October 1, 2012
First in line: Doctoral program's first graduate paves the way for new form of financial planning
Many recent graduates feel a sense of responsibility to bring pride to their alma mater and find success. The pressure on Julie Cumbie's shoulders may be even more intense -- she is the first graduate from Kansas State University's hybrid personal financial planning doctoral program.
Cumbie, an assistant professor of finance at the University of Central Oklahoma, completed her studies in the 4-year-old program in August 2012. She said the program, which is mostly online except for 10 days a year when students must come to campus, appealed to her because of its flexibility and challenges.
"The faculty and my peers created an exciting and challenging educational environment," Cumbie said. "I feel I have definitely developed lifelong friendships through which I hope to engage in further research pursuits."
The program's director, Sonya Britt, said this is one aspect that makes Kansas State University's program stand out. As one of only a few schools in the nation with a personal financial planning doctoral program and the only program with online components, Britt said the program has enjoyed a growing sense of community among its students.
"It's happened naturally because our students are at different stages," Britt said. "The students who are further along are helping those who are new to the program, even though it isn't in a typical classroom setting. Students in online programs rarely get to meet in person, but our 10-day summer sessions and high participation in national conferences establishes a sense of community among students and faculty."
The university's personal financial planning doctoral program is also making waves for its nontraditional approach to financial planning. In addition to the fiscal responsibility aspect of the profession, the program places a heavy emphasis on financial therapy -- a blend of financial planning, relationship therapy and psychological therapy. This separates Kansas State University's program from other financial planning programs, which focus more on economic models and traditional financial theory.
While these necessary skills also are included in Kansas State University's program, Britt said financial therapy
helps clients understand why they're overspending versus simply explaining what a budget is or how to plan for retirement.
"It's important to blend the emotional side of money with the strictly monetary side," she said. "It's communication training for the financial planner to help them understand what the client's goals are and how to help reach them."
Graduates from Kansas State University's program, including Cumbie, will have the tools to integrate this therapy training into their own programs. Britt said the goal is for graduates from the doctoral program to go on to create financial planning programs at other institutions and help shape the profession.
"Someday all planners will integrate therapy into their practice," Britt said. "It's difficult to just tell someone what to do with their money. I can tell you all I want, but unless that advice aligns with your belief and value system, there's no way you're going to follow my recommendation."
The most popular reason Americans seek a financial planner is to save for retirement, Britt said. The average individual needs $1 million to retire comfortably, and most have nowhere near that amount. In today's financial climate, Britt said there is a need for all individuals to seek the services of a financial planner, especially one trained in financial therapy.
"Even if you're not wealthy, you most likely still want to quit working one day," she said. "A financial planner can help you with not only retirement, but everyday things as well. Budgeting is something everyone should do, but there are plenty of other things that stop people from doing the financially responsible thing with their money."
With its first graduate, the personal financial planning program is already making good on its goal to transform the financial planning profession. Cumbie was a tenure-track instructor of finance at the University of Central Oklahoma when she began the program and has since been promoted to assistant professor. She said her goal is to develop and offer a financial planning program in her department to create skilled financial planners who can serve clients of all wealth levels.
"Personal financial planning has always been important for individuals and families," Cumbie said. "However, when crises occur the need is more prevalent. In recent years, we have seen an economic downturn, including a recession, housing crisis and credit crisis. Through proactive, rather than reactive, financial planning, people are more capable of sailing rough waters."
Cumbie completed her studies in summer 2012 and will participate in Kansas State University's fall's commencement ceremony with the program's second graduate.
More information about the doctoral program in financial planning is available at http://www.dce.k-state.edu/humanecology/pfp/phd.