Last fall, University of Missouri students from the Department of Personal Financial Planning had the opportunity to act like real-life financial advisors. Students in an investment management class were invited to compete in the Edward Jones Portfolio Challenge, a professional competition that allows students to step into the shoes of financial advisors and learn to create a diversified portfolio solution that fit clients’ long-term needs and desires.

With cash prizes on the line, students got to work putting together the best comprehensive plan to help their clients meet their financial goals.

Lu Fan, assistant professor of personal financial planning, is the instructor for investment management at Mizzou. She split her class up into teams and assigned them the case of the Gronkowskis, a fictitious married couple who recently received an inheritance.

“I enjoyed working with my students to provide them with hands-on financial planning experience,” Fan said. “The plans presented by the students were exemplary and reflect the exceptional quality of Mizzou’s personal financial planning students and faculty.”

During the competition, students were tasked with devising a plan that would help the couple retire in ten years while paying for their son’s college education and leaving room for travel. The top three groups presented their plans before the class, faculty and representatives from Edwards Jones. Judges included Fan and working professional financial advisors Gina Mauller, Eric Willmeth and Nathan Brown.

According to Edward Jones, the benefits of the portfolio challenge include interaction with professionals in the investment field, developing analytical and presentation skills and an opportunity to learn real-world strategies based upon client needs.

“It was a great challenge and helped put everything we learn in the classroom into a real-world project,” said Anthony Wight, a member of the winning team. “I hope we have the opportunity to do something like this for years to come.”

Wright and his teammates—Rachel Heggs, Timothy Lux, Jimmy Merdian and Matthew Tomlin—received the top prize of $2,500. The second-place team, with students Brandon Fredman, Grant Fry, Cameron Harris and Christina Wang received a $1,500 cash prize. A third-place prize of $1,000 was awarded to Brandon Contreras, Victor Hoffman, Kelcey Nunley and Austin Wells.

"The Edward Jones Portfolio Challenge is just one of the ways MU personal financial planning students are able to get real-world, hands-on experience with partners in the financial industry," said Fran Lawrence, professor and department chair of personal financial planning. "I would like to thank Edward Jones for providing such a fantastic opportunity for our students."