By Molly Reed, Staff Writer

Peer Financial Advisers from left Silas Lunetta, Matt Towle, Jeremiah  Roper, Kyle Manning, Michael Angelides and Leona Kluge-Edwards

Peer Financial Advisers from left Silas Lunetta, Matt Towle, Jeremiah
Roper, Kyle Manning, Michael Angelides and Leona Kluge-Edwards
(Photo by Molly Reed).

    Realizing that students have received a weak education in finances, Michael Angelides created the Peer Financial Advisers (PFAs), a group on campus to help students manage their debt. Angelides spent last semester working in the Financial Aid office and wanted to create a program where students could gain tools to handle their debt.

    “One thing that kept coming up in our conversations [between Ron Milliken, Director of Financial Aid and Angelides] was the glaring systematic lack of financial education as a general rule in the US education system,” said Angelides. “While debt can be a burden, it is much less scary, and much less burdensome, if an individual has the tools to manage his/her debt and keep their head above water while being financially flexible enough to feel they have a decent standard of living.”

    “Money is something that people don’t want to talk about and is pushed under the carpet until it becomes an issue,” said Matt Towle, a peer financial adviser.

    The core of the program is for students to sign up for a one-on-one confidential meeting with a Peer Financial Adviser and to receive personalized advice on their loans and debt.

    “I think our point of pride is the one-on-one session we have been running with students who feel they want some hands-on financial advice,” said Angelides. “A financial education is severely limited unless you incorporate an individuals complete ‘financial snapshot,’ from student debt to bills and expenses, investments and recreational spending,” he said.

    “If you’re a lower classmen you want to be thinking about how much you should take out in a total over the course of 4 years based on where you think you’ll end up,” said Towle. “If you’re an upperclassmen, you want to think of how much you’ve taken out and how you’re going to deal with that once you graduate,” he said.

University of Maine Farmington Peer Advisers Peer Financial Advisers
(Photo by Molly Reed)

 

    The group of six PFAs, which include Matt Towle, Jeremiah Roper, Silas Lunetta, Leona Kluge-Edwards, Kyle Manning, Meredith Berthelette and Angelides, has been focusing on making presentations in the dorms so that students can learn about what the group is doing and how to take advantage of their services.

    “The point of this is to get the conversation rolling and just to show that we’ve done our homework and done the research about different things to do about finances in college,” said Towle.

    “We’ve been going into the dorms and giving presentations on different topics,” said Towle. “We started with student loans and we’re going to do one each month, and this month we’ll be doing saving.” The next two presentations are Nov. 19, at 6 p.m. in Scott Hall and on Nov. 26, in Lincoln at 11:40 a.m. Both presentations will be on savings and the presentation in Lincoln will have guest speaker, Paul F. Spizzuoco, who is a certified financial planner.

    “The people who have come and signed up have told me that they have benefited from talking to us,” said Lunetta. “It’s just something that people don’t really think about and we provide an easier way for them to do it.”

    “The number of people to have come up to me like after presentations and they really liked it,” said Roper. “It really helped them out and they were really appreciative for it, and I’m just really glad to be a part of this because it’s really important.”

    The point of the program is not to make students feel bad about their debt but to help them control and manage it. “No one can take your education away so there’s more value in student loan debt than say credit card debt,” said Towle.

    The group hopes to continue their work with students who have graduated to provide the necessary tools so that students will be able to handle any financial situation that they are faced with, particularly debt management and default prevention strategies.

If you are interested in setting up an appointment with a PFA, their email is PFA@umf.maine.edu