UPEI custodian inspires students with lessons on saving money

Anne Sheehan came from a poor family but started saving in her early 20s, since paying off her mortgage and putting her son through college.

Anne Sheehan came from a poor family but started saving in her early 20s

No plan is good if you can't stick to it, says Anne Sheehan. (Sarah MacMillan/CBC)

To the surprise of some UPEI business students, a member of the university's cleaning staff taught them about saving money on Thursday.

For the third year in a row, Anne Sheehan gave her presentation about personal finances and savings to fourth-year business students.

Sheehan said she came from a poor family but started saving in her early 20s. She has since bought her own house, paid off the mortgage, and put her son through college.

"I wanted to save for my future and have a bright future financially," she told CBC's Island Morning after her talk.

Teaching students about real-life

Business professor Mike Cassidy said he overheard Sheehan telling her story at a Christmas party a few years ago.

When his kids later showed him a story about a woman who had nothing but saved money, it reminded him of Sheehan.

UPEI business professor Mike Cassidy says Sheehan continues to inspire the students long after they leave university. (Sarah MacMillan/CBC)

So he decided to ask her if she would teach his class for a day. On Thursday, Sheehan gave her lecture for the third time.

"We have somebody here that has never had formal university education but she can talk about a plan, she can say the plan is no good unless you put it into action, she can talk about assets," Cassidy said.

He added that the university regularly brings in people to tell their personal stories on a wide range of subjects.

The students need to understand life and themselves, and how to deal with potential problems in the future, he said.

Stacy Haralabidis, a fourth-year accounting student at UPEI, says she can identify with Sheehan’s story. (Sarah MacMillan/CBC)

And Sheehan's story continues to engage them. Even when he meets students long after graduation, they still tell him how she inspired them to save, he said.

"That's what keeps us all motivated," said Cassidy.

"Our job is to teach, our job is to communicate effectively, and our job is to make sure students listen and have an action plan"

Students can identify with the story

Stacy Haralabidis, a fourth-year accounting student at UPEI, said she can identify with Sheehan's story.

At one time, she also started building her funds and savings from nothing.

"As a student, you go to school and you have a lot of expenses and I know exactly what it is to finance," she said.

Nathan Hood says Sheehan's sets a great example. (Sarah MacMillan/CBC)

Fellow student Nathan Hood said he expected a person in suit and tie to show up and talk about finances.

That's why Sheehan is so effective, especially with students who "may not be in the best financial situation," he said.

"I think it is a great example that regardless of which background you come from you can provide great information and great advice to others on how to manage your finances."

Make a plan and stick to it, Sheehan says

Sheehan hopes the university will bring in more people from staff positions and regular jobs to talk about their personal experiences.

"I believe it's another way of education, a new learning, and another way to support students because they see us every day," she said.

"It gives them that comfort of knowing that the person they see every day is just a person like them."

With files from CBC Island Morning