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For 3 Financial Planning Students, Here’s What the Industry Looks Like

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The surefire way to land a job after college? Get a degree in financial planning.

“We have a shortage of younger advisors coming into the industry. Only 6% of advisors are under the age of 30, and that poses a lot of problems,” said Tom Nally, TD Ameritrade International president, during a visit to ThinkAdvisor’s New York office. “We need to raise the visibility because most people don’t know about financial planning as a career.”

Nally says only 700 students graduated with a financial planning degree last year in the United States, and only 90 universities offer degree programs in financial planning.

In its efforts to raise awareness, TDAI has awarded its third annual NextGen Financial Planning Grants and Scholarships: a $50,000 grant to the University of North Texas to expand an existing financial planning degree program; a $25,000 grant to Temple University in Philadelphia to help develop a new program; and 14 $5,000 scholarships to students across a variety of universities.

“Our strategy for this is we want to have as broad an impact as possible on as many schools and as many students because ultimately we want to generate a broad base of visibility [on financial planning],” Nally said.

Each year, TDAI has upped the ante starting with one grant and 10 scholarships its first year and growing to the two grants and 14 scholarships today.

“Virtually [a financial planning degree] is a guarantee – if you study and do a good job, you’re going to get a job,” Nally said. “Getting a job is tough. We hear about millennials living with their parents until they’re 30, but here you can get a job with a nice income stream and have a rewarding career right out of school.”

ThinkAdvisor spoke with three of the TDAI scholarship recipients about why they want to be financial planners and how they can have impact on a graying industry. Interestingly, none of them knew of financial planning as a career option when they entered college.

For Anthony Radice, who’s attending William Paterson University in New Jersey, pursuing a degree in financial advisory is a way to give back to those that are less fortunate.

“I really wasn’t aware of the possibility of becoming a financial advisor from the start,” he told ThinkAdvisor. “I feel like it needs a lot more advertising and to let high school students know that this is an actual profession and you can pursue this as a career.”

Radice first learned about the option to become a financial advisor during a financial well-being course. When his family hit hard times financially, he was able to put some of his newly learned financial planning skills to work.

“That was a pretty hard year for our family fiscally,” he said. “I just remember it was really tough, so finance became a word in the house that was an intimidating word. But I feel, as an advisor, it should be a term that empowers an individual.”

Martie Tullis, a junior at Utah Valley University, went from studying math education to accounting until her personality eventually led her to the financial planning program.

“I was talking to one of my friends, who is a part of the [financial planning] program, and he was like, ‘Martie, you have way too much personality to be an accounting major. So come over to the [personal financial planning] program,’” Tullis said.

Meanwhile, Tullis’ classmate Junghyun Lee, also a junior at Utah Valley University, changed her major from finance to personal financial planning after an academic advisor told her about the university’s program.

“When I studied finance it was just learning about how the market system works,” she said, adding, “[financial planning] is more about people and psychology and finance. It’s more about how you can change people’s lives.”

All three – Tullis, who says she was born with the ability to figure out technology; Radice, who says he’s known as “the Excel guy”; and Lee, who once schooled a professor in a technology course – see their tech-savviness as an asset to the financial planning industry.

“We’ve talked a lot about how robo-advisors are coming into play and is that going to take away opportunities for financial planners,” Tullis said. “And maybe for advisors that are not willing to adopt the technology then that’s going to become a competitive environment. But, for this generation of planners, where we are ready and willing to adopt technology into what we’re doing, we can be a real asset to the firms where they don’t have the technology that we already [know].”

The Utah Valley University financial planning program requires its students, like Tullis and Lee, to take a full course on financial planning technology.

“In our program, most of the students are in their 20s and 30s. If you’re just spending a couple hours playing with the technology and [you] become experts on it,” Lee said. “For me, I actually helped the professor figure something out.”

Meanwhile, Radice already works as a technology consultant as a second job right now, where he often uses financial software from Morningstar and eMoney.

“I think we have a really strong role to play with our generation with how we immerse ourselves in technologies,” he said.

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