Towards the end of her sophomore year, Marissa Cash ’22 had an idea. She wanted to embrace and learn from financial challenges she experienced growing up to help other people.
Her mother immigrated to the U.S. with her American father from Thailand and finances were a bit tough. Eventually, her father took a job back in Thailand to work for the U.S. Embassy and Marissa moved in with relatives to continue her education in the states.
She applied to Ursuline and experienced some culture shock with social class which ultimately sparked her interest in personal finance. With the help of her extended family, she began investing.
The idea in question? Create free, educational resources that teach lower income families how to implement personal finance skills into their lives. The program would be 100% online and utilize applications like Zoom, Google Drive, Microsoft Word, and Slack.
“I am so fortunate to have had the chance to learn these kinds of things firsthand,” she said. “I really wanted to try and give others that same opportunity.”
Bringing her idea to fruition has been quite the journey and she’s learned a lot about financial illiteracy within the United States along the way.
“Finance is much deeper than its numbers,” she said. “Gaining financial knowhow is more about decision-making than it is about actually earning the money.”
She noted that oftentimes, discussions about debt or poverty are focused on what physical resources can be provided instead of how to provide a solid financial education.
This is what she hopes to change and thus, Financial Literacy for American Futures (FLAF) was born.
Along with her friend John Archer, a Jesuit student, the pair have embarked on a journey to learn about the economic diversity that exists in our country.
“It is easier for some people to sink into a financial pitfall,” she said. “This serves as our project’s driving force because we want to help as many people as possible.”
The journey is not without its challenges. Creating a curriculum for the program that optimizes financial learning is tricky and their research continues to go deeper into what it means to be financially illiterate. They’ve had to reconsider skills that they originally deemed important to focus on.
But they don’t see these as setbacks.
“We want to be sure that everything we put into our lesson plans is necessary and applicable,” Marissa said. “The trial and error period is worth it and provides a much-needed learning curve.”
Currently, the two are focused on creating lesson plans suited for younger school levels. They’re experimenting with curriculum that is most important and realistic to include.
As for the big picture? The duo hopes to see more attention directed towards the lack of financial education across the U.S.
“Right now, only 6 out of 50 states in the country require students to take a personal finance course (Texas isn’t one of them),” said Marissa. “We hope that with this program and with other efforts around the country, that the need for financial education changes.”
Marissa hopes to study finance or economics in college and eventually pursue a career in banking or nonprofit finance.