Spotlight on Faculty

Rui Yao, PhD, CFP®

Advisors Not Enough to Guarantee a Strong Retirement

Story by MU News News

COLUMBIA, Mo. – Starting a new job often includes enrolling in a company’s retirement plan. As defined contribution plans, such as 401(k) plans, become more common than pension plans, American workers are increasingly responsible saving for retirement. Rui Yao, a nationally recognized expert on retirement savings from the University of Missouri, suggests that employees can’t trust that the retirement plan sponsored by their employer is in good hands just because the plan uses an advisor. To ensure a strong retirement plan performance, consumers must be active participants in retirement planning, she says.

Rui Yao

In one of the first known academic studies devoted to evaluating fund selection offered in defined contribution plans, Yao, a professor of personal financial planning, examined retirement plan performance based on using plan advisors, plan size and plan choices offered. She found that plan advisors alone are not enough to ensure strong retirement plan performance.

"Plan advisors make recommendations regarding investment options that are offered in the plan," Yao said. "It is critical for plan sponsors that such recommendations are beneficial to participants."

Using data from an independent provider of retirement plan ratings and investment analytics, Yao evaluated retirement plan performance and its relationship with the use of advisors, comparing the performance of plans and funds offered within plans against benchmarks. For the study, Yao looked at data from retirement plans from 2013, 2014 and 2015.

After controlling for plan size and use of advisors, Yao found that working with an advisor was significantly and negatively related to retirement plan performance in 2013, the best year in terms of market return. She saw only slight improvements or no significant results in the latter two years when the market was flatter.

Yao’s advice for employees hoping to make the most of their defined contribution retirement plans is to ask a lot of questions — of both their own financial advisors and of their employers.

"Some advisors are incentivized to market different funds, and while they are financial experts, they do not always have a fiduciary responsibility to their clients," Yao said. "They are required by law to disclose this information, so it’s absolutely ok — and advisable — for plan participants to ask their employer what kind of legal responsibility the plan advisor bares."

Yao provides the following advice to plan sponsors, plan participants, and participants’ financial advisors looking to strengthen their retirement plans:

  • Plan sponsors should require advisors to provide objective data on a regular basis and disclose this information to plan participants.
  • Plan participants should ask their employer how their plan advisor is paid, how funds in the plan are chosen and how those funds perform against benchmarks.
  • Individual financial advisors should monitor the plan performance and evaluate funds in their clients’ retirement plan portfolio by objective measures, identify performance issues and ask their clients to report such issues to their employer.

"Use of advisors and retirement plan performance," will be published in the Journal of Financial Counseling and Planning. The MU Department of Personal Financial Planning is in the College of Human Environmental Sciences.

Lu Fan, PhD, CFP®

Financial Education Key to Reducing Student Loan Stress: MU researcher finds that only one-third of borrowers receive education about student loan repayment

Story by MU News Bureau

COLUMBIA, Mo. – It is estimated that a quarter of American adults currently have student loans to pay off, and most do not have the financial literacy to manage debt successfully. The average student in the Class of 2016 has $37,172 in student loan debt. Graduates from the University of Missouri have an average debt of $21,884.

In a new study, Lu Fan, assistant professor of Personal Financial Planning at the University of Missouri, found that borrowers are not receiving adequate education to manage their student debt. She suggests that more needs to be done to educate borrowers about managing debt as well as the various repayment options that might be available to them.

Lu Fan

"A majority of borrowers, 55 percent, reported being worried about their student loans; however, only 30 percent of borrowers said that they had received financial education about paying off their student loans,” Fan said. “Moreover, only 40 percent of borrowers reported having financial influence from their parents. Given the number of people who need student loans to attend college, we need to do better at educating borrowers."

Using the 2015 National Financial Capability Study dataset, Fan and Swarn Chatterjee, professor at the University of Georgia, found that having student loan debt caused mental stress for borrowers. The researchers looked at more than 2,600 responses from the dataset, focusing on respondents who had a student loan, were between the ages of 24 and 65, were no longer a student, were employed, and were the primary decision makers in their household.

The researchers found that women were less likely to be late on student loan payments but were more likely to feel worried about their student loans. Men were less anxious about their debt and more likely to submit payments late. They also found that people with loans who did not complete college were more likely to be worried about paying off loans than those with degrees.

Fan believes that borrowers are not receiving the information they need to make the best financial decisions, and that policymakers and loan providers should do more to educate borrowers.

"My hope is that policymakers use this information when developing financial educational programs," she said. " Better educational resources created for specific audiences — parents, young adults, women and households that have experienced a drop in income — will lead to more educated borrowers."

“Financial socialization, financial education and student loan debt,” recently was published in the Journal of Family and Economic Issues.

The Department of Personal Financial Planning is in the MU College of Human Environmental Sciences.

Jim Green, DBA, CFP®

After a nationwide search, Dr. Jim Green, CFP® was appointed Director of the Office for Financial Success in the Department of Personal Financial Planning in the MU College of Human Environmental Sciences. Green joined the faculty on August 13, 2018.

Dr. Fran Lawrence, Personal Financial Planning department chair said, "We are extremely pleased that Dr. Green is joining us. His university teaching proficiency, financial planning industry expertise, leadership ability and vision for the Office for Financial Success are ideal for this position. I am confident that he will be a great fit. His passion for financial planning and financial literacy will serve the campus well."

Green is a native of Florida but comes to the University of Missouri from San Antonio, TX where he spent the last nine years as a financial planning and portfolio manager. Additionally, for the past three years, he was an Adjunct Professor of Finance at the H-E-B School of Business Administration, University of the Incarnate Word.

Jim Green

He earned his undergraduate degree from the U.S. Air Force Academy and served as an officer for twenty-four years in various flying positions including combat duty in Desert Storm, Operation Iraqi Freedom and Operation Enduring Freedom. He earned a Masters of Business Administration – Finance from Louisiana Tech University and a certificate in Financial Planning from Florida State University. Green holds a Doctorate of Business Administration with a concentration in Finance from University of the Incarnate Word, San Antonio, TX.

"I searched for a faculty position that could benefit from my financial planning education and my nine years as a Certified Financial Planner™ practitioner. The fact that I grew up in the southeast as a fan of the SEC, also made being the Director of Office for Financial Success at MU a great win for me," said Green.

Green’s professional credentials include Certified Financial Planner™ and Chartered Retirement Plans Specialist. He is formerly FINRA licensed Series 7, 31, 66 and Texas insurance licensing.

"I am thrilled that we were able to attract someone with Jim Green’s credential to Mizzou," said HES Dean Sandy Rikoon, "He has the academic training and real-world experience that make him the perfect person to teach our students. Equally important, he also brings a desire to spread financial literacy and to provide students across the campus with the kind of financial planning that will enable them to complete their college education with the least amount of financial stress."

Brenda Procter, MS

Brenda ProcterAfter serving 20 years as a state specialist and associate extension professor supporting financial programs to benefit Missourians living in poverty, Brenda Procter retired from that role and moved to a 70% position in 2013. In her new role, she serves as co-director of Extension’s statewide Health Insurance Education Initiative, funded by the Missouri Foundation for Health. Ms. Procter teaches professionals who make health insurance decisions. She also provides training, technical assistance, and administrative support to field faculty who offer local consumer workshops about the Affordable Care Act. She says of her job, "I love direct contact with people who need factual information about health insurance in a ‘fact-challenged’ world. Making a difference to someone who thought they were out of options is quite fulfilling.” Ms. Procter recently co-presented a workshop on the Affordable Care Act with Office for Financial Success Co-Director Andrew Zumwalt, CFP®, with an audience of 20 financial planners and other professionals who received continuing education credit for their participation. She also recently published an article, "Beware scams as new Medicare cards arrive."

When not working for Missourians, Ms. Procter loves spending time with family, walking with her husband, visiting friends, reading news, and spoiling her cats. She is fascinated with politics and follows them closely.

Spotlight on Dr. Deanna L. Sharpe, CFP®, CRPC®, CRPS

Dr. Deanna L. Sharpe, CFP®, CRPC®, CRPS, is an associate professor of Personal Financial Planning who excels in research, teaching, and service. Her research interest includes examination of factors affecting later life financial and economic well-being, as evidenced by her latest publication, a chapter in Client Psychology, edited by Dr. Charles Chaffin of the CFP Board. This chapter, "Client Psychology: The Older Client," outlines the changing demographics of the older population, age-related cognitive change as found in research literature, the difference between normal and concerning behavioral declines, best practice suggestions for working with older adults, and potential topics for further research.

Dr. Sharpe has been recognized numerous times for her quality research, teaching excellence, and service contributions by organizations such as the Certified Financial Planner Board of Standards, Inc., American Council on Consumer Interests, University of Missouri College of Human Environmental Sciences, and University of Missouri Campus Writing Program.

In her spare time, Dr. Sharpe is a long-time volunteer for Boy Scouts of America.

Deanna Sharpe

Dr. Graham McCaulley Spoke at the Spring Faculty and Staff Meeting

The Department of Personal Financial Planning's Office for Financial Success Co-Director Dr. Graham McCaulley spoke at the College of Human Environmental Sciences Spring Faculty and Staff meeting on personal finance updates. Two timely topics were covered - recommended action steps in light of the Equifax data breach and changes to the income tax code from recent legislation. Although roughly half of American’s personal data (including social security numbers) was breached several months ago, the majority of consumers have not taken action to protect themselves from potential identity theft. The Office of Financial Success recommends most consumers place a security freeze on their credit files as well as monitor their current accounts. For more information on steps to take, as well as other topics, visit

Dr. Abed Rabbani Earns CFP® Designation

Abed RabbaniThe Department of Personal Financial Planning is proud to announce that Abed Rabbani, PhD has earned the CFP® designation. Congratulations Dr. Rabbani, CFP®!

Dr. Rabbani joins MU Department of Personal Financial Planning faculty members (Dr. Deanna Sharpe, Dr. Rui Yao, and Andrew Zumwalt) who are CFP®s. Only a select group of planners have met the rigorous requirements necessary to call themselves CERTIFIED FINANCIAL PLANNER™ professionals.

To earn the CERTIFIED FINANCIAL PLANNER™ designation, candidates must complete what the Board of Standards refers to as the "4 E’s":

  • Education
  • Examination
  • Experience
  • Ethics

Dr. Cynthia Crawford Receives the Carl N. Scheneman Excellence in Teaching Award

Congratulations to Dr. Cynthia Crawford, Extension Professor, Department of Personal Financial Planning, who received the Carl N. Scheneman Excellence in Teaching Award at the 2017 MU Extension Summit. The award recognizes a University of Missouri Extension faculty member for planning, conducting and evaluating one extension educational activity conducted in the past year. The activity recognized was the online course, How to get an "A" in retirement that combines research and best practices from personal financial planning with research from positive psychology. "Well-being in retirement starts with financial planning that includes goal setting, assessing one’s current financial situation, pension plan details, Social Security facts, taxation of various retirement income streams, saving and investing, estate planning, insurance changes and more. The course became more holistic and groundbreaking, though, with the addition of concepts from positive psychology that look at positive emotions, engagement, relationships, meaning, accomplishment, forgiveness and gratitude in retirement as well as the years leading to retirement," said Crawford.

Cynthia Crawford accepting award

How to get an 'A' in retirement" was also recognized by the University of Missouri Extension Association as one of the top three outstanding programs in 2017.

Human Environmental Sciences Instructional Designer Briana Johnson was key in working with Crawford to move the course into an online format. Johnson and Crawford’s teamwork significantly helped in the transition from a face-to-face instruction to delivering the content effectively online.

Dr. Fran Lawrence, Personal Financial Planning Department Chair, congratulates Crawford for her ground breaking work. Lawrence states, "While leading this project, Dr. Crawford has mentioned many times how its success reflects the support that the resident and Extension faculty have for one another’s work. Whenever she asked her Personal Financial Planning Extension colleagues for help, especially Andrew Zumwalt and Graham McCaulley, the answer was always yes. In addition, resident faculty member Deanna Sharpe generously volunteered to vet the course before it was sent to external reviewers. Sharpe and Crawford have continued to work together on retirement planning programming as a result."

Dr. Starla Ivey Partners with Chongqing University of Technology

Dr. Starla Ivey, Assistant Teaching Professor in the Department of Personal Financial Planning, traveled to Chongqing, China in the Summer of 2017 to teach aspiring Mizzou Tigers personal finance. This was a collaborative effort between the Personal Financial Planning Department at the University of Missouri along with Chongqing University of Technology in Chongqing, China. Students learned the importance of becoming a Certified Financial Planner along with practical personal and family financial skills such as filing US personal taxes, making large purchases (buying a house/automobile), investing, and time value of money.

Dr. Starla Ivey teaching in China

The summer course ran for 3 weeks and was taught all in English. For most of these students it was their first experience in an all English speaking course. One of the great things about FINPLN 2183 (Personal and Family Finance) is that it is a highly mathematical course and math/numbers transcends many languages. Dr. Ivey stated that "this was a powerful experience for myself as the instructor with all of the students having English as their second language. I have a much greater appreciation for what our international students go through in order to get to the United States and then also to survive in a foreign country. Being in Chongqing, as opposed to a highly visited city like Beijing, I was immersed in the culture and the daily lives of the Chinese citizens that I lived around. It was an amazing adventure and I believe I am a better instructor because of this experience."

The Department of Personal Financial Planning offers the 3+1+1 program where prospective students complete 3 years of undergraduate study in partner universities in China. During the third year, they apply for the non-degree seeking program at MU for the first "1" year, which allows them to complete their undergraduate degree. If they qualify, they can add another "1" year where the student enrolls in the PFP Master's Program.

More about 3+1+1 program

MU News Bureau Reports Dr. Rui Yao's Risk Tolerance Research

Rui YaoPrior research has long shown that women are, on average, less risk tolerant in their financial decisions than men. This is a concern as investors with low levels of risk tolerance might have greater difficulty reaching their financial goals and building adequate retirement wealth because they are unlikely to invest in stocks. Now, a researcher from the University of Missouri has found that men and women do not think about investment risks differently. Instead, income uncertainty affects men and women differently, which leads to differences in risk tolerance.

Read full article

Dr. Lu Fan Joins Faculty

Lu FanDr. Lu Fan joins the Personal Financial Planning faculty. Check out her impressive curriculum vita.

Dr. Frances Cogle Lawrence Appointed Department Chair

Posted: Aug. 10, 2017

Following a nationwide search, Dr. Frances Cogle Lawrence was appointed Chair and Professor of the Department of Personal Financial Planning at the University of Missouri’s College of Human Environmental Sciences by Dean J. Sanford Rikoon. Dr. Lawrence joined the faculty on July 1, 2017.

"Dr. Lawrence stood out, not only for her outstanding leadership at Louisiana State University, but for her award-winning teaching, solid research activity, and passion for the profession" said Rikoon. "She brings extraordinary energy for the university, alumni and business community, and will deliver her bold leadership to a department specializing in financial planning research and curricula that enables outstanding career opportunities for undergraduate and graduate students."

Frances Cogle Lawrence

A native of Richmond, VA, she earned an undergraduate degree from Virginia Tech and her master’s and doctorate degrees from Florida State University. Before coming to MU, Dr. Lawrence served as the George Cire and Lena Grand Williams Endowed Alumni Professor at Louisiana State University, and also as the Ourso Professor of Communications in the Department of Finance and Associate Dean in the E. J. Ourso College of Business.

At LSU, Lawrence led CFP Board-Registered Programs and was a founder of the LSU Student Financial Management Center. Strategic partnerships with companies, such as Charles Schwab, Edward Jones, Exxon Mobil, LPL Financial, Merrill Lynch, MetLife, Northwestern Mutual, Raymond James, Regions Financial Corporation, TD Ameritrade and Wells Fargo, attracted funding and resulted in student internships, scholarships, and career opportunities.

"It is very apparent to me that Dr. Lawrence’s passion for student learning and her leadership skills will be a winning combination for the University’s Department of Personal Financial Planning," said David Keller, President of the Bank of Missouri.

With a mission of leading the University of Missouri’s financial planning department to further national and global recognition, Lawrence is committed to meaningful research, to students becoming leaders in the financial planning industry with a special emphasis on obtaining the CFP® and AFC® professional certifications, and to forging strong relationships with financial planning professionals. "I am pleased to join an outstanding group of faculty, staff and students at the University of Missouri. Their dedication to superior academic programs and research, along with a supportive and engaged network of alumni, industry and campus partners, makes this a unique and exciting opportunity," said Lawrence.

"As the Department of Personal Financial Management’s new chair, Frances Lawrence will bring a new vision, fresh talent and renewed energy to the department," said Provost Garnett Stokes. "She has received a multitude of honors and awards for teaching, research and service to the profession. Furthermore, Dr. Lawrence is deeply committed to collaborations with other academic units on the University of Missouri campuses and the financial planning industry."