A brighter financial future

Alum Paul Merriman shares a lifetime of financial knowledge with WWU students and the community
Story by Frances Badgett
“Money is a part of almost every part of life—even if you don’t want your life to revolve around money, it is always there.”

Paul Merriman, '66, B.A., economics, sold his investment advisory firm and retired in 2012, but he is still a go-to source for advice about investing, regardless of whether you’re just starting out as a newly minted graduate or looking to retire.

Through a financial education foundation Paul founded in 2012, he continues to offer his investment advice free through articles, podcasts and books.

Earlier this year, Paul and his wife Zan donated $3.6 million to establish the Paul Merriman Financial Literacy Program at WWU. The program will provide financial literacy skills to students at Western and will be offered to members of the community, including K-12 students.

The goal of the program, which will be facilitated by Western faculty, is to provide all students and community members with the skills to navigate their finances in a way that supports their financial future and overall well-being.

“For ten years I have hoped there would be a time when every Western student would graduate with a solid background in the basics of financial decision making,” Merriman says. “I’m thrilled to see my wish will come true.”

Merriman’s dedication to financial education garnered him the 2021 James B. Cloonan Award for Excellence in Investment Education. Other winners of this prestigious award include Bruce Johnstone of Fidelity Investments, and John Bogle, founder of the Vanguard Group.

Energetic, thoughtful, and deeply invested in seeing young people retire with millions of dollars in the bank, Merriman is a Wenatchee native who grew up the son of a nurturing, generous nurse who taught him to be nice to absolutely everyone. 

“My mother encouraged me to always be kind. Always. To everyone,” he says.

Paul wasn’t your average kid. He was involved in student politics, the Key Club and the Boys’ Club. He was active in his church, formed a rock-and-roll band and sang in the church choir—and always with an eye to help others. He was also a hard worker. He started selling Christmas cards when he was 11 years old.

“I was always looking for ways to stay busy and help others.”

Merriman initially attended the UW before finding Western. 

“I was married at 19, and the UW felt big after growing up in Wenatchee. I went to visit Western and the campus was so welcoming.” 

Merriman loved his time at Western, and enjoyed the friends, professors and the courses he took. He was also a proud member of “The Keggers,” a fun-loving flag football team who were only scored on once in an entire season. In May 2021, he spoke at the memorial for his favorite professor, Thaddeus Spratlen, with whom he had a lifelong relationship.

Even beyond his generous financial support of Western, Merriman also returns to campus regularly to teach students about personal finance and investing. In 2013, his foundation underwrote the creation and ongoing support of Personal Investing 216, a course that was designed for non-finance majors. 

“I love any opportunity I can get to educate kids on the life-changing financial decisions they face,” Merriman says.

But what about people who are squeamish about money?

“Money is a part of almost every part of life—even if you don’t want your life to revolve around money, it is always there.”

And lucky for Western students, Paul is right there, too, ready to help them invest for a brighter, better future.