The study of finance often feels a lot narrower than it really is. There is a lot of talk of issuing bonds or pricing projects which belies how relevant finance is to everyday life, regardless of whether or not you have any desire of working in finance.
Understanding the Economic Environment
Finance plays an involved role in the health of the overall economy, which impacts everyone, regardless of whether or not they have studied finance. The field of finance explains why the 2008 recession occurred; it is the reason why people care about how the stock market is doing each day (Figure 1); and it articulates why businesses and governments make some of the decisions they do.
Finance plays a role in many of the stories in the news every day, which means that those who understand finance have a better grasp on how the events of the world affect them.
Each person will also have to manage his or her own personal finances. Like corporations, individuals are faced with investment and financing decisions. In order to invest, individuals must be able to do the same projections and valuations as companies in order to determine the best investment for their needs. Individuals cannot sell equity like corporations, but they can choose to either dip into their savings or take out loans. Many take on debt in the form of student loans, mortgages, or through their credit cards; being able to properly compare options to leverage is just as important for individuals as it is for companies.
Application to Business
Of course, finance is an important field of study for those who have a desire of working in finance or accounting. Finance is heavily used in jobs ranging from investment banker to CFO to venture capitalist.
However, finance is not segmented from the other functions in business. Every job from marketing to engineering has to be able to manage a budget and make a business case that it should get funding for a project.
This is especially true higher up in the organizational hierarchy: managers, directors, and vice presidents need to be able to articulate why their departments should get financial support from the company.
Finance is a field of both hard analytical skill and personal judgement. There are set processes and theories for determining which financial option is best, but in the real world, it is rare to have all of the information needed to be absolutely certain about what to do. Finance develops strong analytical skills, but also the degree of finesse required to operate in an environment of uncertainty.