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Making Cents

John Merrill establishes endowment to improve financial literacy

John Merrill speaking at commencement

Alumnus John Merrill sees a disturbing lack of financial skills among young people.

That’s why the Houston-based financial adviser is working with UT Arlington to endow initiatives to promote financial literacy in future generations.

“There’s a large lack of understanding of basic financial principles among young people that extends well into adulthood,” says Merrill, president and chief investment officer at Tanglewood Wealth Management. “Many parents are failing to teach them, and school districts are not including it in their curriculums.”

Merrill is working with the College of Business to improve money management among both college-aged and younger students through an endowment that will fund research symposia, development of interactive media to teach money skills, and support for a student money management center.

The author of several books, Merrill was a pioneer in the fee-only financial investment community and has been recognized as one of the nation’s top financial advisers by Barron’s, the Financial Times, and Worth magazine. His firm manages more than $850 million in assets.

In 2011 he spoke at the College of Business commencement and received his undergraduate degree at the same ceremony after finishing his coursework online following a 40-year hiatus.

“I had completed everything I needed to graduate except a couple of courses to wrap up my degree,” he says. “I signed up for those courses in the summer of 1970, and then an opportunity interceded. I dropped those courses to start a business.”

Merrill hopes that providing better financial education will empower college students grappling with rising debt.

“I’m just a concerned citizen doing my small part to change things in one place, in one institution, in one area in the country,” he says. “Hopefully it can serve as a template for many institutions and school districts in other parts of the country.”

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