New master's degree to teach advisers financial life planning skills

Focus on life planning to teach softer skills that advisers need, like client coaching

Jul 26, 2017 @ 1:38 pm

By Liz Skinner

Golden Gate University is introducing a new master's program focused on financial life planning and it requires students to have attained more than just a bachelor's degree to begin. They also must have passed the Certified Financial Planner certification exam.

Its M.S. in advanced financial planning degree, with a concentration in life planning, will teach many of the skills that advisers often say they have had to learn on the job, namely counseling and communications and a little positive psychology, said David Yeske, co-founder of Yeske Buie and director of financial planning at GGU in San Francisco.

"At some level, the quantitative things that we do are easy, but change is hard. Having the skills to help clients facilitate change, that's the hard part," he said.

Life planning focuses on helping people use their wealth to create and support purposeful lives.

(More: College programs in need of financial aid)

The new program, which will be available online and on the campus, will focus on teaching advisers how to enable positive change in their clients' lives.

It will incorporate the life planning research and studies of George Kinder and Richard Wagner, a financial adviser who passed away in March but is considered a leader of the movement, as well as Rick Kahler, Ted and Brad Klontz, and Susan Bradley, among others. Many of these well-known experts will present their work to the class as guest lecturers.

"It's commonly held that the education requirements necessary to sit for the CFP exam are really very minimal; it's just the basics," Mr. Yeske said. "There's more work that needs to be done and this attempts to get at that."

Luke Dean, director of the financial planning program at Utah Valley University, said the GGU program is likely to attract professionals who want to improve their overall comprehensive financial planning skills.

(More: Retirement coaching could improve post-career happiness)

"I think schools with robust graduate degrees in financial planning like Texas Tech, Georgia, Kansas State, etc., were already teaching a lot of these core concepts," Mr. Dean said. "But it seems that Golden Gate is putting an even larger emphasis on the financial life planning skills, and that should be a great thing for professionals who complete that program and for the clients they serve."

Utah Valley hopes to create a financial planning graduate program within the next few years. The school may retool some of the courses it needs to offer to reflect more of the life planning skills emphasized in the new GGU degree, Mr. Dean said.

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