Most Americans don’t receive financial education in their younger years, said Helen Andrews, lecturer in the University of Washington’s School of Business — and yet “financial literacy is so important for young adults as they transition to becoming financially independent.”
To help their fellow students become better versed in financial matters, students in a project management class taught by Nick Cuhaciyan, adjunct professor in the School of Business, partnered with UW Bothell’s Finance Club to host a Financial Literacy Fair. The event was held in April to coincide with National Financial Literacy Month.
The students also tapped into the expertise of additional students in the Supply Chain Management Club and in the UW Bothell chapter of Beta Alpha Psi to produce the event.
“The hope for this event — and always for my class — was to teach students how all the personal finance pieces fit together in the bigger picture so that they can make informed and goal-oriented financial decisions,” Andrews said.
Closing knowledge gaps
“While these are topics of conversation in our club and some of the finance classes, we believe it’s important for all students to learn about money management.”
Taking the collaboration even further, the Finance Club brought on the nonprofit organization Your Money Matters Mentoring to help curate the companies and nonprofit organizations that would present at the event.
“It’s so important for us to learn the pillars of financial literacy and to have the tools to know why our money matters,” said Jenna Tran, the club lead and a senior majoring in Business Administration with concentrations in Finance and in Technology & Innovation Management.
According to Clint Taylor, YMMM founder, “Talking about money is one of the most difficult conversations to have, yet it’s also among the most important. In looking into which organizations to bring to this event, we wanted to close that gap and provide students with mentors who could offer guidance on how to be financially literate.
“The students asked great questions,” he said, “including how to pay off student loans and how to build credit — even how to plan for early retirement!”
Sharing their expertise
More than 10 financial institutions participated in the educational event, such as the Washington State Employees Credit Union, Washington Office of the State Treasurer, Express Credit Union and Financial Beginnings.
UW Bothell alumnus Arturo Vazquez (Business Administration ’22), a traveling community teller, said he was excited to come back to campus as a representative of Express CU.
“Graduating from UW Bothell with a concentration in Finance and now returning to talk about finance was a full circle moment for me,” he said. “It’s amazing to see the work students are doing to promote financial literacy.
“The importance of knowing the resources available and knowing how to use those tools to be successful in life can’t be emphasized enough and this event did just that.”
Building healthy money habits
“What you don’t know is what will hurt you, and no one ever taught me to view money as a tool,” Taylor said. “A lot of young people aren’t taught how to take care of their finances. They just mimic what they have experienced, which is sometimes detrimental. During the event we talked about principles such as investing and building a credit score, but we started by teaching healthy relationships with money.
“We start with critical thinking so that we can break unhealthy financial habits we learn from the world, then we provide the building blocks to teach young people how to manage their money so that they can engage with their money in a way that works for them — and not against them.”
The attention to detail did not go unnoticed by student attendees. Elsie Macharia, a junior majoring in Business Administration with a Finance concentration and Accounting option, said the event opened doors for her.
“I got to talk to so many people who gave me educational resources, their contact information and their websites that included budget trackers. I learned about how my spending habits should relate to my income, and how to properly budget.
Making new connections
Noting that “so many students can benefit from these resources,” Macharia said she is looking to volunteer for future events to help other students — and to bolster her experience and financial network before pursuing a career as a financial adviser.
Tran is proud of the work the Finance Club did to host the fair and also looks forward to organizing more educational activities.
“Being able to curate a successful event was a transformative educational experience,” said Tran. “The fair was a hit — I am so proud of the teamwork across classes and clubs to make this happen.
“We are definitely hoping to hold more events and workshops in the future to help UW Bothell students graduate with a clear path not just toward their career but also their financial future.”