UNT Student wins $1,000 for Financial Planning Live Case Study

January  2018 - Carolyn Searcey, financial planning student at UNT, won $1,000 for presenting the winning case in the capstone course at the conclusion of the Fall 2017 semester.

Students in the financial planning program at the University of North Texas participated in a
“real life” financial planning case thanks to the 2015 NexGen grant from TD Ameritrade.  Part of UNT’s winning NextGen grant was a proposal to “make the capstone financial planning course more realistic” by replacing the typical hypothetical case with a “live” one.

Grant author, UNT alumnus and instructor of the capstone financial planning course Dave Ragan taught the capstone financial planning course in the CFP® board registered curriculum.  In an effort to provide students with hands-on experience with a live case as well as industry software, Ragan solicited participation by volunteers to make available their time and financial information to the capstone students for a live case. To encourage volunteers, the program offered $2,500 to the selected volunteer couple to assist implementing the recommendations of the student financial planners.

After the volunteer clients were selected by the faculty in the program, the volunteer clients met with students in the class and made their confidential financial data available to the students.

The students then spent the end of the semester designing specific and unique financial plans for the volunteer clients. Many financial planning opportunities arose, such as, evaluating their life insurance program, how much to participate in 401(k) programs, and providing guidance on what steps they need to take in order to securely retire.

“It was a completely realistic experience for the financial planning students. The volunteer clients needed to know what they should be doing differently in order to meet their goals. Our students were able to answer that question for them,” said Ragan. “Additionally, both the students, instructors and volunteer clients executed confidentiality agreements approved by the University.”

During the semester, students used MoneyGuidePro, a cloud-based financial planning tool used by thousands of financial planning professionals.  UNT partnered with MoneyGuidePro not just because it is commonly used in financial planning offices, but also because of the short learning curve needed for students to confidently use the program. The company provided the software to the students at no charge, software which would normally carry a value of almost $13,000.

At the last class meeting of the semester, the financial planning students presented the financial plans that they had prepared to the volunteer clients and Ragan. Thanks to the TD Ameritrade grant, Searcey was awarded $1,000.

“Because of the ‘live’ nature of the case and the confidentiality of the content of the plans, the judges were required to execute non disclosure agreements as well,” said Ragan. “This is as real life as it gets.”

The purpose of the program is to help UNT students be among the best prepared financial planners when they hit the job market.  Creating a real financial plan and using industry leading software helps accomplish this.

Additionally, UNT will create a blueprint for the live case-study and help lead other Universities nationwide in turning out well educated students for the financial planning profession which is expected to grow twice as fast as the average industry.

“Using a living case exposes the students to details and issues that cannot be replicated in a hypothetical case.” Said Marcia J. Staff, chair of the Department of financial Insurance, Real Estate and Law.  “We are thankful to both TD Ameritrade Institutional and MoneyGuidePro for making this experience possible.”

In addition to the “live” case, students in the capstone class also participated in the International Association of Registered Financial Consultants (IARFC) 2017 National Financial Plan Competition. Searcey was also one of two UNT teams selected to the semi-finals.