Financial literacy learning at the “Financial U”

By: Lauren Wolters

woltersl1@findlay.edu

The Union Bank Co. presents free financial literacy tools to all ages, especially college students

The Union Bank Co. launched the Financial University, “the Financial U,” to improve financial literacy for all ages during April, which is also national financial literacy month.

The Financial U is an external website that can be found under the “Resources” tab of the Union Bank’s website, theubank.com. This free, interactive resource allows people of all ages to read financial articles, utilize calculators, and partake in personalized coaching sessions.

Under the “Topics” tab of the Financial U, there are resources on budgeting, saving, retirement, etc. There are also collections of tools and resources under the “Explore” tab. There is also a collection devoted to helping college students called “Going to College.”

In addition to the Financial U, several other banks in and outside of Ohio have started programs for students and families to help them with financial literacy.

PNC Bank has created a “Virtual Student Wallet” which PNC Bank describes as a “digital banking experience to keep your money organized while you’re in school,” according to the webpage. Opening a student virtual wallet includes no monthly service charge, a PNC brand Visa debit card, savings plans and rules, and budget calendars. The student wallet is automatically converted to a standard Virtual Wallet PNC Bank offers their customers after six years.

A screenshot of “My Finance Academy” from PNC Bank.

PNC Bank also has a resources center for students promoting financial literacy for international students, high school seniors, and partnerships with colleges across the nation. PNC Bank does not have a location in Findlay and is not partnered with Findlay in their Student Banking program, but does have partnerships with Bowling Green State University, The University of Akron, and the University of Cincinnati.

Madi Wojtowicz, a strategic communications major at The Ohio State University, explained how the Financial U benefits college students.

Madi Wojtowicz. Photo credit: Ohio State PRSSA.

“It’s really all about teaching financial literacy to all ages, but I think it is especially important for college students because we are in that you know financial rocky zone,” Wojtowicz said.

Wojtowicz is living in her first apartment this summer, so she uses the Financial U’s budget calculator to help her allocate her spending.

“I’m doing my own grocery shopping [and] paying my own utilities for the first time,” Wojtowicz said. “You just think it doesn’t seem too hard but then it’s like ‘Okay well I’m getting paid each week but how much [do] I need to devote to each thing.’ It seems like it would be a simple thing, but it’s definitely a helpful tool to have this in front of you.”

Dian Franks, the Director of Marketing at the Union Bank, explained that college is a great time to start improving one’s financial literacy. However, she insisted that it’s important to keep improving throughout the stages of one’s life. The Financial U has resources on buying a house, the cost of raising a baby, financing a wedding, consolidating bank accounts and more.

“We don’t expect everybody to be the financial expert, so that’s why we want to be a financial expert for you,” Franks said.

Franks’ son graduated from high school this year. She utilizes the Financial U’s resources to help him plan for expenses.

“He [Franks’ son] talked about wanting to get his own place,” she said. “When you have your first apartment you don’t even realize you have to pay for trash and stuff, so it’s funny to see like the eyes get big… ‘How many hours am I going to have to work in order to live by myself?’ So asking him to like take the trash out and do the dishes is not too bad anymore.”

Franks explained that many community banks hold customer service very highly, so the Financial U began as a way for the Union Bank to help its own community.

“We say nonstop that we are a community bank,” Franks said. “We’re here for [the] community, so why not improve the livelihood of the community regardless of [whether] they bank with us or not. We feel like if people within our community are more financially savvy a lot of them will improve the community, but you don’t have a lot of people in debt or a lot of people that are living paycheck to paycheck because now people are learning, so it really is you know trying to improve the whole community.” she continued.

Topics and articles available on the Financial U website.

The Union Bank has 18 different branches in Ohio, including Findlay, Lima, and Bowling Green, so they decided that instead of focusing on one institution they would provide financial resources in a way that everyone could use. Thus, the online interactive Financial University formed. Union Bank decided to nickname it the Financial U to coincide with their website, theubank.com.

“We care about our people, and as they go on to college, into a new job, and move away they don’t have to leave us,” Franks said. “We can still teach them and be there with them. We don’t necessarily have to be their mortgage loan, but maybe right now they need to learn how to get out of debt, so we can teach them something like that and then they can turn around and in five years when they’re ready to buy a home maybe they’ll think about that.”

A group of honors students from the Ohio State University used the Financial University as their capstone project, addressing the problem of financial literacy among college students. These students provided some of the research the Union Bank used to get their Financial University approved and running. In return the Union Bank helped the OSU students find a solution to help improve financial literacy.

Wojtowicz told how the collaboration with the OSU students made the resources easier to understand. “They were able to offer advice and input as to how college students would you know best consume this information, so yeah like I said it’s really easy to understand probably because college students helped write it,” she said.

Franks said that new articles and resources will be released quarterly on the Financial U. Currently, there are topics on savings, retirement, budgeting, investing, and taxes, among other financing topics.

Another, similar financial literacy program is offered to youth from elementary to high school and families by Wells Fargo. “Hands on Banking” has several resources for families on money management, including categories about managing day-to-day finances, preparing for an emergency, and preparing for future retirement.  Hands on Banking also offers an assessment on their website for targeting the right financial resources for the user.

A screenshot of handsonbanking.org.

“I really wish that my bank would’ve like talked to me about this because it would have been so beneficial for me. I just feel like I’m at such a loss when it comes to this kind of thing, always asking my parents questions, and I really would have benefited from something like this [the Financial U] when I was opening my first savings account,” Wojtowicz said.

June 22, 2021, 3:13PM: This story has been updated with additional reporting from Leah Alsept.

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