Undergraduate students interact and educate aging individuals both in the classroom and at home. Three programs within human development and family studies: child, adult, and family services, financial counseling and planning, and gerontology all have a direct impact on this growing segment of the population.

Iowa State’s financial counseling and planning achieves new standard of excellence

Iowa State University’s financial counseling and planning program already had the distinction of being the only program of its kind in Iowa.

But Iowa State just received word that the program is now registered by the Certified Financial Planner (CFP) Board of Standards — meaning that it meets a standard of excellence for competent and ethical personal financial planning.

“We are very excited about this program designation for our students,” said Carl Weems, professor and chair of human development and family studies at Iowa State. “Research has shown that financial counseling and planning education can have a direct impact on individuals and families.”

“For example, research from randomized studies suggests that those who participate in evidence-based financial planning strategies for low and moderate-income households show a relatively large reduction in home loan default, less credit problems, and higher savings,” Weems said. “This kind of impact can really make a difference for family health and mental health and so there is a strong need for well-trained individuals in this field.”

Financial counseling and planning is a growing career field for students who want to work with individuals and families to help them meet their financial goals and better meet financial challenges.

The undergraduate program includes 10 core financial planning courses and enrolled 38 students last semester. Graduates in this area go on to work in both the public and private sector in financial planning, the banking and insurance industry, and for human service agencies.  

“We’ve added significantly to our curriculum over the last few years,” said Jonathan Fox, the Ruth Whipp Sherwin Professor in Human Development and Family Studies and director of the Financial Counseling Clinic since fall 2012. “We now have all the planning content necessary for this registration.”

Charles Chaffin, the CFP Board’s director of academic programs and initiatives, praised and encouraged Iowa State’s method of teaching its financial counseling and planning students — such as including topics in more than one course.

“This type of instruction reinforces previously learned material while also helping the learner make connections between content areas,” Chaffin said. “A focus on these types of learning experiences also enables the learner to make better connections between program content and financial planning practice.”

Through the Financial Counseling Clinic, Iowa State students have a unique opportunity to get real-world financial planning experience before they graduate. Students are also required to complete an internship to apply what they learned in the classroom.

“I applaud especially the hands-on laboratory and the required internship,” Chaffin said. “Such learning experiences are valuable. I encourage faculty to continue development and integration of experiences which provide students with contextual learning experiences that will help prepare them for employment.”

The financial counseling and planning program is part of the Department of Human Development and Family Studies in the College of Human Sciences at Iowa State. The program focuses on the needs and goals of families and consumers, rather than taking a business-oriented, bottom-line approach.

With the new CFP Board registration, students who successfully complete Iowa State’s financial counseling and planning program will be eligible to sit for the Certified Financial Planner certification examination. Those who pass that exam earn CFP designation, a standard of excellence.

“Becoming a Certified Financial Planner takes four items: an exam, the education that we offer, an ethics component, and experience — the 4 E’s,” Fox said.

Those who have been authorized to use the CFP certification marks in the United States have met rigorous professional standards and have agreed to adhere to the principles of integrity, objectivity, competence, fairness, confidentiality, professionalism and diligence when dealing with clients.