Financial Planning Club members recognize persistence, thoroughness in recent success

By Cecilia Milmoe, Interim Features Editor

On July 12, the University’s Financial Planning Club earned a top-eight spot in the first phase of the Financial Planning Challenge, held by the Financial Planning Association. These top eight teams will advance to the next stages of the competition.

The team consists of Arianna Pannarale, senior in ACES and president of the FPC at the University, and Sierra Winoker, senior in ACES and vice president of the FPC, as well as their coach, Donovan Sanchez, a professor at the University.

Winoker said neither Pannarale nor herself expected to be placed in the top eight teams.

“I don’t think Arianna or I were expecting to place in the top eight, we kind of just wanted to do the case competition for the experience and educational purposes,” Winoker said. “We were both just really happy and excited that we got into the top eight.”

The first phase of the competition involved creating a financial plan for a hypothetical client, an artist named Sky Jay. The top eight scoring teams in phase one move on to phases two and three, an oral presentation of the case and a “Jeopardy!” style game show, respectively. Scores for all three phases will be tallied up to determine the winners, with the top three teams earning scholarships.

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    Pannarale, who participated in the Financial Planning Challenge in 2021 as well, said that she finds phase one to be the most difficult.

    “I would say that that is the most challenging part, just because of the amount of time and effort we put into creating the plan,” Pannarale said. “It ended up being a 75-page PDF, so it was a really long plan.”

    For their client’s financial plan, the team planned out several different areas, such as tax planning, investment planning and retirement planning.

    While teams can consist of up to three students, Pannarale and Winoker were able to achieve success with just the two of them.

    “We’re kind of a small powerhouse team with just myself and Sierra,” Pannarale said.

    Winoker added that since the two were already friends before the competition, working together was easier.

    “Communication was key, making sure we were keeping each other accountable with deadlines,” Winoker said. “I think that we both really enjoy each other’s company, and being friends made it more fun to do something so work-intensive.”

    Pannarale shared a similar sentiment, placing importance on the duo’s teamwork.

    “We work well together, we have a lot of the same ideas but we’re also comfortable sharing unique ideas to add to the plan,” Pannarale said. “I think that was a huge factor in our success for this.”

    Pannarale said that while writing the 75-page PDF was a lengthy process, it was still enjoyable.

    “I feel like we’re both really passionate about financial planning and we’re both passionate about the case,” Pannarale said. “We really enjoyed it all the way through, and it was nice to see that all our hard work paid off. We put in some really long hours throughout the school year. We started the case planning in March and we didn’t end until after school ended in May.”

    Pannarale added that the team worked on the plan even during their busiest weeks of school.

    Winoker said that from the very beginning, the team scheduled themselves to split up the work effectively.

    “We put ourselves on a schedule pretty early and split the work up, but we’d always be discussing,” Winoker said. “We met up with each other at least once a week and had team meetings with our coach about once a week, too. We tried to make progress every week and continued research, using what we already knew and trying to be very thorough.”

    Sanchez said in an email that the team put much effort into being thorough with their plan.

    “Our team spent hours reviewing the case study, identifying planning opportunities, constructing analyses, and drafting and redrafting their recommendations,” Sanchez said. “I’m very proud of them and the hard work that they put into this year’s case study.”

    Sanchez said his involvement was “fairly limited,” focusing on answering the team’s questions and identifying “important areas of opportunity for planning.”

    Looking to the future, Pannarale said the team will be looking over their plan and figuring out what they want to focus on for the oral presentation, as well as showing their interest in the case to the judges.

    “Presenting the plan to the judges and letting our passion shine through is going to be the exciting part,” Pannarale said.

    Both Pannarale and Winoker said that while they are nervous about the next two stages of the competition, they are both excited about what’s to come.

    “I would say I’m mostly excited,” Pannarale said. “I enjoyed the process even through all the long nights and all the work that we put into it. We really enjoyed it along the way, it was really fun for us, so we’re really excited to be done with what I think is the most challenging component.”


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