UVU trains personal financial planners to help others

October 29, 2017

Those in the upper class are able to have daily assistance from personal chefs, personal shoppers, personal trainers and personal financial planners.

Those in other income levels may wish they had those same services, but feel they can’t afford them or don’t need them. However, help with financial planning can be an important asset to almost anyone.

Utah Valley University is one of 150 institutions in the country teaching those skills to those who wish to help others. The UVU financial planning program has been ranked in the top 10 in the nation and has garnered a near-100 percent job placement rating. It also offers paid internships for students.

Although the subject has to do with money, its major focus is with people and their needs. Financial planning advisors work with individuals and families, while other finance professionals often represent companies or other large entities, said Luke Dean, a professor in the field.

“I always enjoyed working with money and helping people,” Dean said. “But a lot of the jobs that were just money-related felt kind of soulless, and a lot of the jobs where you help people don’t always pay well. This was the best of both for me.”

Planning for one’s own financial future and that of his or her loved ones can be daunting.

“People are scared and anxious about money. It’s really a sensitive thing tied to their life goals,” Dean said. “We care more about our students’ people skills, then we teach them how to help people financially. It takes a lot of love and care to help clients do the right thing.”

So Dean and other faculty members emphasize people skills and caring as an important part of what the students bring to and find in the major.

That field of study has grown to the largest financial planning program in the nation by the number of students enrolled, with more than 400 undergraduates. Not only is it the largest, but it has been ranked among the best. One of the most recent honors is taking first place in the Financial Planning Association’s National Financial Planning Challenge in early October in Nashville, Tennessee. Josh Scott, Gerika Ballard and Brian Miller, all seniors, comprised UVU’s team in the competition.

“I’m grateful I could have this incredible experience, but it happened because of UVU’s PFP program,” Ballard said. “We worked hard, putting in over 300 hours as a team, but without the program, we wouldn’t have the chance to participate in career-defining events like this.”

Those students and others from UVU have a bright future, using their knowledge to help others.

“The average age of financial planners is over 60 years old,” said UVU financial planning professor Ryan Law. “And at a lot of financial planning firms, there’s only one or two people running the shop. If they’re in their 50s and 60s, they need to start thinking about transitioning over to younger employees. So, that’s where our students are really filling that niche. In a lot of cases, after three or four years, our students end up becoming partners in the firms.”

Before they graduate, the students can already be helping others. To increase the campus community’s financial literacy, UVU has established the Money Management Resource Center, a free service available to any UVU student or employee with financial questions, staffed by student volunteers. Law is the director of the center, and he said it provides valuable advice along with vital engaged learning opportunities for students.

One of those student staffers is Trent Colledge, who helped his father and others learn to manage their resources.

“My father came to see me when I was fresh in the program, and after that discussion, I realized that I have the potential to help a lot of people with this as a career,” Colledge said. “The MMRC is an incredible place for people to come who are seeking unbiased financial advice. I love being the person that people come to for advice about finance.”

You don’t need to have a lot of money to use the center and have it provide assistance.

“My favorite appointments are freshmen and sophomores who come in before they’ve got any problems,” Law said. “They come in on their own and they say, ‘Hey, I just want to know what to do to manage my money well.’ So we’ll help them set up a budget, we’ll start to look at their credit report and see how we can make sure they graduate with a great credit score. The goal is to focus on productive habits — how we can take where you’re at right now and start to achieve those goals.”

“To me, UVU had the vision and made the commitment because UVU cares about the students,” Dean said. “I know that no university can do everything — they can’t solve all their students’ problems. But UVU cares about getting students into an applied profession where they could make a difference in their community. I love what we’ve done here.”