Personal Financial Planning at Business Schools
Joel I. Gold, Charlotte Pryor, and Philip Jagolinzer
financial management services are a growing bus ness niche
for many companies. Can financial planners expect recent
graduates to have taken a course in personal financial planning?
What can they expect such a course to cover?
of university business programs accredited by the American
Association of Collegiate Schools of Business (AACSB) analyzed
the relative emphasis on various topics covered in typical
personal financial planning courses. Instructors at AACSB
schools were surveyed about courses titled either “personal
finance” or “personal financial planning.”
Only 45.3% of responding schools offer such a course, and
only 28.4% of those require the course for a degree. Less
than 5% require it for an accounting degree. Financial planners
that have a strong relationship with the schools whose graduates
they hire should consider encouraging those accounting programs
to offer—and perhaps require—a personal financial
find out what topics are covered and their relative importance,
the survey asked instructors to indicate the amount of time
they spend on 37 different topics. No significant differences
in topic coverage or textbooks used were found between personal
finance and personal financial planning courses. Two topics—taxes
that affect personal finances, and retirement planning (e.g.,
IRAs, pensions)—are taught at all responding institutions.
Topics taught at most responding schools include investment
planning strategies, financial planning process, cash flow
and budgeting, personal savings and inflation, and risk
management concepts. More than half of the schools cover
all 37 topics except for commodity trading/futures markets.
most heavily covered topics, based on the extent of class
time, are investment planning strategies and taxes that
affect personal finances, each averaging more than 90 minutes
of class time. Other heavily covered topics include credit
and borrowing, introduction to stocks, and mutual funds.
The topics covered by the fewest instructors and assigned
the least amount of class time, on average, are commodity
trading/futures markets, business law, and professional
liability insurance. Exhibit
1 shows all 37 topics and the amount of coverage they
and Student Characteristics
2 presents the pedagogical methods employed by the respondents.
Lecture is unquestionably the preferred method, used by
89% of respondents and comprising about 52% of class time.
Exams and discussion of outside readings each averaged about
13% of class time. Employers have long asked instructors
to provide students with group or teamwork experiences in
their courses, yet only about one-third of respondents appear
to be using those activities on a frequent basis.
3 lists the prerequisites for personal financial courses.
Most courses had no prerequisite; for those that did, a
finance course was most often indicated. Other prerequisites
included specific majors, class standing, and other courses,
such as accounting.
enrollments ranged from as few as five to as many as 800;
the median annual enrollment was 40 (see Exhibit
4). Approximately 67% of respondents indicated that
21 to 100 students are enrolled annually. At 40 schools,
57% of respondents indicated that enrollments are increasing.
At five schools enrollments are decreasing, and at 29 they
are remaining about the same.
Financial Planning in the Accounting Curriculum
majority of responding AACSB-accredited schools do not offer
a course in personal finance or personal financial planning.
Graduates are not exposed to the fundamentals of personal
schools that do offer a personal financial course appear
to cover a range of useful topics. Certainly, an introductory
course will not provide all the information that a professional
needs to provide financial planning advice. It can, however,
establish a foundation from which new graduates can build
the necessary knowledge and skills. One dean stated that
the school’s courses “hopefully give [students]
the basic vocabulary and understanding of financial planning
that they are not getting anywhere else.” Many schools
have substantial enrollments in a personal financial management
course, and some respondents reported there is a waiting
list to take the course. It is not clear why more schools
do not offer a personal finance course. Many respondents
wrote notes to the researchers stating that they think highly
of an introductory personal finance course and, in some
cases, propose that it be required of all students.
topics typically covered in these courses are highly practical.
It has been noted that the financial literacy of Americans
is declining (see the December 2003 Journal of Accountancy).
By hiring graduates that have training in personal financial
planning and by encouraging the schools to make these courses
available to accounting and finance students, CPA firms
can send a clear signal that this subject is an important
part of a well-rounded financial education.
I. Gold, PhD, CFP, is a professor of finance, Charlotte
Pryor, PhD, CPA, is an assistant professor of accounting,
and Philip Jagolinzer, PhD, CPA, is a professor
emeritus of accounting, all at the University of Southern
Maine, Portland, Me.