In her first summer internship while pursuing her financial planning degree at the University of Georgia, Madison Ernst spent most of her time cleaning up files and performing simple office duties at RTD Financial Advisors Inc. It wasn't until the following summer that she got a real taste of what financial planning and working with clients is all about.
“In the second summer, I got to participate in the planning process with two advisers at the firm,” said Ms. Ernst, 22, who graduated with a family financial planning degree last month. “I was doing research for different situations involving clients, and it was a lot more hands-on than the previous summer.”
Ms. Ernst was scheduled to start working today as a financial analyst with The Ayco Co. LP in Atlanta while studying for her Series 7 license and certified financial planner designation. Ayco, owned by The Goldman Sachs Group Inc., provides financial counseling and education services to corporate executives and high-net-worth individuals. Ms. Ernst expects that she'll begin doing some back-office work, crunching numbers and working with financial planning software she has learned over the past two years in her internships. But she also hopes to get some experience working with clients.
“I'm going to get my feet wet and use my education in the real world,” Ms. Ernst said. “I hope to sit in on client meetings and see how the advisers communicate with clients. I want to work with others in a team spirit, and they do that at Ayco.”
Her biggest areas of interest are in investment planning and estate planning. She credits the University of Georgia four-year program, which she completed in three years, for preparing her to work as an adviser — particularly its capstone course that has students draft financial plans for fictitious families. Ms. Ernst said she chose to major in financial planning because “it's an area where people need the most help.”
In 10 years, Ms. Ernst hopes to be a senior financial adviser or an account manager if she remains at Ayco. Like many young people, she likes the idea of being an entrepreneur and eventually charting her own course in the industry.
“My goal for the future is to eventually set up my own practice. I'd like to be independent,” Ms. Ernst said. Her father, a small-business owner for 30 years, encouraged her to pursue the financial planning career path.
While Ms. Ernst said she's comfortable working with numbers, that isn't the reason she focused on financial planning.
“I enjoyed math, but it wasn't my strongest subject. This profession is about getting to know people and understanding their goals in life,” she said. “I've always been interested in the stock market and financial world, but I'm a people person and I enjoy helping others.”