Banking & Finance, Education, and Human Resources

College opens financial planning center

January 21, 2019
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Todd Sanford
Todd Sanford. Courtesy WMU

A college in the region has opened a new education center focused on financial planning.

Western Michigan University opened the Sanford Center for Financial Planning and Wellness last week on the upper level of its Haworth College of Business in Kalamazoo, at 600 Marion Ave.

WMU said the center is meant to improve financial literacy in the greater Kalamazoo community and recruit more professionals to the personal financial planning field.

The center is in a former classroom renovated to include an instruction space, three offices, new décor and furniture and an Epson Smartboard.

Staff from WMU Design and Facilities Management completed initial drawings for the space.

The architecture firm TowerPinkster worked on design for the space, and Detroit-based Walbridge Construction completed the project.

The center will host events on professional development for personal financial planning students, and there are plans to offer workshops and seminars.

Trained students will provide financial advice and resources to fellow students and community members at the center, under the supervision of experienced financial planners and faculty.

The initial plan is to keep the center open Monday through Friday from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m., though staff hope to eventually extend hours after establishing the community coaching services.

The center’s financial literacy resources will open for students this summer. The public will have access to the center in a year or two, according to Jim DeMello, chair of WMU's Department of Finance and Commercial Law.

Chuck Palanca is director of the center.

Todd Sanford, founder and CEO of Portage-based Sanford Financial Services and the center’s namesake, donated a five-year “multi-million-dollar gift” to establish and operate the center.

Sanford's vision is to develop a resource center that provides an integrated approach to personal finance and financial health in the region, with the goal of one day becoming a national model.

WMU said it hopes to have a significant impact, through student outreach, on a couple issues facing the financial planning industry: the future shortage of qualified employees and need for a more diverse workforce. 

"Through research, we know that there is a critical need for certified financial planners and their services," DeMello said. "The center will make both the personal financial planning major and the services of financial coaches more accessible. This access is critical for our community and our country."

WMU is in the process of approving two personal finance courses as possible additions to the its Essential Studies curriculum, required for undergraduate students beginning in fall 2020. The courses would be offered by the Department of Finance and Commercial Law in collaboration with the Sanford Center.

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