April 12, 2013

Looking for a Job After College? Try Financial Planning

Deena Katz and Harold Evensky point out the benefits of the Texas Tech financial planning curriculum and similar higher-education programs

“We’re in the business of managing expectations,” says Deena Katz of what advisors do for a living—and it’s a living, she argues, that more college-age people should consider pursuing.

Deena KatzKatz (left), who with her partner Harold Evensky runs the wealth management firm Evensky & Katz, is expending more of her seemingly boundless energy and passion these days as an associate professor in Texas Tech University’s Personal Financial Planning program.

She’s also an evangelist not just for Texas Tech’s program, but for the many similar programs at colleges and universities around the nation. Those academic programs teach students the theory of financial planning, but in the tradition of tech schools, there’s a clear practical bent to the curriculum.

While the intellectual return of such programs may be gratifying to academically minded students, there’s a career benefit as well: graduates of these programs are almost guaranteed a job, she says. At Texas Tech, 95% of graduates get a job in the field, while the remainder, Katz joked with a nod to Texas, “go to work for their father’s oil company.”

While Katz has been teaching and preaching on the topic for some years now, and has welcomed Evensky to the Texas Tech faculty, it appears that much of the rest of the industry is catching up with what she discovered years ago.

In an interview in New York on Thursday, she expressed gratification at the industry support that Texas Tech and other schools are getting from the likes of Schwab Advisor Services, TD Ameritrade and MoneyGuide Pro, all of whom are donating dollars, technology and expertise to these academic programs.

The motivation, Katz agrees, is that advisors and their partners realize that these students are the future of a profession that skews toward “old, white men,” noting that the average age of an advisor is 57. “When we started out” in the business, Katz recalls, “we had nothing,” but now “we’re a profession.”

The college-level financial planning programs are helping to deliver the academic heft in terms of research that a profession requires, while they also deliver the technology education students need—along, in the case of Texas Tech, with the practice management and behavioral finance skills that those students will require when they start working in the field.

There’s a need for more women in the profession as well, says Katz, who voices concern about what seems to be a decrease in the number of female advisors. Women need to “understand better what financial planning is about,” while women in the profession need to do a better job of mentoring younger women new to the profession.

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