Three women stand in front of a projection screen doing the Gator Chomp
Mary Driscoll, right, President of the Financial Education Group, presents about FAFSA with Coral Evans at Santa Fe High School.

How growing up financially insecure inspired me to teach financial education to others

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Mary Driscoll

By Mary Driscoll, BSBA ’20

I’ve always had a passion for business, and growing up in a financially insecure household taught me the importance of understanding how to handle money. When I came to the University of Florida Warrington College of Business to pursue a degree in finance, it was important to me to not only to learn about personal finance for myself, but also to share my knowledge to help teach others the importance of understanding how to manage money.

In 2018, I was inspired to help others learn how to be financially responsible by creating the Financial Education Group (FEG). Our mission is to serve the youth of the Gainesville community by sharing knowledge of the role that finance plays in adulthood, and the importance of being financially responsible; seeking to create and mentor a more educated generation. 

Right now, we’re working with seniors at both Gainesville High School and Santa Fe High School, but we hope to start helping all high-schoolers and their families very soon as well as expanding our visits to each school to once a week. I’m proud to say that since we first started in September 2018, we’ve presented about financial literacy to an estimated 950 students!

When we visit schools as part of FEG, I always start with my personal story and my upbringing to create a connection and express that our true intent is to help them, not because we’re looking to gain from this. All of our organization members have different backgrounds and different experiences which brought them to FEG, some who are first generation students, come from poverty, and some grew up middle class and had to adjust to being on their own when they came to college. Our primary goal is to always approach the topic of personal finance with empathy and relatability. Sharing our personal mistakes, and being honest about financial implications of certain financial decisions.  

One of the teachings we do is about FAFSA and the various ways you can pay for college. Many students we have spoken to have never even heard of FAFSA before, so we go into detail explaining the differences between grants, scholarships, federal loans and private loans.  

Two young students participate in a Financial Education Group event

Two young students participate in a Financial Education Group event.

With grants and scholarships, we explain how they are both “free money” that you don’t have to pay back; grants are automatically given through completing the FAFSA application, but you need to apply for scholarships. We usually follow up with some examples such as Florida Bright Futures.  

For loans, we explain the differences between subsidized, unsubsidized and parent PLUS loans.  

Subsidized loans are loans that do not accumulate interest while you’re in school, and do not have to begin paying back until after your 6-month grace period. Unsubsidized loans also don’t have to be paid back until after the grace period, however they do accumulate interest while in school. Parent PLUS loans are loans that are taken out in your parents’ name, based off of their credit history and have a higher interest rate then both subsidized and unsubsidized loans.  

We advise all our students against taking out a private loan and warn them about the predatory tactics that certain banks use to entice high school seniors. Since most of the students we speak to come from financially insecure homes, we know that they won’t have the credit score that would qualify for a lower interest rate that banks advertise, and those banks will usually encourage unknowing students to take out more loans then they need or can afford.  

I’m grateful for my education from Warrington, as almost all of my classes have helped me accomplish my goals with FEG. Management taught me effective leaderships skills that I needed to be an efficient president of the club, Business Finance taught me how to calculate loans payments, Public Speaking in Business and Intro to Business (and later my time as a Peer Leader) taught me how to present in a way that would capture the attention of my audience and so much more.  

If you’d like to learn more about the Financial Education Group, please check it on Facebook.