Kaitlin Terschak, 21, is an accounting major at Calvin College, the Grand Rapids, Mich., college owned by the Christian Reformed Church. Last summer she became a peer financial coach with Nexus Peer Financial Coaching, an initiative Calvin launched to help students manage their resources. Terschak said she knew it would be rewarding to discuss personal finance topics with students, but she didn’t realize that she would also build relationships to learn and grow in a way that glorifies God.
“Students are taking initiative in their lives to utilize their God-given talents and be good stewards,” Terschak said, emphasizing the importance of Christ at the center of what Nexus accomplishes. Honest discussions about budgeting, savings, student loans, credit, housing, and giving help students understand the ramifications of financial decisions.
Nexus faculty director Dirk Pruis said, “As a society, we’ve largely failed students—most high schools don’t include financial literacy training as part of the curriculum, and colleges are no different. Financial literacy training is not part of the educational core/general education requirements at Calvin and most other schools today, so this program is a great start.”
The peer coaching program started this academic year with the hiring of four student financial coaches. Coaching sessions are free to Calvin students, 45 of whom have become Nexus clients. There are plans to add another coach for the 2019-2020 school year.
Zach Kammeraad, 18, is another coach in the program. A finance major from Holland, Mich., Kammeraad said he works with 10 to 15 clients. The best aspect of his role, he said, is being able to share his passion and watch fellow students grow in their understanding of their own finances. “Students think it’s amazing that Calvin has a program that enables them to be better stewards of their finances,” he said. “Our clients feel more equipped to take on life after school.”
Pruis said Calvin’s program followed the format of a “groundbreaking” financial planning program offered through Ron Blue Institute at Indiana Wesleyan University. Nexus is a good training ground for Calvin peer coaches seeking careers in financial services as well as in counseling professions, he said.
Initial funding came through Calvin’s Center for Innovation and Business. “We hope to enlist the financial support of the community, as we feel this is an important initiative,” Pruis said, noting that the program’s leaders plan to approach the local financial services community as well as alumni for ongoing support.