'Spending this time virtually removes a crucial element from the uni experience'

UCL student Finn shares about volunteering for Money A+E and the student experience during Covid-19.


Finn Pierau

How did you first come to be involved with Money A+E?

During my university course, Nadine Tchaho presented Money A+E as a guest speaker in our finance, prosperity and debt module. After her inspiring speech she mentioned that Money A+E is looking for volunteers. I picked up on this and came for a Money Mentoring class to get an experience of Money A+E’s practice.


I also talked to Greg and asked him about his experience as the Director and I offered to volunteer should there be any need. Before I had the chance to volunteer, Greg and Money A+E staff actually did me and my student colleagues a big favour and agreed to be interviewed for a student research project. I remained in touch afterwards and am happy to say that I am now able to return the favour and provide some help for Money A+E.


There is a remarkable feeling of purpose and support in Money A+E’s staff...most staff members themselves have experienced debt, so the support comes from a real place of understanding.

What has the experience been like?

There is a little bit of a learning curve that I had to climb myself, as Money A+E’s staff is usually very busy, especially during COVID. I like a challenge, and it has to be said that whenever I did approach my point of contact, Greg, he has been very quick to answer my questions and provide a little nudging concerning the direction of the research.


What was your research about?

The research was about exploring the question "How does debt education promote prosperity?" We found that Money A+E not only provides advice on money management, but that the openness and time given to listen to clients is key to helping people out of their debt problems towards a more prosperous life.


Openness and time given to listen to clients is key to helping people out of their debt problems towards a more prosperous life.

A slide from Finn's research

Why did you decide to volunteer?

There is a remarkable feeling of purpose and support in Money A+E’s staff. Everyone is aware of the seriousness of debt problems, most staff members themselves have experienced debt, so the support comes from a real place of understanding. Money A+E offers more than technical support on how to manage money and debt. They take time to listen and understand you as the person you are, and I think this is incredibly valuable. As I had spare time for a volunteering project, I did not have to think very long to offer support.


What have your own experiences been around money management?

My experience of money management is preventative so that I do not fall into debt in the future. Especially last year I have spent very little beyond essentials like rent or replaced some old clothes, and in general I keep my spending pretty low. I am keen to learn more from Money A+E about other types of money management and how people can cope with problem debt.


Being a student has been incredibly frustrating...As much as anyone learns academically, you learn about yourself and make friends in the time between and after lectures. Spending this time virtually removes a crucial element from the university experience.

How have the past 12 months been for you?

I remember that I felt the beginning of lockdown as almost something enjoyable, life slowed down and I had time to re-evaluate my future plans. Today, I feel that the last two months have been tough on my well-being, I feel less stable and my mood can fluctuate quickly. I am glad that I made good friends in university who I can talk to when I need support.


How has it been for students?

Being a student has been incredibly frustrating. I feel especially for those who have started uni in lockdown. As much as anyone learns academically, you learn about yourself and make friends in the time between and after lectures. From my experience, spending this time virtually, within the same four walls, removes a crucial element from the university experience and I hope that universities recognise this.


What is the story behind your donation to the Money A+E Community Fund and why did you decide to donate?

Aside from COVID, university strikes also reduced students’ contact hours in 2019/2020, yet the university fees remained unchanged. I felt this was unfair and got in touch with the university to discuss this. The uni did decide I was due compensation. I decided that, as I had spent little money that year, I could donate some of this compensation to Money A+E.


Really, financial and mental health are deeply linked, and any attempt to improve financial health ought to keep this in mind.

Is there anything you want to raise awareness of in relation to financial health?

Financial health to me means financial independence. This independence provides an essential base for a healthy mind. Yet, even if you are financially independent for the time being, it is possible to spend irresponsibly when you are mentally unwell. Really, financial and mental health are deeply linked, and any attempt to improve financial health ought to keep this in mind.


Money A+E send a big thank you to Finn for sharing this with us.