About the Program:

The FPA Practicum is a program that the SF FPA originally put together, and can roll out to any number of schools; although currently, it is solely offered at Golden Gate University. The Golden Gate University Financial Planning Practicum is an elective course in the MS-Financial degree program. It is structured in a way as to allow students to work in small teams to deliver comprehensive financial planning to real clients under the mentorship of the instructor and an FPA mentor.

  • The clients are EARN Saver Alumni.
  • The class is led by past FPA President David Yeske, CFP®
  • In order to ensure a high-quality planning process for the EARN Alumni, volunteer Mentors oversee the planning process and supervise the Student-Planners.
  • Mentors work closely with the Students-Planners, clients, EARN staff, and the class instructor throughout the course, providing guidance and expertise, and serving as a resource and a role model for the Student-Planners.

What do the FPA volunteer mentors do?

  • Your role will be to serve as a resource to the Student-Planners, act as a role model to the Student-Planners, and to perform quality control for the financial planning advice and deliverables to the EARN Alumni
  • You will have the opportunity to attend all Student-Planner and EARN Alumni meetings (typically three formal meetings: an orientation, a data collection meeting, and a final presentation).
  • You will be expected to be available on an ongoing basis during the course of the class to provide assistance to the Student-Planners and EARN Alumni
  • You will monitor the progress of the financial plan, review the final plan prior to the presentation, and provide feedback upon completion of the presentation to insure that high quality advice is delivered to the EARN Alumni

Who should become an FPA volunteer mentor?

Becoming an FPA Volunteer Mentor for the Practicum class is for you…

  • If you want to be involved in enhancing the financial planning process for EARN Alumni and the academic experience of Student-Planners.
  • If you are able to make the time commitment of approximately 25 hours over the course of 16 weeks

What do the students do?

  • The “Practicum in Financial Planning” will provide students with an opportunity to create a comprehensive pro bono financial plan for actual clients.
  • Under the guidance of the instructor, and of experienced FPA volunteer mentors, student teams will review the financial planning process in preparation for their meetings with clients (the EARN Alumni)
  • At these meetings, students will discuss the financial planning process with their clients, and identify clients’ financial goals and objectives
  • At subsequent client meetings, students will discuss their analyses of the financial data provided by the clients and, in the final meeting, will present the completed plan to the clients
  • The classroom sessions will provide students in mastering both the “hard” and “soft” elements of client relationship management, and plan construction and design.

Who should be a student?

Aspiring financial planners, the Practicum is for you…

  • If you want a direct financial planning experience through the creation of a comprehensive financial plan for an actual person under the guidance of a veteran CFP®.
  • If you want a structured mentor relationship with a veteran CFP® professional.
  • If you want an opportunity to network with both experienced CFP® professionals and like-minded individuals new to the field.
  • If you want a high-quality pro bono experience by providing financial planning to the working poor.
  • If you need to fulfill the work experience requirement to become a CFP® certificant (approx 40-80 hour credits)
  • If you are qualified to sit for the CFP exam either by completion of a CFP education program (UC Berkeley extension, Golden Gate University, UC Santa Cruz, UC Davis, etc.) or through a currently held professional designations (CLU, CPA, CFA)

How to get involved

For more information about becoming an FPA Volunteer Mentor, please email

For more information about becoming a Practicum student, visit Golden Gate University’s website:

For all involved, it is a very rewarding experience.


I always find the Practicum a tremendously satisfying experience.Not only do we have the privilege of spending 16 weeks advancing the profession through applied learning and public service, but we get to do so in the company of some of the most talented and passionate professionals you will ever find. I learn so much from the mentors and students that I know I end every semester a better financial planner. The Practicum is about integrating knowledge and practice, about embracing the challenges and responsibility of public service, and, finally, about the power of financial planning to make the world a better place, one life at a time. It’s also about having one hell of a good time while doing so. David Yeske, CFP® (Instructor)

Holly Gillian KindelThe goal of the FPA Practicum at Golden Gate University is to provide high-quality, unbiased financial planning assistance to the working poor while providing expert mentorship to financial planners new to the profession. The consequence of the Practicum has been much, much bigger – the creation of both empowered planners and individuals ready to embrace life’s opportunities and challenges. I’m grateful for how the Practicum has enhanced my life and humbled by how it’s impacted the lives of all the participants, past and present. Holly Gillian Kindel, CPCC, CLU, CFP® (Mentor)

How many of us wish that we could have entered our field in a better way or that we could have provided better service to our early clients? This course offered our students the opportunity to experience client-centered financial planning first-hand. Through the students, we are improving our profession from the ground up by sharing our wisdom with those less established as financial planners. Through the class, we are pursuing our dual mandates of improving the regard of our profession and serving our community by providing financial planning for low-income clients. Brian Pon, EA, CFP® (Mentor)

The best part about being a mentor is the inspiration.  No matter how much passion we have for our work, it helps to get a regular dose of inspiration.  As a mentor, I have been greatly inspired by the EARN clients.  They are earnest and striving and completely grateful for the opportunity to work with the practicum students.  It is a wonderful thing to witness a client embarking on the financial planning process for the first time, with a real openness to what is possible.  It is a gift to provide knowledge and perspective that is so meaningful to them on a daily basis and which may have a lasting impact on their lives.   I have also been inspired by the students, with whom the mentors have the most direct relationship.  Of course, we all look back to our early days in this profession and imagine how lucky we would have been to have had an experienced advisor take us under their wing.  Now it feels just as lucky to be that experienced advisor, that mentor.  The mentor-mentee relationship is reciprocal and I have certainly learned a great deal from my mentees—new ways to approach issues, new technologies and a sense of freshness.  Last but not least, I have been continually inspired by my fellow mentors and the program instructors.  One of my favorite things to do is talk shop and this is a great way to get my fix!   Discussing the finer points of the latest withdrawal rate paradigms, at 9pm on a wintery, rainy Wednesday night, for little or no compensation?  That’s what I call dedication – and inspiration. Diane Bourdo, CFP® (Mentor)

The experience I gained through the practicum was invaluable to my development as a financial planner. I only expected the class to be a simple review of the five financial planning areas and to provide an opportunity to create a financial plan based on facts from a client questionnaire but it involved much more. We were given the responsibility to set the appointments, conduct interviews, as well as create and present a comprehensive financial plan for EARN participants. Working with live clients certainly allowed me to apply my academic knowledge but also required me to use my interpersonal skills. The class emphasized how the emotional and psychological aspects of financial planning are just as important as the technical aspects. In addition, not only did we get to interact with top flight instructors/mentors and passionate students but got exposure to other national thought leaders in the planning field. I would recommend the course to those entering or new to the financial planning field. Mike Pablo (Student)

There were actually three aspects of the practicum that were particularly beneficial to me: (1) being able to use the tools that we have been learning about; (2) being able to call upon professional resources and experience of the instructors, mentors and coordinator;and (3) being paired up with another student as a team, whereby we were able to work intensively together as we prepared for, met and followed up with our actual clients. Certainly it was liberating to learn about and then practice using tools such as appreciative inquiry within the course. Additionally the professional resources that we were able to call upon including years of experience from the instructors Dave Yeske and Kacy Gott as well as guest lecturers Elissa Buie and Jonathon Guyton, and of course our mentors Holly Gillian-Kindel, Gregg Clarke and Brett Gookin , and Saundra Davis our coordinator was impressive. Pairing up with another student as a team gave us a taste of the benefits of working collaboratively on the client’s behalf. Each week we learned about each of the teams’ clients and developed plans that would give our clients the financial tools to make their goals and dreams a reality. We all enjoyed the initial meetings with the clients and then quickly became awed by the daunting issues that our clients faced in planning the rest of their lives including education, children, investments, professional development, family issues, home purchases and retirement. Our final meeting included an in-depth presentation to our clients including analysis, resources, policies and recommendations. These presentations were vetted and critiqued by the entire class ensuring a high quality product and process for our clients. The Practicum was an excellent practical view of working with an excellent team in providing clients with the best advice that we could offer. Richard Walter (Student)