“Personal Financial Education Should Be for Everyone”

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A Q&A with Dr. Cliff Robb, of Consumer Science, on UW–Madison’s personal finance major becoming an AFCPE® Registered Education Program.

This article was first published on the Association for Financial Counseling and Planning Education (AFCPE) website. Dr. Cliff Robb is a professor at UW–Madison, where he teaches personal finance in the School of Human Ecology. UW–Madison recently became an AFCPE® Registered Education Program, which means its coursework covers the core competencies required to sit for the AFC® certification exam. Get to know Cliff, and hear firsthand why he and UW–Madison decided to make AFC® certification more accessible to their students. Connect with Cliff on Twitter and LinkedIn., and learn more about UW–Madison’s personal finance major.

Cliff Robb

Dr. Cliff Robb

AFCPE: What inspired you to become an educator in the field of personal finance?

Dr. Cliff Robb: I really like the strong blending of economic theory and human behavior/psychology that seems to be at the heart of a lot of personal finance issues. My undergraduate training was in psychology and my later graduate work was in consumer economics, so these areas of study provided me with a strong base to study and teach personal finance. I do see my concentration in personal finance as somewhat of a reaction to some of the core consumer issues we have seen over the past few decades in terms of consumer financial security and education. As far as the educator piece, I really enjoy working in the classroom and speaking to audiences about personal finance. There is usually high engagement because everyone can see how it applies to them and yet there are always questions to explore.

AFCPE: Who first introduced you to AFCPE® and the AFC®?

Robb: I first attended an AFCPE conference back in 2008 when I learned about it from colleagues in consumer economics. I made the excellent “strategic decision” to present some highly theoretical results to a group that is largely interested in applications for consumers, so you can guess how that went over.

AFCPE: This year, University of Wisconsin-Madison become an AFCPE® Registered Education Program. What inspired you to bring this program to your university?

Robb: I saw the AFC® certification as a critical missing component in our personal finance curriculum. We have had a CFP® program for over two decades, and although the CFP® track is valuable and offers excellent opportunities to our graduates, I felt that there were other pathways that we could highlight to our students.

Having a pathway like the AFC® helps highlight how our program is intended for all people, regardless of income level or background.

I see the AFC® as both an opportunity to enhance our current program offerings, highlighting alternative career pathways and ways of thinking about finances to our students, and as a chance to recruit new students who may not see themselves as being interested in a traditional financial planning pathway. Personal financial education should be for everyone, and I believe that traditional CFP® programs are often incorrectly labeled as being for people who want to work with high net worth clients only. Having a pathway like the AFC® helps highlight how our program is intended for all people, regardless of income level or background.

AFCPE: As a new program, what will you say to students who are curious about pursuing the AFC®?

Robb: It will likely be very similar to how we recruit for the personal finance program as a whole. We place a large emphasis on identifying students who are interested in helping others achieve financial success. The AFC® will allow us to better highlight training in counseling and education, and I can see it really appealing to students who are in other majors like social work or not-for-profit business models. In general, this is another strong set of tools that a student can add to their UW-Madison education and we are excited to have the support of AFCPE® in this endeavor.

AFCPE: Do you have any goals in your first year of being an approved program?

Robb: The main goal is to get the word out to our students that this optional certification can be easily achieved through the addition of a few elective classes in our curriculum. In the past I have successfully recruited a team of undergraduates to represent UW-Madison in the Annual AFCPE Symposium Knowledge-Bowl, and I would like for our program to make this a regular thing. Becoming an AFCPE® registered program makes the recruiting process much easier, as students can clearly identify how it helps them become better professionals and leaders in the field.

AFCPE: What are you most excited about in your work and career?

Robb: I am really thrilled to be part of such a dynamic department at a leading research institution. Our faculty come from diverse backgrounds and have a variety of unique research skills, and this really makes the educational experience offered at UW-Madison second to none. It is truly one of the most impressive consumer science groups I have seen and it is such an honor to be a part of the program here. Aside from being a thriving research department with a growing graduate program, we have one of the best CFP® programs in the nation and a huge body of undergraduate students to work with that are enthusiastic about making the world a better place. The addition of the AFC® is a huge step toward expanding how we as a group can impact consumers in Wisconsin and beyond.

Cliff Robb Answers the Friday 5:

  1. My why: I would say purely because of my love of working with the students and having a somewhat flexible schedule, but I have also discovered that my children are terrible farmers and cannot sew their own clothes, so that is pretty motivating.
  2. My favorite quote: “You are all better than you think you are, you are just designed not to believe it when you hear it from yourself.” – Jeff Winger
  3. My hero: Spider-man. If you mean non-fictional, I would have to go with Batman.
  4. My favorite resource: I really like Investopedia as a repository of information and first look on a topic, and beyond that there are a number of sites and books that I find worthwhile. Michael Kitces Nerd’s Eye View provides some interesting weekend reading that is usually thought provoking, and one of my favorite books is Burton Malkiel’s “A Random Walk Down Wall Street”.
  5. My favorite advice:
  • For someone starting the journey to financial well-being: Go easy on yourself, but be brutally honest about the challenges you might face. Include others you trust in your plan and if you are in a close relationship, approach it as a team with a shared goal.
  • For a new professional: Listen some more. Focus on listening. Really hear what people are saying. Spend time thinking about it and then consider solutions or strategies to help. It can be tempting to bring your newfound knowledge and expertise to the front of any engagement but financial issues, and the people facing them, are dynamic and each issues/case deserves real attention and care.

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