Personal Finance Lunch and Learn

A recap by VCET Associate Naomi Gordon


Members listen as Anastasia Surmava and Dakota Brizendine present on Personal Finance. 


Another successful Lunch and Learn in the books! For our most recent session, we wanted to go back to the basics and refresh our memory on personal finance. Oh boy, was there a lot to learn!

We were lucky to have Dakota Brizendine and Anastasia Surmava of the Commonwealth Financial Group share a plethora of their knowledge on personal finance to our members. The presentation had to be held in the Barn Room so we could squeeze in as many members as possible–this topic was a popular one for sure. 

Both Brizendine and Surmava come from backgrounds where financial literacy was not easily available, so they made it clear how important it is to have access to financial education. This Lunch and Learn was a step in the right direction for VCET members! 

The topics were all encompassing–ranging from efficiency planning, investments, budgeting, debt management and retirement. 

Brizendine and Surmava broke down financial planning for us into a 3D approach, where you can categorize your financial timeline into three buckets: accumulation, distribution, and preservation. This makes it all much more approachable and feasible. Insurance was one topic I had little confidence in beforehand, but they explained the benefits of each type clearly and effectively. I now know that life insurance is pretty darn important. They gave the perfect analogy: imagine you had a money machine which printed $50,000 a year. You would insure that, right? So why not insure your greatest asset: you! 

We also received fantastic advice around investing and retirement accounts. I would not have known that I should start an account sooner rather than later, even as a college student working part time. I’m going to be setting up my Roth IRA later this year, for sure. As for investing, it can seem like an intimidating world, but if you take a long-term, diversified approach as Brizendine and Surmava suggested, you will be successful and less overwhelmed. 

Beyond tangible financial advice, members came away with a new perspective surrounding their money: it is not a barrier to entry, rather it is a tool! Once we adopt a positive view towards our financial status, we will be able to take advantage of it. Our financials are not something to be embarrassed by, but something we can handle and take control of. 

After the insightful presentation, we had lunch from the one and only American Flatbread. Yum! I loved overhearing members in the VCET kitchen say things like, “I had no idea I could be receiving tax credits,” or “I feel so much better about my student debt now.” Feeling empowered by your financial status is incredibly important, so I’m so glad we had this opportunity for our members. 

Thank you again to Dakota Brizendine and Anastasia Surmava of the Commonwealth Financial Group for sharing your many insights. They can be reached here: and