Paul Merriman Financial Literacy Program

a rendering of a digtal financial graph

 

Western Washington University is committed to empowering our students to thrive not only academically but in all areas of their lives, including financially. Our Merriman Financial Literacy Program aims to equip college students, K-12 students and community members with the knowledge and skills they need to make informed financial decisions and foster behaviors that will set them on a path to financial security.

To achieve these goals, we are seeking support from partners and stakeholders who share our vision and commitment to providing our students and community with a solid foundation for lifelong financial success.

What Is the Opportunity?

  • Only 57 percent of Americans are considered “financially literate.”
  • Nearly half of Americans don’t expect to have enough money to retire comfortably.
  • Financial barriers prevent students from attending college and staying in school.
  • Washington state is facing a decline in people achieving a postsecondary credential.
  • Financial literacy is the foundation for creating wealth in our country, yet the wealth gap continues to increase, especially for underserved populations.
  • At WWU, our current financial literacy efforts reach only small pockets of our population and does not include all five core competencies (Earning, Saving & Investing, Spending, Borrowing, and Protecting).

 

A couple balancing their budget

Meeting the Challenge

The Merriman Financial Literacy Program is a financial education and wellness program that will empower all students and community members to confidently navigate their finances and improve their overall well-being. The program will deploy a model that engages K-12 students, university students, adult learners and the broader community, with Western as the facilitator of learning opportunities across the continuum. Our goal is to foster financial literacy through classes and extra-curricular opportunities such as workshops, coaching and online education. Our vision also includes making the information and tools available to students, graduates and community members in a way that makes it easy to plan for a successful financial future. This not only meets the needs of college students, but also helps school districts meet the requirement established by Washington’s Basic Education Act to provide opportunities for every student to “understand the importance of work and finance and how performance, effort, and decisions directly affect future career and educational opportunities.”

WWU students overwhelmingly choose to remain in Washington state upon graduation. With financial literacy education being key to lifelong financial success, your support not only provides students with key skills that they will take with them over their lifetimes, it also helps to prepare the future workforce of Washington state with financially educated WWU graduates.

Additionally, the Merriman Financial Literacy Program will address the decline in people pursuing and attaining postsecondary credentials and will help to address the priority placed on the pursuit of 70 percent credential attainment for Washington students.

Defining Financial Literacy and Wellness

Financial literacy refers to the knowledge and skills required to make good decisions. Financial wellness refers to the behaviors, actions, and habits that employ financial literacy skills to improve an individual’s financial well-being and reduce their stress. Financial literacy includes skills to plan for spending and saving, creating a budget, paying off debt, understanding income potential, setting and working toward personal financial goals, discerning differences among various financial instruments, understanding personal investing, and applying this knowledge to make sound financial decisions. When it comes to financial literacy, the playing field is far from level. We believe that providing financial education is an equity issue and a key component of ensuring inclusive success.

Investing in Financial Literacy is Investing in an Equitable Future

The Merriman Financial Literacy Program has three primary goals:

  • Education: Provide high school and college students with comprehensive financial education, covering topics such as budgeting, saving, investing, credit management, and debt reduction.
  • Support: Offer peer mentorship to help students navigate their unique financial situations.
  • Access: Make financial resources, tools, and training readily available to all students and to the broader community.

By investing in financial literacy, you will also be investing in:

  • Inclusive Student Success: Your support directly contributes to the academic success and well-being of WWU students. Financially stable students can focus more on their education and less on financial worries.
  • Community Impact: Community financial literacy contributes to the economic stability and prosperity of the community.
  • Stronger Future Workforce: By equipping college and high school students with essential financial skills, you help build a future workforce that is better prepared for the financial challenges of adulthood.
  • Positive Brand Association: Partnering with the Merriman Financial Literacy Program at WWU demonstrates your commitment to education, financial literacy, and community development.

 

Piggybank with a grad cap standing on top of a pile of $20 dollar bills.

Support Financial Literacy at WWU and Beyond

Financial literacy is a crucial life skill. By joining us in this mission, you are contributing to the future financial well-being of our students and the prosperity of our community and the state of Washington.

We offer various ways for partners and stakeholders to support our Financial Literacy Program:

  • Financial Contributions: Your financial support helps us expand our program, provide more resources, and reach a larger audience.
  • Expertise Sharing: Share your financial expertise with our students through workshops, lectures, or mentoring opportunities.
  • In-Kind Donations: Provide educational materials, software, or other resources to enhance our program.
  • Sponsorship Opportunities: Become an official sponsor of our program, which includes branding and recognition benefits.
  • Create an Endowed Professorship or Directorship

 

A crowd of Western students going to class

Provide Financial Literacy Education to Students at WWU And Surrounding Communities

Your support will provide a range of financial literacy education resources and opportunities for students at Western Washington University, and beyond that will give them the skills and foundation for financial success while they are students and throughout their lives.
Your support provides financial literacy instruction through courses, self-paced online learning, and workshops available to WWU students and the broader community. Specific areas of support include:

WWU Student and Program Impact

  • Financial literacy courses and seminars for WWU students
    • 4-credit courses: Personal Finance and Personal Investing
    • 2-credit seminars: How to Build a Robust Financial Foundation, and A Primer for a Lifetime of Investing
  • Peer Mentor program
    • Peer mentors serve as coaches for students across campus, conduct financial literacy workshops, and promote the program’s offerings via events and media
  • iGrad online financial literacy training platform (available to students, faculty & staff)
    • Platform includes tutorials, budget worksheets, regularly updated content, credit report and outcomes tracking
  • Annual Financial Literacy Case Competition
  • Financial Literacy Lab and research resources (Morningstar, Valueline)

High School Student Impact

  • K-12 education through Western’s Center for Economic and Financial Education
  • College in the High School program

Community Impact

  • Annual Financial Literacy Conference (beginning in 2025)
  • Paul Merriman Financial Education & Investment Certificate
  • Financial Literacy speaker and webinar events
  • Volunteer Investment Planning Assistance program – train college students to provide investment planning advice to the community

 

The Merriman Financial Literacy Program is made possible by the passion, vision, and generous support of Paul Merriman.

 

Kim O’Neill
Vice President of University Advancement
Email: Kim.ONeill@wwu.edu  |  Office: 360.650.2055

Kerry Godes
Associate Vice President, Development
Email: godesk@wwu.edu  |  Office: 360.650.4199

Brock Veltri
Director of Development
Email: veltrib@wwu.edu  |  Office: 360.650.2406