After more than two decades at Texas Tech, Vickie Hampton is retiring as chair of what has become the nation’s first School of Personal Financial Planning.
Even before Vickie Hampton arrived at Texas Tech University, she knew of its reputation in personal financial planning (PFP). At that point, it would have been hard not to; most of the financial planning professionals in the nation did, and certainly those – like Hampton – at one of Texas Tech's in-state rivals.
It also didn't hurt that an old friend, Bill Gustafson, had launched Texas Tech's program from the ground up.
It was the mid-1990s, and Hampton was one of three people teaching personal finance at the University of Texas in Austin. While the courses existed, there was not a fully articulated program, so students could neither major nor earn a degree in personal finance. Indeed, when one of Hampton's colleagues expressed her desire to start a doctoral program, their dean suggested she take a job at Texas Tech.
Instead, a few short years later – and with a little prodding from Gustafson – Hampton herself took that advice.
“He said he had to get me here because he knew I could organize the chaos,” she laughed. “And as the program grew, there was more need for organization.”
After more than two decades at Texas Tech, Hampton is retiring as chair of what has become the nation's first School of Personal Financial Planning. In that time, the undergraduate program has nearly doubled in size. The graduate programs have grown exponentially, including the birth of dual degrees with the Jerry S. Rawls College of Business and the School of Law. A nationwide financial planning competition was born at Texas Tech – and Red Raiders have won it twice. More importantly, Texas Tech alumni have launched new financial planning programs throughout the country.
Hampton would never take credit for all of that, but she certainly has played an important role in facilitating and supporting such growth.
“I'm proud of making an impact,” she said. “I'm proud I was able to take my skill set, add it to the skill sets of others and take advantage of opportunities as they arose.”
Foundations in financial planning
Early on, Hampton and Gustafson ran parallel to one another. She was raised on a family farm in central Illinois; he on a family farm in southwestern Illinois. They met in 1972 as doctoral classmates at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. They used the same data set for their dissertation research and were the students who most utilized computer analyses in the days when that meant feeding computer cards into room-size machines. They earned their doctorates in family and consumption economics and began their teaching careers, Hampton in 1977, Gustafson in 1976. In 1978, they both moved to the Lone Star State: Hampton to the University of Texas and Gustafson to Texas Tech.
But then something happened that differentiated their respective institutions. In the early 1980s, Gustafson attended a conference at Brigham Young University, home to what was then the only academic personal financial planning program in the nation. He caught wind that Certified Financial Planner Board of Standards Inc. was planning to create the CFP® designation. Realizing the field was on the rise, Gustafson convinced the Board of Regents that Texas Tech needed a PFP program.
“He was able to get university approval and support for starting the program at Texas Tech, which we weren't able to do at Texas,” Hampton explained.
Texas Tech began to offer undergraduate majors in family financial planning and family finance, and minors in finance, but it grew quickly. The PFP program was one of the first 20 university programs registered by CFP Board in 1986 and 1987. By 1990, faculty member Jerry Mason had begun taking students to the International Association for Financial Planning Conference, substantially raising Texas Tech's PFP profile on the national stage.
This was the situation Hampton found upon her visit to Texas Tech a few years later.
Of course, she hadn't just been sitting back and watching the whole time. At the University of Texas, while teaching multiple, large sections of personal finance each semester, Hampton was conducting research. She knew that if she didn't earn tenure within a certain number of years, she would be out of a job.
So, in addition to teaching and researching, Hampton devised her Plan B: If she didn't get tenure, she could become a financial planner.
Realizing she would need additional education in order to make Plan B feasible, she examined the two certifications available: the recently created CFP® designation and the designation for chartered financial consultants, ChFC®. The two were essentially even at the time, but Hampton opted for the CFP® credential. It was a lucky break, because the CFP® has since become the gold standard in financial planning.
“Long story short, I did get tenure, thank heavens,” Hampton said, “and I went ahead and finished the CFP® certification because I was well on my way to getting it.”
Several years later, out of the blue, Hampton received a letter from CFP Board. They were looking for individuals to write test questions for the certification's new comprehensive exam.
“I thought, ‘Well, I've got the CFP® certification and I'm an academic, so I know how to write test questions,' and so I volunteered – plus it was a free trip to Denver to get started, and that sounded pretty good in the summer,” she laughed. “But anyway, it led me to getting involved nationally in terms of volunteering for CFP Board.”
Hampton went on to serve on the CFP Board of Examiners and later, the Board of Directors. More recently she served on CFP Board's Education Council.
“Serving with top professionals on these boards gave me really good networking and learning opportunities,” she noted. “Ultimately, that is what led me to Texas Tech.”
Making a leap
By the late 1990s, Gustafson had been director of Texas Tech's CFP Board-registered program for more than a decade. He was looking to grow the now well-established program and needed the right person to lead it. After learning that Hampton was involved with CFP Board, Gustafson got an idea.
“I knew how competent she was, and that was when I started in on Dean Bess Haley, that we needed to get Vickie to come up here,” Gustafson recalled. “Dr. Jerry Mason and I were getting things going, and we needed somebody who was really organized and a leader; and that's Vickie. She's just nothing short of amazing.”
Gustafson and Haley both reached out to demonstrate their earnestness, so Hampton came to Lubbock to interview for the position. After her initial visit, however, Hampton balked at the idea of moving.
“Why would I want to do this?” she remembers saying to her husband. “I have such an easy gig.”
And she did – as long as she could be satisfied teaching the same course twice a semester. Every semester. And every summer. For 20-plus years. The material never differing a lot unless tax laws changed.
Hampton realized she wanted more.
“Nobody was majoring in our program,” she explained. “We were teaching hundreds of students something that would improve their lives long-term in terms of personal finance, but we didn't have that deep student connection you get with having a major.
“I think what appealed to me was the challenge of building onto what was here and having a real impact on an awesome profession.”
So, she took the plunge.
Financial Planning Challenge
In early 1999, Hampton accepted the job, and she and her husband moved to Lubbock ahead of her official start date. The work, however, couldn't wait that long.
Hampton was called to join a meeting between the PFP faculty and executives of American Express. One of the faculty members, John Hopkins, had an idea to start a financial planning competition, and he had convinced the financial services corporation of his vision.
Coming in as a new faculty member, Hampton watched from the sidelines – after all, she needed to focus on learning her new job. But she learned a lot about Texas Tech, and the competition, from Hopkins. As time passed, the competition changed names and operators, becoming the Financial Planning Challenge, part of the annual conference of the Financial Planning Association®.
Hampton has been thrilled to see her students excel again and again, because Texas Tech's team has been invited to nationals nearly every year.
Growth at the graduate level
The fact that Texas Tech teams won the Financial Planning Challenge in 2018 and 2020 is just one mark of how much the PFP program has grown during Hampton's tenure.
Another is in sheer numbers. When Hampton arrived, the undergraduate student population was roughly half what it is now. And the graduate programs were very small. Now, in addition to the on-campus master's program, PFP offers a hybrid program that, if it weren't for COVID-19, the faculty would be teaching at Fidelity Investments' Westlake campus in the heart of the Dallas-Fort Worth Metroplex.
“Early on, we might have had three master's students,” she said. “Last fall, we had 104.”
The program's evolution has allowed faculty to offer special courses, Hampton said, such as electives in charitable giving, life-centered financial planning, behavioral finance and more.
“There was a time when we would not let our undergraduates take our master's courses, because there just wasn't that much more that anybody was going to learn from the master's program,” she said. “Now, that's not the case at all.”
The doctoral program is a story unto itself.
The first doctoral program
When Hampton arrived at Texas Tech to teach personal finance, the College of Human Sciences looked quite different. Family financial planning was a program within the Department of Merchandising, Environmental Design and Consumer Economics.
“We were not even mentioned in the department name,” she remembered. “There was nothing that identified us.”
There was not even a specific doctorate in personal financial planning; rather, the degree was in consumer economics and environmental design. But that was about to change.
In 2001, the CFP Board of Directors' new CEO was touring college campuses to learn more about the environment of financial planning education, so Hampton invited him to visit Texas Tech. She expected he would talk to students and give a presentation.
He had a surprise in store.
During a previous stop on his tour, the CEO was told – by Ohio State University's nationally respected program director – that the only way to solidify the CFP© designation in academia was to create doctoral programs in financial planning. As he explained, universities hire people with doctorates, and at the time, there were no personal financial planning doctoral programs anywhere in the nation. No programs meant no doctoral alumni who could start programs elsewhere.
So, when he stepped off the airplane, the CFP Board CEO was interested in funding such a program.
“At that point in time, we were the only doctoral program registered by CFP Board,” Hampton said, “so we were the obvious choice.”
Thanks to a little Bill Gustafson magic, the CEO met with Texas Tech President David Schmidly. Ultimately, Texas Tech received a seven-year, nearly $2 million grant from CFP Board to double the size of the PFP faculty and build upon the doctoral program.
“We promised them we would have 29 doctoral students by the end of that period, and we more than beat that,” Hampton said. “Now, we have 46 doctoral students. That grant allowed us to build the faculty infrastructure, which then allowed both the master's and the doctoral programs to grow.”
The School of Personal Financial Planning
In 2009, Hampton became chair of the department, by then called Applied and Professional Studies, which encompassed personal financial planning; marriage and family therapy; community, family and addiction sciences; and family and consumer sciences education. Two years later, the four units divided into separate departments, and Hampton remained at the helm of the Department of Personal Financial Planning.
Now, it's the nation's first School of Personal Financial Planning.
“It makes us happy to be leading in what's going on nationally and give other people an example to follow,” Hampton noted.
Perhaps that's why one of the doctoral-level classes teaches that very thing – launching a financial planning program. The program development seminar prompts students to choose a university and then figure out how they could begin a financial planning program at that institution, considering its location, curriculum, faculty and more.
And, based on Texas Tech's example, those new programs would likely flourish. After all, PFP alumni are already making important contributions throughout the country.
“We're seen as leaders,” Hampton said. “Our doctoral graduates get hired by other universities, and so, when those other universities are successful, that reflects back on us.”
With doctoral alumni transforming academia, and bachelor's and master's graduates making a difference in the practitioner world, Texas Tech's reach is tremendous.
“We're positioned very well,” Hampton said. “I think some folks would say, ‘You don't have the best undergraduate program' or ‘You don't have the best master's program' – maybe even, ‘You don't even have the best Ph.D. program.' But nobody would say this wasn't the most comprehensive program in the nation. There's no way you could say that. Nobody has all of those things, plus dual degrees with law and business, plus the personal finance program.”
For Gustafson, who started it all, it wouldn't have happened without Hampton.
“As I look back on the success of Personal Financial Planning, there's no question in my mind that she was absolutely the right person at the right time,” he said. “She has a remarkable intellectual ability. She was an outstanding student in our graduate program at Illinois, but you combine that with this farm-kid work ethic and, certainly, a warm, engaging personality, and she's like a shining star in the sky.
“You would hear that not only from colleagues, but also from students. She's pretty special.”
For her own part, Hampton is proud of two things: the relationships she has formed with students – after all, that was her main reason for coming to Texas Tech – and being able to make a difference.
“I haven't studied or worked at a lot of different places, but those I have were established Tier One institutions, and they just don't seize the opportunities the same way Texas Tech does,” she said. “We always made it a point to try to take advantage of opportunities. I'm proud we were able to do what we could do, and I think there's more that can be done.”
For that, Hampton is handing the reins to Mitzi Lauderdale as the school's interim director.
“Vickie has always been dedicated to educating the next generation of financial planners and has instilled that in all of us,” Lauderdale said. “The impact of her leadership can be seen across the financial planning profession and in numerous universities. I especially appreciate how she has fostered a culture in PFP so we're an interconnected family of support.
“For me personally, she has been a teacher, mentor, colleague and friend. Dr. Hampton truly helped shape the profession. She has been – and will continue to be – a champion for financial planning in higher education.”
While Hampton will miss her colleagues, students and the experiences of the last 22 years, she's also excited to see the positive changes to come.
“It's been such an honor and so much fun to be part of the PFP program at Texas Tech; it's just been great,” she said. “There were times, years ago, when I said I'd never retire just because I was having so much fun.
“But I do think there are probably other ways to have fun, too.”