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Business program matches students with peer coaches for free, biblically based financial planning

Liberty’s Peer Financial Coaching Program provides students with the opportunity to receive sound biblical financial advice free of charge. (Photos by Chase Reed)

College students juggle many different responsibilities, including jobs, classwork, clubs, sports, and more, but one aspect of their lives that often gets overlooked is finances. With graduation just around the corner, it’s imperative that they start learning how to make smart decisions on budgeting, investing, and spending. For that reason, Liberty offers a Peer Financial Coaching Program through the Center for Financial Literacy at the School of Business where students can receive free financial advice.

The program is composed of 17 Liberty students studying financial coaching who meet with clients throughout the semester to provide advice. Each coach has specialized areas of focus, such as investing, budgeting, goal setting, and debt management, so they can specifically tailor sessions to clients’ needs.

While it may cost between $200-500 an hour to meet with a financial planner outside of Liberty’s campus, the university provides the service free of charge.

“I think it’s a resource that not many people know about that has been super beneficial,” said junior D.J. Dennis, who has been attending financial coaching sessions since Fall 2021 with his now fiancé Alyssa Echols. “I think that more students should take this opportunity because it’s not one specific thing. I remember the first meeting we had was, ‘Alright, what are your goals? What do you want to get out of this?’ and the financial coaches really tailor everything to what you want to accomplish. It’s not a set thing you’re going to do every time you walk in here, it’s just what you want to accomplish, and they want to help you accomplish that.”

“One of the biggest encouragements I give to my friends when finances come up is take advantage of this opportunity,” he added.

Echols, who graduates in May, said that she and Dennis initially started attending the sessions to ensure that they would have enough money to live comfortably after graduation and once. Dennis noted that the skills they have learned from their financial coach, Hayden Ericks, have helped them to learn both major and minor aspects of financial stability.

Ericks, a senior originally from Los Angeles, said he decided to study financial planning in 2020 because he witnessed a family friend make poor financial decisions at the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic. Now in his second year as a financial coach, he said the program has many benefits.

“It’s been an unbelievable experience, probably one of the most valuable things for my professional development, just being able to lead a client meeting, which is something we are going to be doing with the rest of our careers. To be able to start this early is unique,” Ericks said.

While the service undoubtably provides advantages to clients, it also serves as a hands-on experience for coaches, allowing them to earn Certified Financial Planning hours (towards CFP certification) as well as Christian Community Service (CSER) hours.

The Peer Financial Coaching Program at Liberty allows financial planning students to gain real-life experience in the field of financial planning.

“I’ve gotten to help people on the other side of the table, but the experience I’ve gotten has also been invaluable,” senior and first-year financial coach Daniel Weirenga said. “I may get to help them, but they help me more because you sit in the classroom and you read the book, and you learn about it, but you don’t really get the chance to apply it that often. This gives you a way to apply it in a lower stress environment and ultimately make you a little more comfortable in those client meeting situations.”

Started in 2019 by Dr. Stacie Rhodes, associate dean of the School of Business and executive director of the Center for Financial Literacy, the program allows future financial planners to bring their lessons outside the classroom and apply them in real-life situations. It was created as a branch of the Center for Financial Literacy, which opened in 2018 in partnership with the Ron Blue Institute.

“God talked about money, materials, and possessions more than any other subject in the Bible. As such, we believe it is imperative that we have these money conversations around our belief system about God and money,” Rhodes said, noting that the program’s core verse is 1 Timothy 6:6. “Imagine if we had a culture that pursued both godliness and contentment. We believe these one-on-one conversations in our peer financial coaching sessions are the breeding ground for these life-changing concepts.”

Coaches face a variety of questions from students hoping to gain control of their finances, such as “How can married couples merge finances?” “Am I spending too much?” and “How do I manage my savings if I’m not making money?” Through attacking each problem head-on, they help clients find financial stability.

According to Ericks, the heart of financial stability lies in creating and sticking to a budget. While many people may view budgets as restrictive and unnecessary, Ericks argued that budgets actually allow people to spend the money that they have earned.

“The biggest reason to plan is just to reduce a lot of stress,” he said. “I’ve had people come into coaching meeting on the verge of tears because they’re not sure how they’re going to pay their rent or things like that, and we work through a plan and they come out of the meeting with a burden that has just gone off their shoulders because they have a plan; they understand, ‘I’m going to be OK.’”

Weirenga agreed these are important lessons to learn for students preparing to make major life transitions.

“At Liberty, they try to train you to be a Champion for Christ, so they put a lot of focus on that Christian aspect. Part of being equipped for that in the real world, once you get out of college, is (being responsible for) your finances, and I think that a lot of people with high intelligence haven’t taken the time to actually learn these concepts that help you throughout all of life,” he said. “Financial stability coming out of college is huge because it sets you up for the rest of your life. You can only jump so high as the platform you’ve built.”

Liberty provides ample training for the student coaches. In January, the School of Business hosted 16 local financial professionals to provide pointers on how to speak with clients. The student coaches conducted a mock client meeting and were critiqued by the special guests.

Following the training session, Lynchburg Regional Business Alliance CEO Megan Lucas led the group through an “etiquette dinner” to help prepare them for future business dinners they may attend.


Students, faculty, and staff can schedule a financial coaching session through the Center for Financial Literacy website.

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