- Niki Theil

Term : September, 2013
Department : Business and Management
Program : Financial Planning

Niki Theil had worked in corporate finance for eight years before quitting to raise her children. While her children were young, Theil focused her mathematical talents on fine-tuning their household spending, an exercise that proved useful, not only for her family, but ultimately in helping her discover her passion for personal finance. When she stopped by a financial planning career fair at UCSC Extension in 2010, she decided it was time to learn more ways to save and invest. She started taking courses in Extension’s Personal Financial Planning program shortly thereafter.

“When I wasn’t working, I had the time to put together an aggressive family savings plan,” Theil says. “The whole process was empowering.  I remember thinking, the least I could do is learn something from the classes that I could apply to my own financial plan at home. At best, I’ve found a new career.”

Theil found that Extension’s courses provided a practical framework for planners at all stages of their careers. The Financial Planning Survey course introduced common specializations and topics, as well as an overview of common career paths for financial planners. The Estate Planning course opened Theil’s eyes and prompted her to consider longer-term approaches to financial management. She was encouraged by her instructors’ insight and firsthand knowledge.

“The instructors were working professionals,” she says. “They weren’t just teaching from textbooks; they were sharing their experiences. They encouraged us to jump right in and do something in the field.”

And jump right in she did. Theil completed an internship and worked closely with her fellow students and instructors to help orchestrate the quarterly Financial Planning Student Forums, ongoing networking events designed to connect students to potential employers and the greater finance community.

"Twice annually the Student Forum holds a joint session with the Silicon Valley FPA where professional planners and affiliated professionals are invited to attend. Our upcoming October meeting is going to be exciting for students because we’ve lined up about 15 employers looking for interns and new hires,” Theil says. “This event will be particularly good for someone who has finished the program or wants to see what’s out there.”

Since completing the certificate program in late 2012, Theil went on to study for the rigorous CFP® exam. She now works at a small financial planning firm, where she is putting Extension skills to practice as she earns hours toward a professional credential. While Extension courses do cover many of the same topics on the exam, Theil notes that there is a critical difference in completing Extension’s certificate and sitting for the professional exam.

“The instructors make it clear in their classes that they’re not preparing you for an exam; they’re preparing you for a career,” she says. “The courses definitely translate to the real world.”

Visit our Personal Financial Planning program page to learn more about Extension’s unique offerings. Browse upcoming Personal Financial Planning courses.

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