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University of California Irvine

The Center for Investment and Wealth Management has a unique position on the University of California, Irvine campus. They are a nonprofit within the Paul Merage Business School and receive support from organizations all around their county through a membership program. As a result, they provide extensive programming to both the student population at UCI and the greater Irvine community. We spoke with Lee Anne Maki, the executive director, to learn more about her work.

Maki says, “Our LIFEvest community serves teens in low-income, underserved areas and provides programming to their family members, such as parents or grandparents. We also provide a high school financial planning day camp for students who are interested in business and investment and a Women’s Financial Wellness Initiative that delivers information unique to their demographic.” These programs are all examples of the center’s community programming and most of these are no-cost or low-cost for participants. 

Another focus of the center is educating students at the UCI campus. They do this by promoting CashCourse and offering customized workshops presented by faculty or voluntary advisory board members of the center. 

The overall focus of the campus financial literacy programming is to teach students on campus how to be better prepared for financial decision making. The center averages about one workshop per week and they are constantly promoting CashCourse via their student ambassadors.

Leading this team, Maki brings a keen personal interest and passion to her work. Her own personal finance history fuels her passion about financial education.

“I was an adult during the economic downturn in 2007/8 and I experienced negative repercussions not being as financially literate as I could be. This was actually a really great learning experience. This has allowed me to be empathetic and help students plan for their future versus being reactive,” Maki explains.

This perspective has shaped the center’s financial education approach to emphasize future thinking. Maki urges students to consider their future self as a tool for making financial choices.

She says, “How do you want your future self to live? Is it worth delaying anything for your future self? I try really hard to nurture students to be future-oriented and think about their future self. This lens can be a helpful tool with making decisions today.”

She also emphasizes her center’s success has come from trial and error and figuring out how to get a student’s attention among all of the competing noise. The center employs 20 student ambassadors who focus almost entirely on promoting the center’s resources and CashCourse. Using students to get the word out to other students has been an effective strategy.

“Students are inundated with other opportunities and these are all competing for their attention. They might not know they have an interest in personal finance. You have to have things that catch students’ attention like free food, prizes, or student ambassadors who can talk to other students,” Maki emphasizes.

Financial education may be a focus at UCI, but it is not mandated. Currently, the center is working on evaluations to test the effectiveness of their work. Maki hopes the findings will contribute to an eventual mandate for the campus. Meanwhile, CashCourse has helped expand their reach thanks to its flexible nature as an online resource. Students can learn on their own time from the comfort of their own homes.

Maki says, “I am so grateful for CashCourse and the educational grade financial literacy tools that make financial literacy education accessible to all.”

June 2019