CWU News

As A Financial Advisor Shortage Looms, College Programs Look to Help Fill the Talent Gap

Julie Penwell

When Julie Penwell graduates from Central Washington University this spring, she plans to pursue the career she has been dreaming about since she was 15-years-old--that of a personal financial planner.

Penwell decided to pursue the profession after a high school financial planning class gave her what she describes as “base level financial literacy” and an insatiable desire to learn more.

Now, she is studying for the exam to become a certified financial planner, while working two jobs and serving as the president of her school’s Personal Financial Planning Club.

“You get to work with people and help them meet their goals,” Penwell said. “Just the idea of getting to make a difference in someone’s life, that’s what drives my motivation for it.”

Penwell, 21, will be one of the first graduates from the new personal financial planning program at Central Washington University, located in Ellensburg, Washington.

The program’s debut comes as the financial services industry at large faces a shortage of new financial planners coming into the field.

About 40% of financial advisors plan to retire within the next 10 years, according to Cerulli Associates, a provider of data and research on the financial services industry.

That leaves the industry scrambling to find fresh talent to fill those seats.

“We are really on the edge of a succession cliff,” said Marina Shtyrkov, wealth management research analyst at Cerulli Associates. “In the next decade, advisor head count is going to begin declining pretty rapidly.”

That trend is happening alongside big industry shifts, including the move toward automated financial advice. Big names behind some of those platforms — including Betterment and Vanguard — are promising human financial planners at the other end of their phone lines.

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Photo: Julie Penwell, 21, plans to pursue a career in financial planning after she graduates from Central Washington University this spring. (Alex Horning, ABH Studios)