Bringing Financial Planning to High School Students
This morning was a morning filled with pleasant unexpectedness. I had the opportunity to attend a small career fair at my local high school. I was nervous and genuinely excited! Would these kids even know what a financial planner was? How do I describe what I do? I put a fair amount of thought into it and asked for some resources from the CFP® Board and NAPFA, since I know they have active campaigns to attract the next generation. (Check out the CFP® Board’s I Am A CFP® Pro campaign.) Eileen kindly assisted me with my trifold board – thank you Eileen! I found myself having SO much to say and wondering how to distill it down. In the end, I decided to summarize my role with, “Being a CFP® combines my love of finance, my passion for connecting with and helping people, and my interest in psychology.”
As somewhat expected, most of the students that stopped by to chat had no idea what a financial planner is or does. They asked about my typical day – which no two are ever alike. Over and over I found myself explaining that excellent communication, being good with details, and having the ability to problem solve are key requirements. They asked about my career path – how did I become a planner? Believe it or not, I even talked to one young man who was going to major in economics and was interested in foreign exchange! Boy did he hit the jackpot with me! (For those of you that don’t know, the early years of my career were spent on the foreign exchange trading floor with State Street and managing portfolio of currencies with Wellington.)
More questions – how much math was involved? They worried was there too much or was it complex. I assured them the math was not too complicated and that as long as they had the concepts, the software could do the calculations. Many shoulders lowered.
What did I do in college? I got to talk about my alma mater, Northeastern University, and how the co-op program really propelled my career. Furthermore, I got to share what an amazing investment it was. While Northeastern has become far more selective and astronomically more pricey since I attended in ‘96-01, I still believe it offers good return on value – for the right majors. I stopped myself from going down the rabbit hole of talking about the cost and value proposition for college, and how they really need to think about the college choices they are making. It was hard to stop myself, because I know too soon too many of them will be faced with the huge decision and responsibility of how to pay for their schooling. No rabbit holes today though, this was supposed to be an inspiring event!
As I sit an hour after the fair, I found myself recalling how many of them had no idea what their parents did for a living. Sure, some were nurses and teachers, the fairly straightforward stuff. One student told me his dad was a compliance officer for a large, Boston-based investment firm. I was happy to explain to him what his dad did and how it related to my world. You could see the lightbulb moment, it was really excellent!
I find myself wondering how we can expect these kids to make of their first and possibly biggest investments in their life, the one that is supposed to launch them into an amazing career, when they really don’t know/understand careers, what their own parents do on a regular day, and worse, the enormous financial implications their choice will have on their and their parents lives. I comforted myself somewhat by remembering that teens of the age 13-20ish tend to go into this space where they wish their parents didn’t exist…or so I am told. So I guess to be fair, parents really don’t have much of a chance to actually connect on this level with their teen children. But, shouldn’t we as parents be teaching our kids about what we spend so many hours of our lives doing on a daily basis and why we matter in the community?!
Furthermore and almost more importantly, how do we better educate and equip them on the financial implications of following their dream careers and the college selection process?! Case in point – there was one young woman who told me she really wanted to attend Northeastern and that her major would be English or History or something liberal arts. I might have visibly winced. Should you spend $70k a year, for a 5-year school, when getting out of school with a liberal arts degree might average you an annual income of approximately $42,000. Again, I had to remind myself, stay on the inspirational track. Don’t get me wrong, you know I love Northeastern and I recognize that liberal arts may parlay into a role as a well-paid attorney or some unexpected financially rewarding career, but there is a very long list of schools in this country that have terrific liberal arts programs at much less of a cost. Also, it may be financially beneficial for the parents and students to really consider schools outside of their local geographic region. I know this is not feasible for all students, but for some, imagine how much more enhanced your college experience is as you broaden your horizons. (For the record, when I attended Northeastern, it was still predominantly a commuter school and a commuter I was…because that’s what my family could afford.)
When I woke up this morning who would have known that this career fair would lead me to write my first blog post for Resolute! Furthermore, it lit this fire in me that I need to start doing more to educate my clients and the younger generation about planning for college and aligning the costs with a rewarding career path. Bring on the high school career fairs! Parents, talk to your kids OR let me chat with them. Also consider the investment of working with someone like Todd Weaver from Strategies for College to help identify a list of schools that make sense given your child’s interest, skill, and financial circumstances. We think it makes financial sense.
Walking through those high school halls and into the cafeteria brought back a flood of memories from my own high school days. I expected to feel old, but instead I felt something wonderfully unexpected. Being able to go in and talk to budding adults about a career I truly love was more exciting, empowering, and rewarding than I could have imagined. I feel great about what I do because I have wonderful clients who keep me engaged, entertained and constantly challenged. I’m part of a terrific firm that believes in doing what’s best for the client always. I work hard to earn and keep my CFP®, and I’m honored to be part of NAPFA – the National Association of Personal Financial Advisors, a group that believes in upholding the fiduciary standards in our industry and supporting fellow advisors. Each day is a different challenge and there are so many topics to tackle. For today, I’m grateful to share my experience and knowledge on a financial planning career and my two cents on college planning.