Nearly a month away from graduation, finance major David Gomez looks back at the challenges of paying for his own college education, primarily through student loans. When he started applying, Gomez knew little about budgeting money and much less about how loans and interest rates work. Financial planning was a foreign concept.
Today, Gomez is developing the curriculum for the SunTrust FIU Financial Wellness Clinic, a state-of-the-art bilingual financial literacy center, created through a $600,000 grant from the SunTrust Foundation to FIU’s College of Business.
The center will educate and empower low- to middle-income residents of Miami-Dade County’s multicultural communities. The free bilingual program includes workshops and seminars, guest speakers, mentoring and consulting. Workshops and seminars will cover the same topics, and will be tailored specifically to each audience.
“A place like this would have helped me tremendously when I was in high school,” said Gomez. “At that age, you have no idea what money is; you blow off that first paycheck on something you’ve always wanted.”
The SunTrust FIU Financial Wellness Clinic is designed to give FIU students, their parents and students enrolled in Miami-Dade County Public School’s Academy of Finance high schools access to financial literacy. The program is currently open to students at Coral Reef Senior High School and Coral Gables Senior High School.
“In addition to providing resources for our FIU students, the Clinic will enable us to educate tomorrow’s students – members of Miami-Dade County Public Schools’ Academies of Finance – and their parents,” said Jose Aldrich, acting dean of the College of Business.
Manny Perdomo, SunTrust’s South Florida division president, added: “Having lived in this community for several years, I have seen firsthand some of the struggles our residents face when it comes to financial education. We understand that finances can be difficult and confusing, but through this clinic we will be able to further empower our residents as they move from financial stress to confidence.”
The value of financial literacy.
As a SunTrust fellow, Gomez will work closely with the high school students, incorporating the College of Business-SunTrust financial literacy program into the courses they’re taking at school. Among the topics that will be top of mind are interest rates, how to understand the value of loans, tax planning, and basic elements of investing as well as risk and payoff.
“I’ll tell any student coming to the clinic that regardless of what career or profession they want to study, financial planning affects everyone,” said Gomez, who will work in Corporate and Investment Bank at J.P. Morgan in New York upon graduation. “This isn’t another course you take at FIU. It’s a ‘Life 101’ class so you can learn what to do with your money.”
The impact of the SunTrust FIU Financial Wellness Clinic is expected to be far-reaching. Based on current estimates, 6,728 high school students and 1,347 parents will benefit from its resources. In addition to increasing FIU’s annual impact on high school students and parents, the SunTrust FIU Financial Wellness Clinic will greatly increase FIU’s capacity to engage its internal community of business students.
Furthermore, an estimated 3,975 students annually enrolled in the First Year Experience Course will be impacted through an enhanced financial literacy curriculum, developed in conjunction with the SunTrust FIU Financial Wellness Clinic.
Gomez pointed out that the SunTrust FIU Financial Wellness Clinic isn’t about text books–it’s hands-on, real-life training. Participants will explore data models based on multiple financial issues, from calculating whether or not a loan is affordable to payment methods and what is the best strategy to pay off a loan.
“Financial literacy isn’t a topic that you learn once. You always have to learn more,” said Gomez.
The center, located in MANGO 230, is led by the College of Capital Markets Lab and will build on FIU’s internationally recognized expertise to create a tailored curriculum establishing resources to engage the South Florida community.
“Our focus is on cementing key financial concepts,” said Flavio Carrillo, director of SunTrust FIU Financial Wellness Clinic and the Capital Markets Lab. “We want to introduce participants to areas that they are not familiar with or that they have superficial knowledge of, like financial planning or retirement planning.”