USA Funds Staff Profile: Advocate for Wise Money Management

If Sara Wilson seems particularly passionate about teaching sound money management to college students, it’s because she’s all too aware of the potential consequences of unwise financial behavior while in school.

“People say, ‘How do you know USA Funds® Life Skills® works?’” says Wilson, USA Funds’ financial literacy product manager. “And I say, ‘I know because it worked for me.’”

Wilson was only a few years out of college when, as a USA Funds marketing coordinator, she began working with USA Funds Life Skills, USA Funds’ online financial literacy and student success program. And what she learned through her work on the program helped her develop habits that would help her undo the damage that her unwise spending in college caused.

“I was the kid who did everything wrong financially in college,” says Wilson. “I took longer than I should to pay my bills, I took out student loans regardless of whether I thought I really needed them, and I spent unwisely.”

After being exposed to the USA Funds Life Skills curriculum as part of her job, she began to understand the steps she should be taking to better manage her debt. She joined USA Funds in 2005 and has been in her current position since 2010.

Now, after strengthening her own financial record, Wilson has a special appreciation for those students who report changing their behaviors after completing USA Funds Life Skills courses.

“That’s what makes coming to work exciting to me — the fact that I’m working on a tool that will mean fewer students go through what I went through,” Wilson says. “It makes my day when I see responses from surveys that say that USA Funds Life Skills has affected students’ lives.”

The online USA Funds Life Skills curriculum equips institutions to teach their students to manage their time and money wisely while on campus and after graduation. USA Funds’ quarterly surveys of students show that more than 90 percent reported changing at least one financial behavior after completing USA Funds Life Skills lessons.

As financial literacy product manager, Wilson conducts research on financial literacy education, effective financial education for postsecondary students, and trends in learning. She works with the USA Funds Life Skills development team on strategy and on changes and updates to the tool. She also collaborates with marketing staff to ensure that USA Funds is sharing best practices for using USA Funds Life Skills.

“Ultimately,” Wilson says, “we deliver a product proven to educate students and change attitudes and behaviors, getting students to open their eyes and say, ‘I need to make a change, and I will make a change’ — and then we hear that they do make that change.”

A native of eastern Indiana, Wilson holds a bachelor’s degree from Ball State University in Muncie, Ind.