Money skills for life

Stanford students have a new resource to guide them with financial decisions: private, personalized and free one-on-one financial coaching by Stanford alumni in financial services. Here’s what two Stanford students have to say.

Stanford students interested in making more informed financial decisions are getting free tips with a new 1:1 Financial Coaching resource. From saving to investing to paying for graduate school, the program is a valuable resource for any undergraduate, graduate student and postdoc, regardless of how much or how little money they have.

Offered through Stanford’s top-ranked financial literacy program Mind Over Money, 1:1 Financial Coaching is unique among financial coaching programs on U.S. college campuses in that its coaches are predominately alumni, according to Kelly Takahashi, director of financial wellness and associate bursar with Student Financial Services.

The program is growing and now boasts 50 alumni coaches who volunteer their time and expertise to help current Stanford students and postdocs understand their finances. The coaches have diverse personal and professional backgrounds with unique perspectives, such as being a student-athlete or an international student, paying for graduate school or having children.

"The quality and diversity of our coaching pool is extraordinary, and the fact that 50 alumni are volunteering their time and expertise in this way is a statement in itself of their love for Stanford and their validation of the need for financial literacy for Stanford students," said Takahashi.

1:1 Financial Coaching is an educational and informational service only, meant to help students and postdocs improve their financial literacy. Advisers do not provide investment, tax or other advice. In addition to financial coaching, Mind Over Money offers the online tool Haven Money as an introduction to various personal finance topics, as well as personal finance events and workshops throughout the academic year. More information, including a list of coaches , is available at mindovermoney.stanford.edu.

After taking Mind Over Money’s winter course, Financial Wellness 183 , Stanford students Jorge Avelar-Lopez, ’20, and Rachel Hinds, ’20, signed up for 1:1: Financial Coaching. They were recently coached by alums Olivia Reyes-Becerra, BS ’17, MS ’18, and John Davis, MS ’01, PhD ’06, respectively. Here’s what the students had to say about the program.

Rachel Hinds

Class of ’20, majoring in medical anthropology



" As someone who values getting advice from people I trust, this provided a wonderful opportunity to get advice from an expert  who  really want ed  to help me thrive financially."



Read Hinds’ interview

Jorge Avelar-Lopez

Class of ’20, majoring in computer science



" Now that I am in college, I want to ensure I set myself up to have a financially stable future."



Read Avelar-Lopez’s interview

Rachel Hinds is majoring in medical anthropology and minoring in education. (Image credit: Courtesy Rachel Hinds)

Rachel Hinds signed up for 1:1: Financial Coaching and was matched with alum John Davis. Davis has worked for large companies, industrial research labs and startups, and is now a lead researcher at Barcelona Supercomputing Center in Spain.

During a one-hour phone call, Hinds and Davis discussed such topics as budgeting, saving and how to balance in and out flows of money. Davis taught her that key to budgeting is coming up with a savings plan for the near term (roughly 3 to 12 months), mid term (about 2 to 4 years) and long term (5 years or more).

Hinds, who is majoring in medical anthropology and minoring in education, plans to attend a midwifery graduate program next year, so she and Davis discussed strategies for paying for graduate school. Hinds also has an interest in learning about investing, which she’s never done before.

"A priority for me is for my money to get invested into projects I really believe in and want to see more of in this world," she said. "John explained that there are entire firms dedicated to investing in particular themes or projects. For example, only in renewable energy, or always avoiding prisons. I didn’t realize this was an option."

Davis said it’s important to understand how to use finances to your advantage and realize how something like a credit score can impact you.

"The world of finance can be very opaque. It is very important to educate yourself so that you can take advantage of various financial instruments: loans, credit cards, etc.," Davis said. But he warns that there is a dark side to finance, where things like credit cards can make it very easy to get into trouble.

"If I can help students to avoid that and be responsible and know a bit more about what financial tools are available, I believe that will make their lives much easier," he said.

Hinds said the coaching process was easy and time well spent. She said she’s grateful to now have a connection she can contact with followup questions. She plans to continue the coaching during fall quarter.

"As someone who values getting advice from people I trust, this provided a wonderful opportunity to get advice from an expert who really wanted to help me thrive financially," she said.

Rachel Hinds is majoring in medical anthropology and minoring in education. (Image credit: Courtesy Rachel Hinds)

Rachel Hinds signed up for 1:1: Financial Coaching and was matched with alum John Davis. Davis has worked for large companies, industrial research labs and startups, and is now a lead researcher at Barcelona Supercomputing Center in Spain.

During a one-hour phone call, Hinds and Davis discussed such topics as budgeting, saving and how to balance in and out flows of money. Davis taught her that key to budgeting is coming up with a savings plan for the near term (roughly 3 to 12 months), mid term (about 2 to 4 years) and long term (5 years or more).

Hinds, who is majoring in medical anthropology and minoring in education, plans to attend a midwifery graduate program next year, so she and Davis discussed strategies for paying for graduate school. Hinds also has an interest in learning about investing, which she’s never done before.

"A priority for me is for my money to get invested into projects I really believe in and want to see more of in this world," she said. "John explained that there are entire firms dedicated to investing in particular themes or projects. For example, only in renewable energy, or always avoiding prisons. I didn’t realize this was an option."

Davis said it’s important to understand how to use finances to your advantage and realize how something like a credit score can impact you.

"The world of finance can be very opaque. It is very important to educate yourself so that you can take advantage of various financial instruments: loans, credit cards, etc.," Davis said. But he warns that there is a dark side to finance, where things like credit cards can make it very easy to get into trouble.

"If I can help students to avoid that and be responsible and know a bit more about what financial tools are available, I believe that will make their lives much easier," he said.

Hinds said the coaching process was easy and time well spent. She said she’s grateful to now have a connection she can contact with followup questions. She plans to continue the coaching during fall quarter.

"As someone who values getting advice from people I trust, this provided a wonderful opportunity to get advice from an expert who really wanted to help me thrive financially," she said.

Jorge Avelar-Lopez is majoring in computer science. (Image credit: Courtesy Jorge Avelar-Lopez)

Computer science major Jorge Avelar-Lopez said that growing up, his family struggled financially and that a lack of financial knowledge made it harder to improve the situation.

"Now that I am in college, I want to ensure I set myself up to have a financially stable future," Avelar-Lopez said. "A way I can do that is by seeking advice from knowledgeable people such as a financial coach."

At Stanford, he enrolled in Financial Wellness 183 and 1:1 Financial Coaching. He was coached by alum Olivia Reyes-Becerra, who is currently a product manager at OhmConnect, a software service for shifting energy use. They discussed managing finances as a young alum, budgeting, building credit, investing and Avelar-Lopez’s financial goals, which include home ownership.

"I hope to own property sometime after college and wanted to start setting goals to be able to achieve that in a timely manner," he said.

Reyes-Becerra said a few rules of thumb can go far in building a secure financial future. She suggests creating and sticking to a smart budget, setting up the right types of bank accounts with the right types of institutions and paying yourself first before spending money on entertainment. If possible, she suggests students begin investing when they’re young.

"You don’t have to major in economics or dedicate your professional life to the financial sector in order to secure your future," she said.

Before a coaching session, Reyes-Becerra likes to send students an article about finance to get them thinking about new questions they might bring to the discussion, which she prefers to do in person over coffee on campus (her treat!). She also assures students that they can always follow up with her after a session.

"I tell my mentees I’m always reachable via email if they have a question," she said. "It’s important to me that they know someone is out there who wants to help and is there for them throughout their journey. These topics can be so intimidating."

1:1 Financial Coaching welcomes all current Stanford students of all backgrounds and financial educational levels. It’s also a great way to tap into the Stanford alumni network.

"I think the fact that you’ll see alumni wanting to give back to those in the Stanford community is a testament to how much we care about the students and want to give back to a community that gave so much to us," she said.

Jorge Avelar-Lopez is majoring in computer science. (Image credit: Courtesy Jorge Avelar-Lopez)

Computer science major Jorge Avelar-Lopez said that growing up, his family struggled financially and that a lack of financial knowledge made it harder to improve the situation.

"Now that I am in college, I want to ensure I set myself up to have a financially stable future," Avelar-Lopez said. "A way I can do that is by seeking advice from knowledgeable people such as a financial coach."

At Stanford, he enrolled in Financial Wellness 183 and 1:1 Financial Coaching. He was coached by alum Olivia Reyes-Becerra, who is currently a product manager at OhmConnect, a software service for shifting energy use. They discussed managing finances as a young alum, budgeting, building credit, investing and Avelar-Lopez’s financial goals, which include home ownership.

"I hope to own property sometime after college and wanted to start setting goals to be able to achieve that in a timely manner," he said.

Reyes-Becerra said a few rules of thumb can go far in building a secure financial future. She suggests creating and sticking to a smart budget, setting up the right types of bank accounts with the right types of institutions and paying yourself first before spending money on entertainment. If possible, she suggests students begin investing when they’re young.

"You don’t have to major in economics or dedicate your professional life to the financial sector in order to secure your future," she said.

Before a coaching session, Reyes-Becerra likes to send students an article about finance to get them thinking about new questions they might bring to the discussion, which she prefers to do in person over coffee on campus (her treat!). She also assures students that they can always follow up with her after a session.

"I tell my mentees I’m always reachable via email if they have a question," she said. "It’s important to me that they know someone is out there who wants to help and is there for them throughout their journey. These topics can be so intimidating."

1:1 Financial Coaching welcomes all current Stanford students of all backgrounds and financial educational levels. It’s also a great way to tap into the Stanford alumni network.

"I think the fact that you’ll see alumni wanting to give back to those in the Stanford community is a testament to how much we care about the students and want to give back to a community that gave so much to us," she said.


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