Years of accumulated wisdom are about to disappear from financial planning. Tens of thousands of professionals are planning to retire in the next decade, and it’s crucial their collective knowledge is transferred before it’s lost.

After integrating mentorship into the financial planning curriculum at Texas A&M University, I feel strongly that mentorship holds the key to getting more people interested in financial planning and having them run successful businesses.

The Value Of One-On-One Interactions

Mentorship within the financial planning program at Texas A&M University didn’t actually start out as a mentorship program: It began as informational interactions and blossomed into integration within a university class. While I was teaching my financial planning classes, I noticed that my classroom model — which was mostly Socratic — didn’t garner the same engagement and high-impact learning that I witnessed in guest lectures, conferences such as TD Ameritrade Institutional's National LINC or internships.

Students come alive during one-on-one discussions in a way that is much different from their classroom personas. I saw students I was trying to reach through lectures instead hungering for direct interaction and continual feedback. Foundational financial planning curriculum taught in the classroom is still critical to success, but curiosity, passion and self-discovery seem to mature the old-fashioned way: through purposeful relationships.

But getting freshmen interested in financial planning takes work. At Texas A&M, real effort goes into educating and helping students understand the financial planning industry. That happens at conferences where students can hear lectures from experienced professionals and make valuable connections at mixers, but it’s especially apparent when students have one-on-one mentor relationships that demonstrate the full scope of financial planning.

A mentorship program is so impactful that having a mentor is now a requirement in the final capstone course for students before they can graduate from our program. Students are also required to find their own mentor, which is an opportunity for learning to convey their value to someone a bit more seasoned in the profession. Although mentorship is a time-intensive process, it’s more than worth the investment by both the mentor and the mentee.

Passing The Torch Of Wisdom

Twenty years ago, the financial planning industry emphasized personality testing in an effort to find individuals who excelled in sales. Financial planners operated as lone wolves who were able to handle rejection continuously while being sharp enough to position a product over and over again. That was a great approach to finding good employees when the core positioning of financial services was to provide access to many people.

Now, however, the financial planning industry has evolved to become more advice-centric, and this mindset of independence is hindering planners who are retiring over the next decade. While becoming a strong mentor may feel uncomfortable for these independent financial planners at first, it’s vital they learn how to adopt mentorship so that their institutional knowledge is not lost. Mentors need to share their successes, failures, networks, knowledge and creative spirit. I continually tell financial planners they have so much wisdom to offer, and it’s not just to their clients.

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