A Very Intentional Career Change to Personal Financial Planning

Certificate graduate Lori Bodenhamer aligns values, financial transparency with career goals

“When it came to finances, my mom taught me early on the importance of saving my money and always having my money work for me,” Certificate Program in Personal Financial Planning graduate Lori Bodenhamer tells me. “I remember being really little when my mom would take me to the local bank and we’d deposit some small amount of cash into a savings account. The teller would add it to my pass book and give me a lollipop.”

During high school, Lori had a few different jobs and continued to save what she could. That habit carried through while attending California State University, Chico, to pursue a bachelor’s degree in communications with a focus on media arts.

“I clearly remember another student in my dorm telling me all about what they were doing in their media art classes: photography, audio recording, video editing!” she says. “The projects sounded too good to be true—it was a creative field, but with real skills that could lead to a job and career.”

In order to fulfill this dream, Lori had to make ends meet in order to put herself through college. She worked as an assistant manager in a movie theater, and later worked for a technology research project on campus.

“My job at the movie theater even offered a 401(k) plan that, at the time, I had no idea what that was,” she recalls. “But I was lucky to have helpful people around me to tell me to take advantage of the savings opportunity.”

Yet, she still ended up having some student loan debt, which continues to fuel her thinking about personal finances. “I remember being so mad that I graduated college with a whopping $3,000 of student loan debt—I paid it off as fast as I could.”

It is Lori’s own personal financial planning (PFP) needs and experiences during this time that would eventually guide her current career path.

From a Longtime Career in Video Production

After graduating from Chico State, Lori began her video production career in San Francisco at the now-defunct TechTV, a cable channel that was dedicated to the internet and all things technology.

“I had to learn how to explain technical details to an audience and still be entertaining,” she says. “I also began discovering my strengths when contributing to a team: I excelled at managing all the moving pieces in an episode or show. After TechTV dissolved, I moved into production management at Technicolor's Premier Retail Networks (PRN), where I started my shift more toward the client services and the business and budgeting sides of production. I also began to strengthen my project management skills across a large organization and different teams.”

Her role as a producer, and later as a senior manager of the operations with PRN’s content and creative group, provided versatile knowledge and skills for her career change to a whole new field.

“As a financial planner, I do the same thing: I find ways to convey complex topics to clients in a way that’s easy to understand, that are relevant to them, and that motivate or inspire them to take action,” Lori describes.

“I’ve approached financial planning for my clients like a project I’m managing, onboarding like a project kickoff, or planning a presentation like a TV episode. But financial planning has a lot higher stakes. Helping a client invest thousands of dollars of their own money has a different meaning now than working with an advertising client and meeting delivery deadlines.”

To a Financial Planning Awakening

About eight years ago, one of Lori’s LinkedIn connections posted a clip from a Frontline episode called “The Retirement Gamble” about hidden fees in mutual funds in 401(k) plans and how they negatively impact a portfolio over time.

“I immediately scoured my investments for their expense ratios and updated all the funds I was in,” she recounts. “But that wasn’t enough—I became fired up that there was a whole industry that was not being transparent with their products, and I needed to tell people about it.

“At the same time, I had a financial adviser who was charging ridiculous fees and trying to sell me insurance products that never felt right. Newly armed with the information I needed, I felt empowered to confidently take control of my own finances.”


Related: Owning Your Financial Decisions


That LinkedIn post sent Lori on a path where she discovered the Financial Independence, Retire Early (FIRE) movement and adopted principles to align how she spent her money with  her values. She says, “I began challenging where I was spending money: Why buy a $20 book that sits on my shelf when it’s free to borrow from the library? Why spend $15 for lunch every day when I’d rather save my money so I can be flexible with my time?”

With media consolidation always looming, despite her established communications career, it was time for Lori to consider other options that would meet her professional and personal needs.

“At that point in my career,” she tells me, “two forces were at play: one where I had done it all and built a lot, yet there was no next hill to climb. Plus, I could see the next corporate media acquisition with layoff rounds not too far away. Then another force where I was exploring a new industry in which I could follow my curiosity and make an impact in others’ lives. I chose to focus on the force that was pulling me toward something better rather than the one that was pushing me away.”

That’s when she began searching for the next pivot to explore in her career.

“I participated in a UC Berkeley Extension Career Clinic with Rebecca Anderson and Ruthanne Haffke—it happened to be in the building across the street from my office in downtown San Francisco,” she says. “I came away from the clinic with very tangible next steps to begin what I called a ‘purposeful personal finance pivot.’”

Her plan was to:

“Soon after the clinic, I volunteered at a pro-bono financial planning event at the LGBTQ Center in San Francisco,” Lori relates. “I met wonderful people dedicated to helping their community and was happy I could lend a hand.

“I came away from the experience with just how impactful financial advice can be. Even though I was there just to check people in for the event, many attendees would share with me how much an hour talking with someone about their financial situation helped them. I had a moment to interview one of the financial adviser volunteers to ask more about her day-to-day. The adviser emphasized that career changers often make great financial planners because they have more life experience than someone just out of school.

“It sounded like this industry would suit a career changer like me,” she adds. “I had many transferable skills simply by working for as long as I had in production.”

This all led Lori to research where she could take classes to become a CFP®.

New Career Direction With a Purpose

In 2019, Lori began our Certificate Program in Personal Financial Planning.

“Taking classes in person was important to me because I felt that would help me get to know more people in the industry,” she says. “The Certificate Program in Personal Financial Planning appealed to me the most, and at the time pre-pandemic, evening classes were held right across the street from where I worked downtown.”

Despite an initial hesitation if this career pivot was right, Lori found the course curriculum drawing her in.

“I wasn’t sure if I’d complete the program at first, so I thought I’d give Survey of Personal Financial Planning a try while I was still working,” she discloses. “I learned so much! I completed all the required courses for the certificate.”

She also received encouragement from our instructors, both in person and online, as well as from her fellow classmates.

“Daniel Lee taught the Survey of Personal Financial Planning course in the summer of 2019,” she says. “He brought the role of a financial adviser to life for me through his clear concepts and real-world examples. He also was very generous with his time to talk to me about the different opportunities of financial planning and answer all my questions.

“We were a small class and we all got to know each other. I made close friends from that class, and we’ve all helped each other with job opportunities.”

When the pandemic hit in 2020, it was one of those classmates who referred her to an inspirational externship opportunity. “The Financial Planning Association®, along with Hannah Moore, launched a virtual externship program for aspiring financial planners to not lose momentum in their career paths since so many internships ended,” she explains.

“I was taking a big leap, and everyone I encountered throughout the PFP program was very encouraging.”

As Lori grew more knowledgeable about personal financial planning topics, she also built a solid skills foundation by learning how to do the work without having to rely on technological tools.

“The PFP program focuses on the comprehensive areas of financial advice we provide clients—from investments to insurance—but it doesn't have you rely on tools financial advisers use, like planning software,” she says. “For example, in the Retirement Income Planning course, we had to create our own assumptions and calculate projections without fancy tools for our class project.”

Ultimately, the knowledge and skills acquired gave Lori the means to succeed in getting to her professional goal.

“The coursework had introduced me to all the financial-planning topics, and my first career role as a client service associate at Mercer Advisors helped me see it all in practice,” Lori affirms. “Kurt Carrasquilla’s Investments in Personal Financial Planning: General Principles and Methods course was critical to understanding how to talk about investment philosophies to the clients I supported while at Farther.

“I finished the Certificate Program in Personal Financial Planning with the confidence to pursue this industry as a career.”

In 2021, after completing the program, Lori was prepared to sit for the CFP® exam, which was, if you recall, also part of her “purposeful personal finance pivot plan.”

“The personal financial planning courses were very important in preparing me for the CFP® exam,” she attests. “Since I was new to the industry, many of the classes were the first time I’ve been introduced to many of the topics. And having access to an instructor and other students in class was critical for me to grasp it all.

“I passed the CFP® exam in 2021, and to begin advising clients directly, I also passed the Series 65 exam,” Lori adds. “As of March 2024, I completed my final certification and am officially a CFP®!”

Full Circle on a Purposeful Personal Finance Pivot

What Lori learned in the personal financial planning courses continues to enhance her work experiences. She’s currently a financial planner for Abundo Wealth, whose company mission complements her own finance and career goals.

“Looking back, my career in media and production happened to me: I followed the next logical step wherever I was,” Lori reflects. “My career change to financial planning was very intentional; I had a clear idea of how I wanted to spend my time.

“I chose financial planning as my new career so I could carve out a path that works best for me, aligns with how I want to help others, with a team of people who share the same purpose.

As a financial planner at Abundo Wealth, I’ve been able to work with so many different clients from around the country and at all stages of life, from fresh out of college to already retired. Many clients couldn’t work with a traditional adviser who manages investments since they wouldn’t meet their investment minimums.

“Since we’re able to work with everyone—and many of our team of advisers are also career changers—we all bring our past experience in other careers to Abundo.”


“I finished the Certificate Program in Personal Financial Planning with the confidence to pursue this industry as a career.”


The company’s advice-only financial planning practices versus traditional advising are in line with Lori’s values and goals to help clients “achieve their financial goals and carve out their unique path to financial freedom.”

So what is advice-only financial planning? And how does an average investor benefit from this model of service?

“People traditionally have access to financial advice only if they meet a certain minimum dollar amount or purchased a high-commission insurance product,” Lori explains. “Advice-only financial planning is only advice. At Abundo, we focus on ongoing planning to help our clients progress toward their goals, from simplifying their accounts and understanding their spending, to saving for financial independence and retiring early, without directly managing their investment accounts.

“Instead, we empower clients to manage their own investments,” she adds. “This avoids high-cost investments and management fees that are billed from accounts. Over time, these costs can reduce a portfolio quite a bit.

“I can draw a straight line from that LinkedIn post many years ago to what I do today.”

As Lori continues to grow as a financial planner, she plans to train new financial planners to meet demand of people wanting to work with her company. But it’s not just in the workplace that she is applying her financial planning skills. For the past few years, she has been also volunteering for tax preparation services.

“Two friends I met through the PFP certificate program and the adviser I supported at Mercer all volunteered with the United Way Bay Area Free Tax Prep program and raved about their experiences,” she relates. 

“Last tax season, I helped out at The Women’s Building in San Francisco’s Mission neighborhood and have started again this tax season. Taxes aren’t fun, but helping someone else with their taxes is pretty rewarding. Even better when they can get a nice refund.”

Experiences like mentoring and volunteering tie into Lori’s career change journey. It also goes to show that you don’t need to be in a financial field to transition into one.

For students having a hard time seeing the possibility of a change to personal financial planning, she offers this advice:

“You’ll be surprised at how many transferable skills translate to financial planning, not only from prior work experience, but also just plain life experience. A lot of the advice I give to my clients comes from things I’ve encountered in my own life, from budgeting to health coverage, to simply having to communicate complex concepts to another person.

“Financial planning is an industry that has many different business models and even more ways to serve people needing quality financial advice. It’s also made up of many service-oriented people who truly want to help. If you ask for directions, people will be more than happy to help you out and show you the way.”

And it doesn’t hurt to have a solid career direction plan like Lori’s.