That is the mission statement that Dr. Inga Timmerman, associate professor, and Dr. Mary Jean Scheuer, endowed professor of fnance at CSUN, tried to instill in every one of their fnancial planning students, as they trained them on how to provide fnancial coaching to low-income taxpayers during the recently concluded tax season.
With support from Wells Fargo Bank, the CSUN VITA Clinic is helping community members achieve their fnancial goals. Once again in 2020, Wells Fargo Bank provided generous funding to support the clinic and provide fnancial coaching to the low-income clients that the CSUN VITA Clinic serves.
During tax season, students and local community members from the San Fernando Valley area came to CSUN to receive free tax fling services. While they were waiting to fle their taxes, Timmerman’s team — made up of fve seniors in the fnancial planning program — offered clients important fnancial planning services and advice.
Many of the financial “problems” that clients have usually come from a “lack of information” says Timmerman. “Unlike most financial advice organizations, we are 100 percent free. This type of advice would cost the average person $100-200 dollars an hour. Clients that come in with massive credit card debt - and no plan to solve it - aren’t able to afford these services.”
Each financial planning student commits 12 hours per week to the program. All students, before they can give advice to their clients, have to complete fnancial coaching training. This ensures that both parties are receiving and learning valuable fnancial skills and advice.
Coaches help clients create plans to eliminate their credit card debt, allocate funds into a 401K and help build financial plans to get out and stay out of debt. Timmerman believes that improving your financial situation shouldn’t just be for people who can afford it.
“Everyone needs it,” says Timmerman. “Our goal is to eliminate the stigma that comes with discussing your financial situation openly. We see first-hand the discomfort and shame that many clients have when they start talking about their money.
”Coupled with this discomfort, there are many misconceptions about the role of the IRS. This program has become a win-win situation for both low-income taxpayers and coaches. “Not only are we helping the local community with their financial needs,” said Timmerman, “but we are helping students gain real-world experience as financial coaches.” Due to the COVID-19 outbreak, the CSUN VITA Clinic operations were moved into a virtual setting where participants received financial coaching through a virtual platform. Though this proved to be a challenge to the less tech-savvy community members, Timmerman said that they helped both old and new clients. Even in their short time with the community, Timmerman believes that the program has had a tremendous impact on CSUN and local communities in the San Fernando Valley.