union, hosted “Go for the Green,” a webinar for students about how to stay financially afloat during the COVID-19 crisis. Speaking at the event was financial planner and MSU alumni Paul Pradel (pictured left), who has shared some advice for students as they navigate this pandemic.

What is your main piece of advice for students who are struggling financially due to the COVID-19 crisis?

My advice for anyone during tough times is to reign in expenses. If cash flow is tight and you have a cash reserve, you can stretch that cash reserve out as long as possible by cutting back on unnecessary expenses. 

The interesting thing about the current crisis is we don't have a lot of options to spend money. In a way, we’ve been forced into frugality. There's a lesson in this situation for everybody, but for students in particular who are just launching, this is a great time to learn to designate necessities from wants. Being mindful is key.

This isn’t the first time America has seen a major economic crisis. How have you helped clients through tough times before, and what can students learn from those experiences?

Fear is a lousy place to start making decisions from. Try to settle down. It's horrible to go through what we're going through right now, but you can’t let fear be the driver of the decisions you make.

I also try to offer perspective - we've been here before. And guess what? We’ve always gotten through these tough periods. We've been through recessions and market crashes, and we've come out of every single one of them. And I believe very confidently we will come out of this one, too.

What advice do you have for this year’s graduation as they embark on job searching in the midst of the pandemic?

It goes without saying that this situation is incredibly difficult, but there are some things graduates can do to keep themselves busy. If a graduating student doesn't have a job lined up yet, they can at least do some things to make their resume stronger. Whether it’s learning a new skill or taking an online class, no one in a hiring position is going to look down on a candidate for taking initiative. It could even be a deciding factor that gets a candidate a job later down the road.

As soon as graduating students do secure employment, I hope they keep in mind the lessons of this crisis and the importance of budgeting and maintaining a cash reserve when possible.

Why, as an alum, is it so important for you to give back to our students? 

I love Michigan State. I'm thankful that my parents provided the opportunity for me to get an education, and I'm grateful I chose Michigan State. During school and in my professional years, there have been many people who made contributions to me in one way or another. And I recall on a few occasions when I went to thank someone, they told me that the thanks I can offer will be to repeat their generosity when I am in the position to help another.

Having developed a successful business and with my two daughters growing up and launching in their lives, I found myself with some free time. And I decided I wanted to give back. While I am involved in a few nonprofit organizations, I particularly value the experiences I have had giving back to MSU. I have been on campus as a guest speaker and cherish that opportunity. And once we are beyond COVID-19, I plan to be back many times. I love Michigan State - it's my place. I'm really proud to be a Spartan.

On a personal note, what’s your one main piece of advice for students about getting through this crisis as people?

I'm pretty darn impressed by the resiliency of people, and a lot of that has inspired me. I think we all have to get back to being kinder to ourselves and others and taking better care of ourselves. What's worked for me is to embrace this. It's a lousy situation, but I can't change it. It reminds me of something I learned a long time ago.

Things fall into three buckets: the first are things we control; the second are things we influence; and the third are things we can't control or influence. While we can do things to influence our risk of the virus by staying home, washing hands, physical distancing etc., we cannot control it. COVID-19 along with the fallout to the economy, the arts and education etc. is for the most part out of our control. And I try to spend most of my time on bucket one items which are within my control. I suggest using this time to reconnect with people, workout, read a book, brush up on a language, learn an instrument or anything else that can be healthy and grounding.

We are going to get through this. And my hope is we will all take some lessons from this to improve our quality of life. 

Keep up with the latest COVID-19 updates and find MSU community resources here.