Personal financial planning is personal to Eileen Loustau.
A fourth-generation San Franciscan, Eileen was the first person in her family to graduate from a four-year university and go on to earn a master’s degree. Although she had qualified for some financial aid and scholarships, Eileen had to work part time through both educational experiences to finance her education. She considers financing her education her first experiences with financial planning.
Eileen graduated from UC Berkeley in 1985 with a bachelor’s degree in English—usually not a degree associated with a career in financial services. On recommendation by a counselor at Berkeley, she attended Georgetown University and earned an M.B.A. in the spring of 1990. Armed with a relevant degree in marketing and business government relations, Eileen started her professional career—and along the road, discovered an interest in personal financial planning.
Let’s find out a little more about how she got here.
Since earning your M.B.A., your career has been in marketing for banks and investment managers, but it wasn’t until 2018 that you decided to pursue our Certificate Program in Personal Financial Planning. What led to this decision at this point in your career?
During my nine years at Charles Schwab and seven years at iShares/BlackRock, I spent a good deal of time building education and marketing programs for financial advisers. At BlackRock, from 2006 to 2009, I was director of advisor education and led educational efforts to create thought-leadership and practice-management content for financial professionals.
Along the way, some of my favorite bosses were Chartered Financial Analysts (CFAs) and/or Certified Financial Planners™ (CFP®s). Usually, they got the CFA or CFP® designation because they were personally interested in the content and wanted to demonstrate to financial advisers that they understood their business.
For years, I thought it would be personally interesting to learn the financial planning material, but it wasn’t until 2018, when my “mom life” and “work life” leveled out, and that made it possible to go to school at nights and on weekends for two years.
And you chose our program for your career-enhancement education.
Having worked in downtown San Francisco for more than 30 years, I was very aware of UC Berkeley Extension and I had met people who were going through—or had gone through—the program, and everyone raved about it. I was very interested in learning the content and meeting people, so the only program I ever seriously explored was the Certificate Program in Personal Financial Planning.
What was your experience like in the certificate program?
I registered for my first course in August 2018. I decided if I was going to “test” the curriculum, I would take the class that was most personally relevant to me: Retirement Income Planning.
Heather Liston was my instructor, and I think she is one of the best teachers I’ve ever had, in any situation. The preparation she puts into her classes is amazing. I felt like I was learning so much in a very current and contemporary way. The time in class flew by.
I also really appreciated the open-book exams, which actually made you work harder—and smarter—than if you were just memorizing facts to pass a test. Periodically, I also circle back to what I learned in the Retirement Income Planning and update the numbers to make sure I am still on track to meet my retirement goals.
As for classmates, I can also honestly say that I have made some great friends from the in-person classes—people whom I still talk with on a regular basis. There was a good mix of people who were financial advisers, who worked in financial services or in other industries, and those who were considering a career change.
You are currently a SVP, head of marketing with Chevron’s Federal Credit Union. How has our personal financial planning certificate helped you in achieving your career goals?
I have been in financial-services marketing for more than 30 years. (My, how time flies!) All of my marketing experience has been with financial and FinTech firms, and many of my roles have been focused on creating financial education for financial advisers and individual investors.
I created a lot of the initial exchange traded fund education at iShares/BlackRock. I developed online and in-person seminars on how listed and NASDAQ trading works at Charles Schwab. For the credit union, I recently created workshops on improving your credit score and have hosted workshops for recent college graduates on why it is important to start saving for retirement when you start your first job.
It is not required nor does anyone expect a marketing professional to have a certificate in personal financial planning. When I have mentioned in job interviews that I have the certificate, the interviewer usually sees it as a plus. It is a good example when I tell them that I am a learner and continue to challenge myself and push my personal growth.
While I’ve been creating personal finance education for years, having the certificate makes me feel even more confident about the content that I put together. I have never been a financial adviser, but because I was creating marketing pieces that could be construed as advice, I did hold the FINRA series 7, 63 and 24 licenses. The content I learned throughout the certificate program is so much more relevant to the real world than any of the FINRA exams.
Any advice for potential financial planning students who might not come from a business background?
During my time in the program, I met a number of other students who were not currently advisers or planners, but most had a strong interest in personal finance, real estate or managing some family money.
I also saw non-business people come into the Estate Planning and Investments in Personal Financial Planning: General Principles and Methods courses and leave after the first class because they weren’t familiar with the language. Someone really does need to have some background (could be personal, doesn’t have to be professional) in these topics as these are not basic classes.
I felt very comfortable with most of the topics in the personal financial planning program because I had been exposed to them in my day job for years.
However, if someone doesn’t have a business background, I would definitely recommend that they start with Survey of Personal Financial Planning. I think this class is the most accessible and provides the best scope of what the certificate curriculum is all about.
Learn more about the Certificate Program in Personal Financial Planning.