Jacquelyn Girling has been working on complex financial planning cases at firms across Texas since she graduated from Texas A&M University in 2016 with a business major and financial planning minor from the Financial Planning Program in the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences.
Girling, born and raised in Houston, passed the Certified Financial Planner exam in 2018 and completed the experience requirement in 2019, which was the year she joined Bannerman Wealth. Girling is currently director of financial planning at Bannerman Wealth, based in Dallas.
She spends hundreds of hours a year volunteering and giving back to the financial planning community. She has volunteered with Texas A&M’s Financial Planning Student Association, the Money Education Center and the Financial Planning Association. Last year, she was honored with a Selfless Service Award from the Texas A&M Financial Planning Program.
We asked Girling about why she became a financial planner and why the profession is important to her, as well as how her experiences at Texas A&M provided her with the knowledge and skills needed to succeed in her career.
What is it you do as financial planning director at Bannerman Wealth?
I take care of most of the back-office planning work. This ranges from building and updating all the financial plans to data-gathering as we onboard new clients to supporting our advisors and team with their financial planning matters.
We are a completely virtual team, allowing us to help clients from all over. We help them with any financial planning questions from retirement planning to risk management to cash flow planning and anything in between. I work with an incredible team of people, and we are committed to helping clients think bigger so they can achieve what they thought was impossible: a life with the freedom to do what they actually want.
How and why did you become involved in financial planning?
My parents were both older than average when I was born, so while I was in high school tackling decisions about which college to attend and different career choices, my parents were navigating the tricky waters of retirement and healthcare coverage. As they were researching investments, IRAs, annuities and tax laws, I became more and more interested in the details because they allowed me to be involved in the process.
Each time I learned something new, it caught more of my attention. I decided to take a personal finance class at my local community college, which piqued my interest even more. Before transferring to Texas A&M, I knew I loved math and problem-solving and thought about a career in engineering for a while.
Later I realized I would love to help people more directly, but I needed to figure out how. I decided to pursue a bachelor’s degree in business administration and finance, thinking I may want a career that involved helping companies with their finances. When I started my education at Texas A&M, I didn’t realize they had a Financial Planning Program or even what a career in financial planning would look like.
Then I attended a fair for student organizations where I came across the Financial Planning Student Association, FPSA. When I attended an FPSA meeting, I heard Dr. (Nathan) Harness and an industry speaker talk about a career in financial planning and their passion for their careers, and I knew that was exactly what I wanted to do.
What is the most rewarding thing about helping people through financial planning?
Finances are a huge part of every person’s life, and our society can come up short on the importance of even basic financial planning knowledge. It is so inspiring to be a part of helping people feel empowered with their finances and feel like they can achieve their dreams by looking ahead and using the right tools.
It is rewarding to watch clients become homeowners, send their children to college, go on the vacation they always dreamed of, start a business or finally reach financial freedom. Getting the opportunity to take the stress out of finances and teach clients what they can do to succeed is the fire that keeps me passionate about what I do every day.
What were the most important lessons you learned in your financial planning courses?
Each of my classes taught me about the technical side of financial planning, which is vital when you start your career in the industry, but they also taught me the interpersonal side of financial planning.
They taught me the importance of listening to clients, communicating effectively with others, the psychology behind a client’s biases, and how to help clients determine their values and goals. These non-technical lessons in financial planning are just as important as doing the calculations for when someone can retire.
You were honored with the Selfless Service Award. Tell us more about your volunteer activities during and after your time at Texas A&M.
I was the public relations officer for the Financial Planning Student Association and a peer advisor at the Money Education Center during my last semester at Texas A&M when the center opened in 2016.
After graduating, I volunteered for the Financial Planning Association in Houston. I started as the association’s secretary and eventually became their career development director. As the career development director, I coordinated two career days that connected job-seeking students and individuals with employers.
I got my first job after college from the 2017 FPA Career Day, which enriched the experience of coordinating the 2019 Career Days even more. It was a fantastic process to be a part of, from helping others connect within the financial planning industry to sharing my passion for the industry with students. I am excited to continue volunteering and give back to the industry I love so much.
How did the professors and college prepare you for a career in financial planning?
They were incredible and greatly benefited my life and career. While getting my minor in financial planning, I had the opportunity to take most of my financial planning courses with Dr. Harness as my professor. What I learned from him about the industry, along with all the content in my classes, helped set me up for success as soon as I started working.
So many different areas helped me prepare — from the career fairs to resume reviews to one-on-one help. The courses I took set me up to feel confident in the financial planning knowledge I had as I started my career. Also, being a part of the Financial Planning Student Association was highly beneficial as I met and networked with other financial planning students, some of whom I have been able to continue having professional relationships with to this day.
Dr. Harness was truly such an instrumental part of the success of my career. He helped me find my summer internship and connected me with other professionals in the Houston area. He was a great wealth of knowledge throughout my time at Texas A&M and still is today. I am so thankful for all of these experiences and people who prepared me to step out into a career after college.
What’s something people might not know about you?
I have loved singing since I was little, and I started writing songs when I was 12. I would write songs but was not able to put music to them, so I would use the program GarageBand on my parents’ computer to try to make music. However, I finally got fed up with not being able to play music to my songs, so I taught myself how to play piano and took guitar lessons.
All of this led me to a journey of writing more songs, and when I was in high school, I decided to start playing shows around Texas. I would also post cover songs on YouTube and play my music anywhere people would listen.
During this process, I spoke with the writer of a book called “Undiscovered Gyrl,” and he told me they were making the book into a film and hosting a competition to have singer-songwriter music in the movie soundtrack. I submitted some of my music, which led to my song “Breathe You In,” co-written with Meagan Inafuku, being in the film, “Ask Me Anything,” starring Christian Slater and Britt Robertson.
My music continues to be an outlet for me to express my emotions and thoughts. I hope to release more music in the future, but the whole experience of writing, playing and performing my music has been a core experience of who I am today, and I am so thankful for it.
I also have always loved to edit videos and create content, and this led to one of my favorite hobbies: posting travel and lifestyle videos on YouTube. I do this as often as my schedule allows me. I love being able to string together moments of traveling and experiencing life, putting it all into one collective video and seeing it come to life.
More about the Texas A&M Financial Planning Program
The Financial Planning Program in Texas A&M’s College of Agriculture and Life Sciences is currently offered as a minor for undergraduates, but there are plans to expand. Students who successfully complete all coursework requirements are eligible to sit for the Certified Financial Planner Exam. For professionals, an extended learning certificate program is offered for those wanting to become a certified financial planner.