If you were to ask a kid what he wants to be when he grows up, "financial planner" may not be the first thing that comes to mind.
But for David M. Blanchett, head of retirement research at Morningstar Investment Management, that was exactly what he wanted to be.
"Seriously, I know that sounds lame, but I've always been drawn to this field," he wrote in a questionnaire for InvestmentNews' 40 Under 40.
The Lexington, Ky., native essentially grew up in the financial planning and retirement industries: He took the CFP exam at age 21.
"I didn't go to a school that offered a CFP program; this was on my own," he said. "I completed all of these [designations] because I was incredibly curious about the profession. I had this desire to give the best advice to people and the hunger to know more."
Mr. Blanchett eventually went on to attain four other designations: the chartered financial analyst, chartered life underwriter, chartered financial consultant and accredited fiduciary investment analyst. Currently, he's working on a Ph.D. in personal financial planning at Texas Tech University.
Indeed, Mr. Blanchett's drive to help savers and investors reach their goals imbues his research at Morningstar. For instance, he measured the value of intelligent financial planning decisions during retirement — or gamma — in his 2013 paper "Alpha, Beta and Now … Gamma."
In the 2014 paper "Low Bond Yields and Efficient Retirement Income Portfolios," he studied the ideal allocation toward a group of investment options, including a variable annuity with a guaranteed lifetime withdrawal benefit, amid a period of low bond yields.
These papers don't just drive conversations among financial planners and academics, they also lead to real results for investors. Mr. Blanchett's findings are incorporated into Morningstar's custom target-date models and participant services for 401(k) plans.
"It was never my dream that if I learn more I can make more," he said. "I wanted to truly help people accomplish their goals."
— Darla Mercado
Director of financial planning, Clark Nuber P.S.