Personal Finance Student Association aims to be a resource for lower-income and first-generation students


Photo courtesy of Anjani Gusman

PFSA hosted a budgeting workshop in November 2022 in collaboration with Northwestern Mutual.

Pavan Acharya, Campus Editor

When Weinberg junior Maia Miller learned her financial aid through Northwestern was taxable, she did not know who to turn to for advice.

Miller, an international student from Brazil, said she and her parents were unfamiliar with financial policies in the United States. But when she looked to NU for advice, she didn’t get the information she was looking for.

“I reached out to a few campus offices, and none of them can actually help with filing your taxes,” she said. “So, I did my research.”

Miller said she then realized there was a need for a student group that teaches financial literacy, especially for first-generation and/or low-income students.

Today, Miller is the president and co-founder of the Personal Finance Student Association — a student organization that helps students manage their personal finances. The group began hosting events Fall Quarter, offering workshops on personal finance topics such as wealth management, budgeting, savings and investment, credit and insurance.

PFSA hosted a budgeting workshop last November in collaboration with Northwestern Mutual. Weinberg junior and PFSA treasurer Agustin Bayer said the organization also plans to hold a workshop on filing for taxes prior to Tax Day on April 18.

“We plan on putting (information on filing taxes) out in our newsletter and highlighting it in the workshop as well so that those who are maybe panicking right now about what they’re going to do with their W-2’s can take advantage of that,” Bayer said.

The student finance organization also plans to implement an advisor system, in which some group members advise peers on personal finance topics. The advisory chats are set to begin Jan. 31, Bayer said.

Also a co-founder of PFSA, Bayer said he hopes the organization can help FGLI students with their finances so they can enjoy their college experiences to the “fullest extent.”

“Developing good habits in anything, but especially in finance, is something that you need to work on,” Bayer said. “Having other people to support you in that process makes it much easier.”

McCormick junior Sheyla Adaya said that, as a FGLI student, it can be difficult to find resources to support financial literacy. 

They said they’ve connected with other members of the group with similar experiences.

“There is really no one to teach you, except yourself or other friends,” Adaya said. “We kind of want to do the friends route, specifically.”

However, some PFSA members had little experience in finances prior to joining the organization.

Weinberg junior and PFSA marketing director Anjani Gusman said she was not financially literate before joining the group. However, after learning about budgeting and other financial skills from the organization, she said she was inspired to find a work-study job as a Norris University Center production assistant.

“I’m more encouraged to save now, to learn how to save (and) to know my priorities,” Gusman said.

Beyond advising students and hosting financial literacy workshops, Miller said PFSA wants to centralize University financial resources, such as asset management or commercial banking through Northwestern Career Advancement.

Bayer said PFSA leadership has met with many members of NCA since the organization’s advisor, Valerie Schoonover, is the office’s assistant director of employer strategy.

Schoonover said she was able to connect PFSA with Northwestern Mutual for the November budgeting workshop. 

She added that PFSA is a unique organization on campus given its emphasis on personal finance.

“In my understanding, this is the first organization that has kind of a finance and self-help goal, specifically from students of lower income backgrounds or first generation backgrounds,” Schoonover said. “I really liked that angle for the group.”

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Twitter: @PavanAcharya02

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