Humans of Haas: Professor Selinger
Written by Mira Celly.
Professor Selinger began teaching Personal Finance (UGBA 196) at Cal after working in corporate finance, insurance, and consulting. Read our interview with to learn more about him and his journey to Berkeley Haas!
- Tell me about yourself.
I grew up in Oakland and had my first experience with money was when I was ten years old. My dad told me, “ whatever money you make, you can buy whatever you want” and that really shaped my life. I learned that it is ok to save before spending! I bought a racing bike, wood clarinet, and baseball mitt with the money I earned from a newspaper route.
2. What is your professional experience? How did you get into the career path that you chose?
I have been licensed in securities, real estate, and insurance and have worked in corporate finance and been the CEO of both public and private companies. I started work at an insurance company but my pay wasn’t performance based, so I decided to go somewhere I could be paid on performance and commissions. I went to work on Wall Street and developed a large clientele and became a partner of the firm at age 31. When I went back to SF, I opened a corporate finance office for the company before starting to work in crisis management for troubled companies in the Bay Area.
3. Why did you decide to start teaching? Why Berkeley Haas?
Before teaching at Cal, I had been volunteer teaching at inner city high schools and middle schools in the Bay Area. Some were in areas where most teachers didn’t want to teach. I usually taught 3-5 classes on Wednesdays as my way to give back to the community.
One day, I had lunch with the Dean of Political Science and suggested there should be some sort of personal finance class for young graduates. Two years later, the class finally started with 24 students. Enrollment grew so fast it was moved to Haas and Andersen Auditorium to fit the growing interest for the class!
I’m also very proud of the campus support group I co-founded to support Cal students who have lived in foster care, are orphans, or wards of the court.
4. What is one of your most memorable moments from teaching?
A minority student in one of my classes at Cal came to me and said she helped her father sign up for a 401k retirement plan at work, and was helping her family prepare a budget so that her younger brother could attend college.
5. What’s one piece of advice you have for current students, especially those who are recruiting?
Summertime jobs or internships are a wonderful time to expose yourself to a different types of experiences. They can help you open new doors and give you insights to things you like or don’t like. It’s wonderful to have a summer job. I learned a lot about myself and about learning to work with and get along with other people during the summer, even though some of the jobs were pretty miserable.
6. What are your hobbies? How do you spend your free time?
I have spent a lot of time writing textbooks for the course. There still aren’t good textbooks to help millennials learn what that they need to know when they graduate into the current complexities of the financial world.
I also love to travel with my wife. My favorite places have been a safari in Tanzania and trip to Antarctica!
7. What is one book you think all students should read?
How to Win Friends and Influence People by Dale Carnegie
It is the bible of communication! Read it, think about it, and then read it again and think about it more.