Beyond The 'Big Two'
When it comes to college financial planning programs, many advisors see the landscape like this: Texas Tech and Virginia Tech and everyone else. "I know there are others, but they aren't marketing themselves well because when I think of the top schools it's always Texas Tech and Virginia Tech," says Michael Dubis, an advisor in Madison, Wis.
There are 95 bachelor's, 40 master's and five PhD programs at colleges and universities in the U.S. that teach a financial planning curriculum that satisfies the education requirements of the Certified Financial Planner Board of Standards Inc. They come in a variety of shapes, sizes and academic departments, but the basic goal is to provide the coursework to enable students to sit for the CFP exam.
If the so-called Big Two of Texas Tech and Virginia Tech seem to overshadow the rest, it's not without reason. They boast sizable resources and faculty to teach a large number of students and create a visible presence in the advisor community by sending their students to industry conferences and placing them in internship programs. That ultimately leads to jobs and creates thriving alumni networks. In turn, that creates a virtuous circle that feeds success.
"Part of it is size and synergy," says Ruth Lytton, director of CFP programs at Virginia Tech. "Part of it is the willingness of students to relocate, because when you do that you spread the perception of quality in a way smaller schools don't have the opportunity to do."
Jon Yankee, a partner at Fox, Joss & Yankee LLC in Reston, Va., notes there are many high-quality programs around the country with a strong regional presence. "It depends on where you are in the U.S. regarding what schools you hear about," he says.
Nonetheless, Yankee says his firm turns to Texas Tech and Virginia Tech to attract students for the two interns it hires each summer.
John Grable, a professor at Kansas State's Institute of Personal Financial Planning (and a Virginia Tech grad), says his school's relatively low national profile stems in part from the propensity of its students to stay in the region. Another reason comes down to resources--or a lack thereof. "We turn away students because we don't have enough faculty members to teach the courses," he says.
Grable might lament Kansas State's available resources, but its six faculty members make it seem like a juggernaut compared to, say, Utah State. "With the help of a finance professor, I basically carry the whole load," says Vance Grange, a tax professor and director of tax and personal financial planning programs at the university's school of accountancy.
Due to a lack of faculty members, Utah State set up its financial planning program as an undergraduate minor, as well as an area of specialization in the master's of accounting program. Grange says students from a variety of financial-oriented disciplines take the coursework, and he encourages his tax students to take as many financial planning courses as possible because they might need those skills someday at a CPA firm.
"People who hire our students get someone with a degree in accounting, finance or economics, plus financial planning training," Grange says. "And they say they like it that way because the people they hire have additional skills they can build on."
Now, if only Utah State could get the word out. "My department head said I should promote that more, but I wonder where I'll get the extra hours to do that," Grange says.
The Great American Inheritance Downsized
About a decade or so ago, a report by Boston College caused a big stir when it projected the U.S. would experience a $41 trillion intergenerational wealth transfer by the year 2052. Both heirs--and financial advisors--were licking their chops at the prospect of getting their hands on all of that money.
But two massive financial market downturns and a historic real estate crash later, a lot of people think that figure is wildly overstated. According to a recent report from the Center for Retirement Research at Boston College, it's estimated baby boomers will receive a total inheritance of $8.4 trillion in their lifetimes.