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Louise and Vann Van Diepen defy the stereotype about nontraditional learners. The typical continuing education student is assumed to be intent on gathering the knowledge and skills necessary to switch careers or advance professionally. Retirees like the Van Diepens, on the other hand, are supposed to gravitate to less rigorous enrichment programs that help them explore their interests and cultivate their leisure time.
By contrast, the Van Diepens are part of what is probably not a large but nonetheless overlooked segment of the senior population, one that finds satisfaction in exacting study. Both are enrolled in the School’s Certified Financial Planning Certificate, a preparatory program for people hoping to obtain CFP® Certification.
That’s a goal that they are embracing. Louise Van Diepen, the impetus for the couple’s decision to enroll in the program, intends to work as a financial planner, perhaps on a pro bono basis. She was inspired by a conversation with a fee-only financial planner helping her niece and nephew better manage a bequest. “She made the point that as a financial planner, you can really make a difference in people’s lives,” Van Diepen says. “I was intrigued.”
Vann Van Diepen’s future plans are not as definite. “I had served as our family’s de facto financial planner, and the idea of gaining a more structured and solid foundation of knowledge appealed to me,” he says. “I think the option of having part-time work is appealing.”
Once the Van Diepens decided to pursue a CFP certificate, they investigated programs near their home in the Washington metro area. “I wanted a program that was affiliated with a real university,” Louise Van Diepen says. “I felt it would have more credibility and that I would be learning from people who had on-the-ground experience as CFPs.” They chose UVA.
Currently, the Van Diepens are about midway through the program and have already been applying some of what they have learned to their own finances. “We were trying to determine if we should convert our regular IRA to a Roth IRA—and we had a class a few days ago where that exact issue was the topic,” Vann Van Diepen says.
Louise Van Diepen reports that the investment course gave her both the analytic tools and the confidence to buy individual stocks for the first time rather than mutual funds. In addition, she now feels comfortable talking to her husband about their household finances. “I always felt vulnerable because I didn’t fully understand our financial situation,” she says. “Now, I sleep better at night.”
But Louise Van Diepen is still focused on helping others. With encouragement of faculty member Jim Simos, she sat in with CFPs at the October pro bono financial planning day at UVA’s Falls Church academic center. “Seeing them advise folks who came in with different issues was a wonderful experience,” she said. “It was a great demonstration of how the material we are studying can position you to make a difference.”