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EDUCATION — SDSU Team to Compete in Financial Planning Contest

First Place Receives $10,000 in Scholarship Money

A three-person team from San Diego State University has been selected as a finalist for a financial planning competition.

On April 6, Karyn Koenig, Marcus Culp and Brian Pozza will compete against five other university teams at the first American Express Planning Invitational in New York.

More than 30 colleges and universities were invited to participate in the competition, which will award scholarship money to the winning school.

American Express created the competition as a way to support college and university programs and highlight financial planning as a career choice, according to Ora Kaine, vice president of financial planning and advice services for American Express.

The company believes that the invitational will give students a practical application for the skills they have learned, Kaine said.

In addition, teams who are finalists will be able to network with other students and industry professionals, she said.

– Competing Students Gain Valuable Experience

The competition has given SDSU students very valuable experience, according to Tom Warschauer, professor of finance for SDSU’s College of Business Administration.

The invitational is also unique because students will receive feedback on their financial plans from industry professionals, he said.

Students will also learn other important skills during the competitions, he said.

“They are going to learn as much about thinking on their feet and communication and presentation as they are about financial planning,” Warschauer said.

“Our students already have excellent technical skills in financial planning, but they don’t have nearly as much experience in presentation.”

Although the team has learned quite a bit so far, they think they did a good job in preparing their financial plan, according to Koenig, a senior at SDSU.

– Team Members Have Confidence

While it was hard to delegate and “a lot of double work,” the team is happy and nervous about going to New York, she said, adding that they are definitely contenders for the top prize of $10,000.

The teams that did not make the first cut have already received a critique of their plans, Kaine said.

Judges who review plans annotate the strengths, weaknesses and opportunities for improvement. Finalists will receive an evaluation of their plans after the competition, she said.

In all, 12 teams submitted an application and a comprehensive financial plan for a fictitious family. From these entrants, the SDSU team was selected as a finalist.

Kansas State University, Texas Technical University, Western Carolina State University, University of North Texas and Minnesota State University, Mankato, were also finalists.

In New York, an aspect of the fictitious family that was used in the first round will be changed. The team will have a few hours to adjust the financial plan accordingly and present recommendations to a panel of industry experts.

– Teams Will Earn Points In Different Categories

The teams will be given points in different categories throughout the process. More points will be awarded during a game-show style competition that will test the students’ knowledge of basic financial planning terms and concepts.

Schools placing first, second and third will receive $10,000, $5,000 and $1,000 respectively. Although the money will be awarded to the school as scholarship money, the students will receive other prizes.

The competition is geared toward college juniors and seniors. In addition, restrictions have been placed on students’ work experience in the field, Kaine said.

Teams were also not allowed to use commercially available software, financial calculators, the Internet or their advisers for the financial plans, she said.

While Warschauer believes SDSU’s team has a good chance of winning in New York, he said the other schools have just as much of a chance.

“This is an excellent three-person team. The other schools that are competing are all good schools that have good programs,” he said. “So, I won’t be the least bit ashamed if we don’t win.”

American Express plans on continuing the competition and expects more schools to participate in the future. Although the company has received positive reactions so far, the company is trying to learn how to improve the invitational, Kaine said.


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