Texas Tech University

Miranda Reiter's Research Looks to Improve Diversity in Financial Planning

Glenys Young

April 27, 2022

Miranda Reiter

This assistant professor is passionate about education and the chance to help others.

April is Financial Literacy Month. In recognition, Texas Tech University is highlighting some of the professionals in its School of Financial Planning, the first such school in the nation and home of the two-time defending national champions in financial planning.

Miranda Reiter was three months into her first professional job when her calling found her.

Fresh out of double bachelor's degrees in business administration and French, she was selected for a competitive management associate program, working under a mentor in a regional bank to learn about its operations while preparing to transition into a management position. The time had come in the program for her to choose which of the bank's divisions she wanted to move into. But when Reiter told her company-appointed mentor, the bank's chief officer of wealth management, she wanted to choose that division, he was not encouraging.

She still does not know what led to his lack of enthusiasm about her joining wealth management, but she decided to go with her second option, consumer banking, which was more inclusive.

“I was 22 when that happened,” explained Reiter, now an assistant professor of personal financial planning at Texas Tech. “At that time, I was a bit naïve and really had no idea why I might not be thought of as an ideal candidate for wealth management. However, over the years, I began to glean that there were some diversity issues in the profession, particularly around age, gender and race.”

In consumer banking, she was able to learn and grow. She earned licenses in insurance and investments and was introduced to the world of financial planning. And yet, three years later, she'd become disillusioned with the pushy sales environment. At age 25, by then managing a bank branch and leading a team of more than a dozen employees, Reiter felt unsatisfied. She wanted to serve clients and help people on her own terms.

She moved to France to teach English to French students. Several years later, after earning her master's degree in public administration, she moved to West Africa to teach Ivory Coast farmers how to increase their communities' literacy in the French language so they could better negotiate when selling their cocoa and other produce. Upon returning to the U.S., Reiter took a position at a community college, advising international students as they navigated higher education.

But she began to miss the world of finance, so she decided to pursue her certified financial plannerTM certification. After passing the exam, she became a financial planner – first for her own company, She & Money Financial Planning, and then for two national firms. She earned her doctorate along the way.

“I spent a great portion of my career in financial services, and I've witnessed tremendous opportunities within this profession,” Reiter said. “The financial planning industry, in particular, has a huge opportunity to help consumers build wealth and alleviate financial disparities for future generations. It has the power to ameliorate access to financial services for a broad and diverse array of clients. I love that about my profession.

“At the same time, the client base and the financial planners that serve them are not as representative of this country as they could be. Only 1.8% of certified financial planner™ practitioners are Black, 2.7% are Hispanic and 23% are women. I was told by an employee at one of the financial planning firms I worked at, that I was the first Black financial planner he'd seen in his 25 years there. With statistics such as these, it makes it challenging to truly serve diverse communities. In addition, when you are from an underrepresented group working in a largely homogenous environment, there are certain experiences associated with that which need to be understood, highlighted and improved for the greater good. It is my hope that my research creates some awareness around these areas and helps to move the needle in making the financial planning industry more diverse, equitable and inclusive for both prospective employees and clients.”

She noted that the industry is far more aware of such issues now than when she entered it.

“The statistics still look skewed, but there is a concerted effort to improve,” she emphasized. “People from diverse backgrounds shouldn't be hesitant to get into financial planning, because it really is getting better.”

In retrospect, it's clear that two basic needs have been present throughout Reiter's life: a hunger for education and a thirst to help other people improve their lives. Through her work at Texas Tech, she's doing both of those things – helping students pursue their career objectives while striving to make an impact in the industry overall.

“It's never too late to change your reality,” she said – and if her work can make that difference for someone, she wants it to

Miranda Reiter's Tips for Financial Literacy

Before you became a financial planner, what were the three best pieces of financial advice anyone ever gave you?

  • Start saving for retirement as soon as possible. I started saving for retirement when I was 22 with a 401(k) at my first post-college job, but I wish I had started when I had my first job in high school at 15. That's seven years of compounding interest and growth that I missed out on! Save early and often.
  • Invest in the stock market for long-term savings goals (e.g., five years or more). There are few other options that will consistently keep you ahead of inflation and help you grow your money while you sleep over the long term.
  • If you can't value a penny, you can't value a dollar! Financial prudence can take you far. Saving dollars is just as powerful as earning dollars.

What three tips would you give to someone who wanted to improve their own finances but didn't know where to start?