Timberwood Bank University Press Release

Timberwood Bank in Tomah

Completes First Year of New Financial Literacy Scholarship Program

Written by Melissa Troutt

Timberwood Bank’s innovative new financial literacy program, Timberwood Bank University, offers local high school students the opportunity to successfully plan for their future through a comprehensive exploration of subjects such as budgeting and saving, identity theft, and cyber security. In addition, subjects such as economy, credit, and loans help students gain a better understanding of the financial world they are about to enter into upon graduation. The idea for Timberwood’s University program was sparked by a similar program at a Nebraska bank that Timberwood Vice President Controller and Senior Credit Analyst, Matt Fries, saw during his attendance at the Graduate School of Banking. The program provides students with indispensable, real-world knowledge, as well as a few perks upon completion of the program. Students who have met the attendance and academic requirements are rewarded for their diligent work with a $250 scholarship, and a certificate of completion. The no-cost seven-week program is limited to 10 students and consists of one 60-minute course per week, culminating in a final essay contest based in part on Joe Fazio’s book, “This might be a dumb question, but How Does Money Work”, for which first and second prize winners are chosen to receive a $1000 and $750 scholarship, respectively.

Students of Timberwood Bank University have expressed their satisfaction with the course, commenting that it was both informative and fun. Student Reis Derousseau says she “would definitely recommend it to other students that are looking to learn while also having fun” and that participating in the program was “a tremendous experience… The knowledge I gained from this course will be beneficial for me in the future; especially this upcoming fall, when I start my first semester of college.” Other students expressed the program’s helpfulness in preparing for their impending college life including Travis Von Haden who stated that, “Timberwood Bank University has provided a basis on how to use my money in the most productive way possible.” Travis also included that if you are a high school student planning on going to college he “highly suggest(s) this course because of its relativity to the responsibilities that are coming as you take the next step in life.” In fact, college preparedness was a central theme offered by the program, covering subjects from budgeting during college to paying for tuition and expenses with student loans. Sara Gigous, Vice President Senior Operations Officer at Timberwood, explained how the program prepared students to look realistically at their educational and life goals through research into their chosen career fields and cost of living expenses in Wisconsin, noting that some students began adapting the budgeting techniques they learned through the course to fit their desired outcome for their career. In addition, looking comparatively at the cost of different colleges across the nation and how financial aid and student loans may or may not cover some of the costs of these colleges helped some students make decisions about which schools they wished to attend.

To those outside of the realm of banking, budgeting and financial preparedness might sound like a daunting and dry subject, however first place winner Trey Gnewikow’s family were markedly impressed by how much their son enjoyed the program, noting that the entire family became immersed in Trey’s enthusiasm for financial literacy: “After every week’s session, Trey would come home and tell us about that week’s subject.  It was super interesting for all of us, including his younger twin brothers who are currently freshman.  Additionally, we discussed the program with Trey’s older brother Damon (who just finished his Junior year in college) and Damon said, ‘man I wish they would’ve done a class like that when I was in school, so I would’ve learned about all those things before I started college.’” Trey was also very enthusiastic about having participated in the program stating that “It was a really interesting and fun class.  I learned a lot of very helpful information I know I will use in college and the rest of my life.  I never had any idea how much thought my parents had to put into financial things and I’m glad I know much more about them now.”

In addition to understanding budgeting for college, the program covered financial planning for after college, including budgeting of one’s salary while including student loan payments and meeting the demands of every day cost of living, as well as topics like understanding and building credit and obtaining and paying a mortgage. Understanding cyber security and identity theft also helped students prepare for those pesky curves life tends to throw at them. The inclusion of subjects such as these takes the scope of the program beyond simply planning for college. Rather, the goal of Timberwood Bank University is to give students a lasting and inclusive understanding of their financial future.

Timberwood Bank University’s teachers, most of whom work at Timberwood Bank, are excited about the outcomes of the program and are optimistic about future sessions. Tom Trautsch, Chief Credit Officer and Executive Vice President at Timberwood, commented on the success of the program saying, “I think TBU was an eye-opening experience for the students.  The students learned the many important facets of personal financial responsibility. The students had a lot of questions and learned a lot. I hope they are able to take this information and apply it in their adult life.” Overall, nine employees of Timberwood Bank and one local insurance agent, Jeff Holthaus of State Farm, contributed to the success of the 2018 program. With the next session beginning in February 2019, Timberwood Bank University is gearing up for another exciting program, which will cover the same topics with possible additions including a basic introduction to investments.

The successful addition of Timberwood Bank University to Timberwood’s growing repertoire of services truly proves that Timberwood Bank is “The One Place to Go.”

2018 Timberwood Bank University students:

Pictured left to right, standing: Charlie Fries, Zachary Buchholz, Travis Von Haden, Mackenzie McPeters, Trey Gnewikow, Reis Derousseau; seated: Caitlyn Brockman, Shelby Foss, Molly Larsen; not pictured: Ian Evans-Cloud.