Financial Education for Securities, Banking, & Insurance Professionals.
In Financial & Retirement Planning
12 advanced courses required, plus a comprehensive exam and dissertation
Underlying Theory Behind Financial & Retirement Planning
Move from the practice to the theory of financial and retirement planning by developing research that will help individuals make better financial decisions and increase public financial literacy.
If you are a financial advisor, insurance agent, researcher, or teacher, you understand the profound gap of knowledge facing consumers, especially those nearing retirement. As a part of the PhD in Financial and Retirement Planning, you will learn from highly acclaimed faculty in estate planning, taxation, gerontology, and financial planning. Perhaps you seek to lift your skillset with a higher acumen in cutting-edge research. Or, with a new depth of knowledge, you may become a college professor in these areas. Whatever your journey, we are the one institution that will help fulfill that dream.
Thanks to a generous endowment from The New York Life Insurance Company, The American College is able to advance public literacy in financial planning and retirement income with this remarkable degree. Doctoral scholars will participate in two, one-week residencies on our beautiful campus in Bryn Mawr, PA, as well as at least one intensive debrief with faculty prior to your dissertation defense. This is a rigorous program, and you should only consider applying if you can make a four-year commitment while working full-time.
The high point of the program is a doctoral dissertation, which starts with a proposal that defines the need for the research, the hypothesis to be tested, and the research methodology. Written under the guidance of three committee members who are experts in the topic area, the dissertation exercise concludes a presentation to the faculty. Each dissertation will make a significant and original contribution to the field of financial and retirement planning.
The best way to understand the structure of the curriculum is to divide the curriculum into two parts—10 foundation courses for individuals who do not have the MSFS degree and the 12 advanced courses, comprehensive exam and dissertation for individuals who already have been awarded the MSFS degree.
The first part of this course teaches students the “language of business” — accounting. It deals with understanding and analyzing financial statements to evaluate the financial stability and performance of a company. The second part of this course provides students with knowledge of the fundamentals of equity valuation. Course grades are determined by the performance on an Examination on Demand® (EOD). Students are strongly encouraged to complete this course prior to taking either GS 811 (Security Analysis and Portfolio Management) or GS 819 (Mutual Funds).
Studies two decision processes: setting the optimal asset-allocation mix (using modern portfolio theory) and analyzing and selecting securities within the asset class. While focusing primarily on the first, briefly reviews security analysis models, capital markets and historic risk/return aspects. Presents theory/practice of identifying optimal allocation of wealth among various asset classes. Presents techniques for quantifying expected risk and return for individual asset classes and portfolios; evaluating portfolio performance; portfolio distribution; applying the dividend discount model; and using options, futures and other investments.
Course covers qualified defined-contribution and defined-benefits plans, as well as similar arrangements, such as SEPs, SIMPLEs, 457 plans and 403(b) plans. Planning issues are emphasized, with a particular focus on the use of plans in small, closely held businesses. The course includes discussion of the more sophisticated strategies for the small business including ESOPs, 401(k) plans, age-weighted and cross-tested plans and fully insured 412(i) plans, as well as a detailed discussion of life insurance as a qualified plan investment and the tax treatment of retirement plan distributions. The course culminates with the analysis of a comprehensive case study.
First of two advanced gift and estate planning courses. Presents an overview of basic gift, estate and generation-skipping transfer tax law and builds on that knowledge for application to real-life cases and situations. Covers taxable transfers of property during life and at death; property valuation; inclusion of property in a decedent’s gross estate; the marital, charitable and other deductions; computation processes involved in estate and gift taxation; basic estate planning documents; and estate planning devices.
Introduces current tax laws, new cases, revenue rulings and regulations for income tax planning. Presents strategies and techniques for tax reductions, including the laws governing income allocation, tax shelters, income shifting and deduction recognition and timing.
Provides a basic understanding of the concepts, sources of information and fee structure of mutual fund investing. Presents modern portfolio theory, which utilizes mutual funds as asset classes, and explains how computer-based decision tools support the allocation decision across a pre-qualified set of mutual funds. Focuses on recent empirical evidence regarding performance evaluation and risk characteristics used in pre-qualifying mutual funds for investment.
Covers executive compensation plans, emphasizing owner-employees of closely held businesses. Focuses on design of cash and bonus compensation, stock options and other forms of compensation with restricted property; life insurance, including split-dollar plans and other death benefits; nonqualified deferred compensation; health and disability plans; and various fringe benefits. Covers plan installation, financing and administration, as well as ERISA, tax, including sections 280G and 409A and other legal and accounting compliance issues. The course culminates with the analysis of a comprehensive case study.
This course requires the student to develop a comprehensive solution to a financial planning case. The case materials are introduced online. Students are expected to complete both a comprehensive financial plan and an executive summary.
This course addresses current issues relevant to helping clients save for retirement and ensure that adequate retirement income lasts a lifetime. The first day focuses on the retirement savings issues including the retirement savings crisis, determining retirement needs, motivating clients to save, and maximizing savings through tax strategies. Day two primarily addresses the issue of choosing an appropriate retirement income strategy but also addresses a very practical issue, when to claim Social Security benefits.
Approaches ethics and human values from the particular perspective of the ethical responsibilities assumed by the financial services professional. This course focuses on the specific ethical situations encountered by financial services practitioners. Discusses and evaluates these decisions in terms of their adherence to ethical principles, such as integrity, justice and fairness and responsibility. Focuses on behavior and the implementation of core values through case studies an analysis of ethical dilemmas.
This course examines the major issues and seminal articles in the field of financial planning. Literature from numerous domains of financial planning will be reviewed including retirement, tax, investments, risk management and insurance. The course provides an introduction to reading and processing financial planning journal articles.
The first part of this course is a broad survey of the investments literature. It emphasizes topics that are relevant to household financial decision-making and portfolio management. The second part of this course examines the literature on strategies used to decumulate a household’s investment portfolio over the retirement period.
This course covers statistical methods for researchers. No particular background will be supposed, but some experience with probability and statistics will make things easier. The focus will be on choosing appropriate methods and on implementing the methods in a statistical software package, but some attention will be paid to writing methods and results sections and carrying out power calculations. Comparison of samples, correlation analysis, and regression analysis will be covered for continuous, categorical, censored, and multivariate data. Topics such as missing data, confounding and causation, random effects and hierarchical models, permutation tests and randomization, and non-parametric tests will be touched on.
The financial planning professional faces a series of unique ethical challenges during the course of their practice. Many factors, including; heightened regulatory scrutiny, economic pressures and an aging population, have increased the need for ethical behavior and consumer demand for practitioners who adhere to the highest ethical principles. In this seminar, students will study models of ethical decision-making and apply these models to ethical challenges they face in their daily business practice. Student will also investigate the regulatory framework that governs the financial services industry and explore how changes in regulation will impact their practice.
This course covers the methodologies involved in doctoral level research. Covered will be the outline of the research process, including data collection, summary and analysis and interpretation; as well as assessing the limitations of the completed research. The course will also cover the necessary pieces of a research report. Prerequisite: D 1200 Applied Statistics.
This course begins with a review of the linear regression model, its assumptions, and how to perform sound empirical tests when those assumptions are violated. Students will also learn nonlinear models. Instrumental variables and dummy variables will also be discussed. As an applied course in econometrics, this course will involve considerable use of statistical software. Prerequisites: D 1200 Applied Statistics and D 1400 Research Methods I.
After completion of this course, students will be able to critically analyze the adequacy of current research and theories for addressing theory-based approaches to aging, health, and healthcare issues. Students will participate with faculty and other fellows in the development of research protocols using innovative strategies that incorporate the perspectives of at least two disciplines; independently adapt a theoretical perspective into a conceptualization of an approach to studying a health issue important to a population of older adults; and initiate the development and testing of a research protocol using perspectives or methodologies from more than one discipline.
Addresses pensions, COBRA, ERISA, HIPAA privacy rules, Social Security, Medicare, Medicaid, health plans for federal workers, voluntary benefits, dental benefits, self-funding, international benefits and ethics.
This course will cover the need for development of sound, creative policies to address the common need for economic security, financial planning, health care, and quality of life.
This course provides students with the opportunity to evaluate and review literature in their field of study and begin building a literature review towards their dissertation. This course will expose students to leading academic and financial planning practitioners while pursuing special topics of study. Prerequisite: D 1000 Seminar in Financial Planning.
Behavioral finance explores how deviations from the classic model of rationality impact decision making processes and outcomes. Researchers in behavioral finance challenge the assumption that human decision makers are self-interested, utility maximizers with unlimited cognitive resources and demonstrate that decision-making is impacted by various biases and heuristics. In this seminar, we will examine behavioral finance literature and apply its conclusions with special attention to the practice of financial planning. Prerequisite: D 1100 Seminar in Accumulation&Distribution of Financial Assets.
This course is intended for students to write their first draft of Introduction and Literature Review supporting their dissertation. Students will also discuss peers literature reviews. Prerequisite: D 1400 Research Methods I.
PhD Course Policies:
A maximum of six (6) graduate credit hours (the equivalent of two 3-credit courses) may be transferred into the PhD program as foundation courses. Determination of the credit transfer will be made on a case-by-case basis by the Director of the PhD program. In some cases, the student may have many years experience in one particular area and feel that taking the foundation course would serve little purpose. In such a case, the Director of the PhD program may permit the student to take a challenge exam for a particular course. The fee for a challenge exam is $300. If the student fails the challenge exam, it will be necessary for the student to enroll and complete the course.
Course textbooks and study guides will be shipped to you 6–8 weeks before your first residency and about 4 weeks before each webinar course. You will also receive an email from the professor defining how you should prepare for the class. Also, you will find information related to each course on Blackboard.
Examination format for the PhD program will vary depending on the individual course and professor preference: some may be online, some may be paper and pencil, some may be essay-based. Please refer to your individual course materials for more information on examination format. For more information, contact the Office of the PhD program at 800-421-0654. Please note: PhD grading policies, including attendance and participation expectations, are at the discretion of the professor.
To earn course credit, a student must receive a B or higher. There will be no retake or reschedule fee for missed exams or unsuccessful exam attempts. Students must re-register for the course at then-current tuition rates. Please note: Any student with three C-letter grades or two F-letter grades (regardless of whether the student took the course again and successfully earned a B or higher) will be withdrawn from the program.
There are no refunds available for this program.
Continuing Education Credits will not be granted for any PhD courses.
The PhD program is
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Tuition & Fees
Tuition: $3,250 (per course)
Admission Fee: $370*
Includes textbooks and study materials, as well as shipping. For residency classes, students are responsible for transportation, lodging, and a laptop computer as well as all dinners; breakfasts and lunches will be provided.
*Non-refundable, charged upon admittance to the program. Not required for graduates of the MSFS program.
To apply to the program, send the following in a single package to the address below:
- Application fee ($370).
- College and graduate transcripts.
- GMAT scores (recommended).
- Three letters of reference on official stationary.
- Updated resume.
- Required essay.
Director, Doctoral Program
The American College
270 S. Bryn Mawr Avenue
Bryn Mawr, Pennsylvania 19010
GMAT scores, college transcripts, and reference letters must be submitted in their original envelopes, sealed and unopened.
The 7-Year Rule
Students admitted to the graduate program have 7 years from the date of first advanced level course. Acceptance of courses completed prior to admission will be determined by the Graduate School Dean. Upon completion of doctoral requirements, you are eligible to participate in our biennial commencement exercises.
Craig Lemoine, CFP®
David Nanigian, PhD
Wade Pfau, PhD, CFA