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Finding Myself Through Financial Planning

For those who do not know me, my name is Mari Kate Northcut, and I am a third-year student at Texas Tech University studying Personal Financial Planning, like Odaro. When Odaro asked me to write a post for his blog, I spent a lot of time wondering what words of wisdom I have to share with the world. After a lot of contemplating, I decided to simply share my experience as a study in PFP at Tech.

Before coming to Tech, I had no idea what PFP was. I learned that Texas Tech’s PFP Program was (and still is) the #1 program in the nation. I read that financial planning taught you how to manage your money, and you could help people. I felt that it was practical and could combine my analytical skills with my interest in helping people. After a week in college as a Human Sciences major, I met with my advisor and decided to change my major to PFP.

Here is a summarized timeline of my time at Tech:

● Year 1: I was quiet, was not involved in any PFP organizations, and did not have any friends in the program.

● Year 2: In the fall, a senior in the program spoke to my class and encouraged underclassmen to get involved early. From that point, I made it my mission to make myself known. I decided to join the PFP mentor program in the fall of 2018. I then interviewed for financial planning interviews. That fall, I had the opportunity to compete on the AFCPE Knowledge Bowl team on behalf of the TTU PFP Program. I, along with two seniors, took home first place in Norfolk, Virginia!

● Year 3: I am now a financial coach in Red to Black, the secretary of the Personal Financial Planning Association, and a certified group fitness instructor at the TTU Rec Center. I also recently completed an eight-month internship with a wealth management firm, located in Minneapolis, MN.

As I reflect on my time at Texas Tech, I have experienced an unbelievable amount of self-growth and confidence. This journey has been nothing short of amazing, and there are a few people in who helped me along the way:

1. Marisa Lockhart: For over a year, Marisa has been my mentor. I can honestly say that our relationship changed years two and three of college for me. Marisa took the time to chat with me once or twice a month to answer my many questions about the industry, work-life balance, and internship tips. Those thirty-minute phone calls forever changed me.

2. Sharon Bloodworth and Laura Bereiter: I had the pleasure to work with these two women during my internship. They came from Minneapolis to PFP Fall Career Day. I asked why they chose me over other applicants, and they responded, “You were shy and soft spoked. We decided to take a chance on you because we saw potential.” Their honesty encouraged me to break out of my shell. My ten-week internship turned into an eight-month internship. Interning allowed me to work with some amazing professionals who truly set the standard for other planners.

3. Brandon Ratzlaff and Jennifer Cook: I met Brandon and Jennifer at Spring Opportunity Days in 2019. They are well-known for their leadership and continued mentorship in the TTU PFP Program. My relationship with them encouraged me to get out of my comfort zone, expand my professional network, and become a leader in the program. So many others like Jennifer Wilson, Tiffany Murray, and Ginnie Baker helped pave my way during college.

What do all of these people have in common? They took a little bit of time out of their schedule to have phone calls or meetings with me. They answered my questions, encouraged me, and shared their stories. Over the course of three years, I have been molded into the person I am today.

I would also like to draw attention to the fact that so many of these influential people are women. As an industry that has historically been dominated by men, I think it should be recognized that there are so many women who are leaders in the financial planning industry.

What can YOU do to gain confidence? Whether you are quiet and reserved or outgoing and bold, go out of your way to create relationships with alumni and others in your program.

I think that it can be tempting to sit at the back of the classroom with one headphone in. I think it is easy to go to class, keep your head down, and graduate with an average GPA. However, I do not think we were born to be average people. Find something that brings you joy, find people who are willing to mentor you, learn from those around you, and then be a mentor to others. My hope is to graduate and come back to Tech and be a mentor.

I would not be where I am today if I did not have people who dedicated a few minutes out of their days to mentor me. Be a leader and share your story with others!

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