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being a good steward as a Christian and a pastoral leader.” Gettysburg financial aid and admissions associate Susan Kowalski said students bring a “money autobi- ography” to their first meeting with a coach to give a sense of past spending patterns, debt and future spending plans. The coach, in turn, “shares his or her own personal financial history, not all of which is great, which lets the student know it’s OK to not have this perfect plan,” she said. Fowler said, “Ryan helped me come up with a budget and a financial worksheet to [see] how much I spend each month, recurring payments and where I’m headed next year. It helps me stay organized and know where I can cut back to save.”


Where he once ate more fre- quently at fast-food restaurants, he said, “now before eating out I won- der: is this about getting together with folks, or is it simply because I don’t feel like cooking? I’m trying to grow my savings, my emergency fund.” He often cooks and stocks up on essen- tials at the seminary food pantry. His coach also helped him look at interest rates on student loans and “which to pay more on,” Fowler said. Along with Fowler, Hannigan has worked with two other seminarians. “I try to put students at ease,” he said. “I meet with them for an hour and a half on their territory. But I don’t


Why don’t 100 percent do this?


Susan Kowalski, financial aid and admissions associate for the Lutheran Theological Seminary at Gettysburg (Pa.), publicizes the free financial coaching opportunity to all seminarians. Although participation is grow- ing, most still haven’t pursued it. She chalks that up to “scheduling, a sense of the unknown, and that finances are difficult to talk about.” In the past, some students might have thought it “carried a stigma or was for those who didn’t know anything about finances,” she added. She hopes that is changing. “It’s a wonderful resource to have a free financial adviser,” Kowalski


said.


do the work for them. I teach them how to do it. [Financial coaching] is important because many students are worried about their studies, but they don’t realize how much they’ve had to borrow overall. You could take out the maximum amount and spend it, but do you really need all of that? Coaching gives you an awareness of what you owe and how much you really need to borrow.”


He has a personal motivation for helping seminarians. When Hannigan earned a master’s in religion from Gettysburg in 1982, financial coach- ing wasn’t available. But he could have used it, he said.


Hannigan has agreed to be avail- able for questions by email or phone throughout Fowler’s internship at Resurrection Lutheran Church, Port- land, Ore. The goal for this internship year? “Not to have to take out any more loans,” Fowler said. He’s happy that Resurrection is providing a stipend and stocking a free, furnished residence with food. “Also, Ryan and I have discussed try- ing to save a portion of my stipend, so I have a cash reserve when I graduate [at the end of 2014] to start paying off my loans,” he said.


Before graduation, Fowler wants to look again at congregational budgets and stewardship resources. “Creating a budget in some congrega- tions can be an anxious thing, so how


do we dig deeper and look at what the church should be doing in the world?” he asked. “Having healthy mindsets and habits about finances can come through modeling. And it couldn’t hurt to have a financial expert or a retirement planner offer free semi- nars to the entire community. I won’t just be pastoring a church, but a community.” 


How it works Finding coaches: Donald Main, a former Upper Susquehanna Synod bishop who serves on the Stewardship of Life Institute board, recruits CPAs, financial aid administrators, pastors and oth- ers to serve as volunteer financial coaches at the Lutheran Theologi- cal Seminary at Gettysburg (Pa.). “The neat thing is, I don’t think I’ve ever been turned down,” Main said. Gettysburg’s 23 coaches, he


said: • Demonstrate “a good sense of stewardship in their lives.” • Are neutral (not faculty or staff). • Keep what they and students talk about confidential (unless the stu- dent agrees to share, as with this article). • Agree not to market any finan- cial products to students.


Matchmaker, matchmaker: Susan Kowalski, Gettysburg’s financial aid and admissions associate, matches seminarians (spouses as well) with financial coaches. She tries to match students’ finan- cial goals with coaches who excel in that area.


Download a study guide for this article (free to print/Web members) at www. thelutheran.org (click on “study guides”).


August 2013 17


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