Money matters

Peer financial coaches help MU students toward financial freedom.

Peer financial coach Bridgette Jackson
Learning how to budget and manage finances is are essential life skills, says peer financial coach Bridgette Jackson. Vivi Abraham/University of Missouri

By Theo Schwinke

Financial stress is real. Seventy percent of college students have personal financial stress; 30% have considered leaving school because of it.

Those figures come from the MU Office for Financial Success (OFS), which seeks to help relieve that stress through workshops, presentations to groups and classes, and individual coaching. OFS services are free to all MU students.

The work is done by peer financial coaches, who are typically business or personal financial planning students with an interest in personal finance and counseling strategy. Coaches range from a second semester freshman to a graduating senior. Currently there are eight.

“Our primary goal is raising awareness among students, faculty and staff,” said OFS program manager Alex Embree. “Nearly every single person who walks through our door says, ‘I wish I had known about you earlier.’”

Peer financial coaches are currently busy helping Mizzou students with their taxes. The work helps the peer financial counselors learn the nuance of tax preparation.

Peer financial coach Bridgette Jackson, a senior from Bethlehem, Pennsylvania, is majoring in business administration with an emphasis in finance. She enjoys being able to help students begin their journey of financial freedom.

“The words ‘personal finance’ can seem overwhelming, but they truly are not as intimidating as they may seem,” Jackson said.

“Personal finances are often overlooked in society but gaining knowledge on how to properly budget and manage your finances is so valuable for your overall life,” Jackson said.

Peer financial coach Merrick Silvis is a junior from Oak Park, Illinois, studying business administration with an emphasis in management. He enjoys helping students in need.

“There is nothing more rewarding than the feeling you get when helping a student who is struggling with their personal finances, and they end up in a better situation after meeting with us,” Silvis said.

Silvis wants students to know they are not alone. “Our office has handled all sorts of unique personal situations, and nobody should feel that they have to go through financial hardship on their own,” he said.

OFS offers workshops to help with managing money during college, managing debt and preparing for life after college. Students may schedule one-on-one appointments with OFS through MU Connect or register for upcoming workshops on MU Engage.

Students who want help with their income taxes can register for an appointment to receive free help from a tax-certified OFS peer financial coach.

Students interested in applying to be a peer financial coach can apply through

“When I first started with OFS, I mostly wanted to gain some experience for my resume, but I soon realized the value in the services we provide,” Silvis said. “I have been motivated ever since to make sure that students get the help they need.”

Upcoming workshops

Credit Scores, Reports, ID Theft, 5–6:30 p.m. April 5, N201 Memorial Union. Learn how to build a strong credit score, understand your credit report and protect yourself against identity theft.

Life After College, 5–6:30 p.m. May 3, N201 Memorial Union. Learn about employee benefits like retirement plans, insurance, tuition repayment and more.