Now more than ever, college students bring with them into young adulthood unprecedented anxiety about finances. A 2023 study by Ernst and Young[i] found that less than one third of Gen Z, those Americans aged 16-26, feel financially secure. Their specific concerns are not having enough money and making the wrong choices with their money. Meanwhile, the landscape for these emerging adults is characterized by financial uncertainty.
For The Reverend Erwin Lopez, Pastor of Wesley at the University of Central Florida (UCF), providing students with an opportunity to learn about finances became a priority. Lopez sought support from the Florida United Methodist Foundation to create a solution that would help the students he serves navigate the complexities of personal finance. “I felt like one of the most faithful Christian things that we could do in our campus ministry was to help people become financially literate,” he said.
Wesley at UCF was awarded a $5,200 grant by the Florida United Methodist Foundation that enabled Lopez to hire financial expert to lead an eight-week series – free of cost to students. The series, which started this August, boasts a robust curriculum on topics including an introduction to finance, saving, investing, debt and credit management, insurance and risk management, tax planning, and comprehensive financial planning. Each interactive session engages students in a deeper understanding of each topic, tools students can use, and steps students can take immediately within their personal finances. Taken together, the series provides a knowledge base that extends from early career to beyond retirement.
Jackson Vaughn, a student leader at Wesley at UCF and program participant, credits the real-world examples in the lessons with providing students with a sense that they can and should start now to build their wealth. “We’ve learned that even if we just put $20 into savings now, it enables us go ahead and get started – and have more in the future.” He added, “you just need to have the will and discipline to save, invest, and make your money work for you.”
According to Vaughn, students are now talking about saving, curbing their impulse spending, and realizing that even small sums saved can be compounded over time. Vaughn and other students have been using the tools they’ve received, like a budgeting template.
Lopez would also like to partner with other campus ministries, churches, or organizations to offer this program across the connection. Since the program is geared towards high school aged students to young families, it’s appropriate for a range of audiences. In the future, they hope to add in-person workshops.
“I’ve been so thankful for how willing the foundation has been to support this program,” Lopez shared. “Not only am I grateful that they support visions like this, but I also just love how much they trusted us.” To learn more about the program or how to partner with Wesley at UCF around financial literacy outreach, contact Pastor Erwin Lopez, erwin.CFLWesley@outlook.com.
[i] “How Can Understanding the Influence of Gen Z Today Empower Your Tomorrow?,” EY, 2023, https://www.ey.com/en_us/consulting/generational-dynamics/2023-gen-z-study.