MFCS - Family Financial Planning

Financial services is a rapidly growing industry in need of rising leaders. Individuals who can help successfully manage wealth now and for the future are in high demand.

The Master of Family and Consumer Sciences - Family Financial Planning (FFP) program offers three types of online programs:

  • Master’s degree. Master of Family and Consumer Sciences with Family Financial Planning (FFP) specialization structured master’s program: 36 credits

  • FFP certificate. Master of Family and Consumer Sciences with Family Financial Planning (FFP) specialization graduate certificate program: 18 credits

  • FHC certificate. Master of Family and Consumer Sciences Financial and Housing Counseling (FHC) specialization graduate certificate program: 18 credits

MFCS Family Financial Planning Brochure » 


Careers in financial planning

The MCFS Family Financial Planning specialization online programs prepare individuals to work in the growing financial planning field. Financial planners work in the following environments:

  • In companies such as banks, insurance companies, and brokerage firms
  • In employee benefits and pension departments of all types of corporations
  • In their own personal practice, with their own clientele

An advanced degree or certificate in financial planning can open up new opportunities in a variety of finance-related fields including:

  • Insurance
  • Real estate
  • Investing
  • Retirement planning
  • Personal taxation
  • Financial counseling
  • Community education

About the program


Students typically complete the program in 2 to 3 1/2 years while taking 1 to 2 courses per semester.

Online format

The courses for this program are completely web-based. Requirements to complete the program online include:

University partnerships

This program is offered by the Great Plains Interactive Distance Education Alliance (GP-IDEA), a consortium of universities that have come together to offer fully online degree programs. Each university brings a unique strength to the multi-institution academic programs.


Degree/certificate requirements

Master’s program

The MFCS with Family Financial Planning specialization online  program consists of:

  • 9 required 3-credit courses from the courses list below (27 credit hours)
  • 3 elective courses (9 credit hours)

Practicum (part of the elective courses). The practicum consists of supervised work experience in family financial planning. You may take up to six practicum credits.  They may all be taken in one semester or split between two semesters.

FFP graduate certificate program

The MFCS with Family Financial Planning (FFP) specialization graduate certificate program consists of 6 required 3-credit courses:

  • FFP 540: Estate Planning for Families
  • FFP 545: Families, Employment Benefits, and Retirement Planning
  • FFP 555: Insurance Planning for Families
  • FFP 565: Personal Income Taxation
  • FFP 583: Investing for the Family’s Future
  • FFP 595: Financial Planning Case Studies (take 1 semester before graduation)

Completion of this certificate will prepare you to sit for the CFP (Certified Financial Planner) examination

FHC graduate certificate program

The MFCS with Financial and Housing Counseling (FHC) specialization graduate certificate program consists of:

  • 4 required 3-credit courses:
    • FFP 525: Family Economics
    • FFP 530: Fundamentals of Family Financial Planning
    • FFP 535: Financial Counseling
    • FFP 541: Housing and Real Estate in Family Financial Planning
  • 2 elective 3-credit courses from the course list below

Completion of this certificate will prepare you to sit for the AFC (Accredited Financial Counselor) examination offered by the Association for Financial Counseling and Planning Education (AFCPE). It will also provide background to students interested in taking the Certified Housing Counselor (CHC) certification exam.

Technology requirements

The online program has specific computer requirements

Course list

Students admitted to the Family Financial Planning program receive priority registration. Students not yet admitted to an FFP program must add their name to the wait list (contact

FHC students only need to select two of the listed electives.

 Course FFP
FFP 520: Family Systems Elective   Elective
FFP 525: Family Economics Elective   Required
FFP 530: Fundamentals of Family Financial Planning Required   Required
FFP 535: Financial Counseling Required   Required
FFP 540: Estate Planning for Families Required Required Elective
FFP 541: Housing and Real Estate in Family Financial Planning Elective   Required
FFP 545: Families, Employment Benefits, and Retirement Planning Required Required Elective
FFP 550: Military Personal Financial Readiness  Elective   Elective
FFP 555: Insurance Planning for Families Required Required  
FFP 565: Personal Income Taxation Required Required Elective
FFP 570: Professional Practices in Family Financial Planning Elective    
FFP 583: Investing for the Family’s Future Required Required Elective
FFP 591 Practicum (6 credits) Elective   Elective
FFP 595: Financial Planning Case Studies (take 1 semester before graduation) Required Required  

Course descriptions

FFP 520: Family Systems (3 credits)

Research and theory relative to family functioning throughout the life cycle will be studied, especially financial decision making during crisis and conflict. Emphasis will be given to factors that shape family values, attitudes, and behaviors from a multi-cultural perspective. New and emerging issues critical to family functioning will be addressed.

FFP 525: Family Economics (3 credits)

This course will cover the major issues relative to the economics of families including household production, and human capital development. It will also cover the economics of crises, public policy and family life cycle spending, saving and borrowing. A theoretical and research perspective will be used to illuminate the concepts in the course. New and emerging issues in the field of family economics will be emphasized. Special attention will be given to the role of ethics in family economic issues throughout the course.

FFP 530: Fundamentals of Family Financial Planning (3 credits)

This course provides an overview of family financial planning by integrating concepts and issues with planning and counseling applications. Students will be introduced to the key concepts of family financial planning, including: insurance, tax, investments, retirement, and estate planning. The family financial planning process is introduced with an emphasis on the integration and application of concepts in meeting individual and family financial goals and objectives. Other topics presented include an ethics overview, compensation trends within the industry, and regulatory frameworks.

FFP 535: Financial Counseling (3 credits)

Theory and research regarding the interactive process between the client and the practitioner, including communication techniques, motivation and esteem building, the counseling environment, ethics, and methods of data intake, verification, and analysis. Other topics include legal issues, compensation, uses of technology to identify resources, information management, and current or emerging issues.

FFP 540: Estate Planning for Families (3 credits)

Fundamentals of the estate planning process will be studied, including estate settlement, estate and gift taxes, property ownership and transfer, and powers of appointment. Tools and techniques used in implementing an effective estate plan, ethical considerations in providing estate planning services and new and emerging issues in the field will be explored. Case studies will provide experience in developing estate plans suitable for varied family forms.

FFP 541: Housing and Real Estate in Family Financial Planning (3 credits)

The role of housing and real estate in the family financial planning process, including taxation, mortgages, financial calculations, legal concerns, and ethical issues related to home ownership and real estate investments. Emphasis on emerging issues in the context of housing and real estate.

FFP 545: Families, Employment Benefits, and Retirement Planning (3 credits)

Study of micro and macro considerations for retirement planning. Survey of various types of retirement plans, ethical considerations in providing retirement planning services, assessing and forecasting financial needs in retirement, and integration of retirement plans with government benefits.

FFP 550: Military Personal Finance (3 credits)

This course gives an overview of the topics relevant to the financial planning process. The course adapts the topics to address the unique needs, terminology, benefits, and resources that impact military service members and their families. Topics covered are: status of service member; financial readiness; financial management; recordkeeping; cash flow management; risk management; credit and debt management; savings, education planning, and investment management; tax management; retirement management; estate management; and special topics

FFP 555: Insurance Planning for Families (3 credits)

An in-depth study of risk management concepts, tools, and strategies for individuals and families, including life insurance; property and casualty insurance; liability insurance; accident, disability, health, and long-term care insurance; and government-subsidized programs. Current and emerging issues, as well as ethical considerations, relative to risk management will be discussed. Case studies will provide experience in selecting insurance products suitable for individuals and families.

FFP 565: Personal Income Taxation (3 credits)

This course provides in-depth information of income tax practices and procedures including tax regulations, tax return preparation, the tax audit processes, the appeals process, preparation for an administrative or judicial forum, and ethical considerations of taxation. New and emerging issues related to taxation will be covered. Family/individual case studies provide practice in applying and analyzing tax information and recommending appropriate tax strategies.

FFP 570: Professional Practices in Financial Planning (3 credits)

Challenges of managing financial planning practices including, but not limited to: business valuation, personnel, marketing, client services, ethics and technological applications. Relying both on a theoretical as well as an applied approach, students will analyze case studies that provide relevant, practical exposure to practice management issues, with a strong emphasis on current research findings.

FFP 583: Investing for the Family’s Future (3 credits)

An in-depth study of investment options for clients, this course will include common stocks, fixed income securities, convertible securities, and related choices. Relationships between investment options and employee/employer benefit plan choices will be studied. Current and emerging issues, and ethics will be an integral part of the course.

FFP 591: Practicum (3 to 6 credits)

Arranged with the degree granting institution. Supervised experience in family financial planning. Must be enrolled in MFCS-Family Financial Planning graduate program.

FFP 595: Financial Planning Case Studies (3 credits)

This course examines professional issues in financial planning, including ethical considerations, regulation and certification requirements, communication skills, and professional responsibility. Students are expected to utilize skills obtained in other courses and work experiences in the completion of personal finance case studies, the development of a targeted investment policy, and other related financial planning assignments.

Non-degree credits

A student may take up to nine graduate credit hours as a non-degree seeking student before being formally admitted to the program. No more than nine credits earned in non-degree status can be used on the program of study for a degree.


Objective and format

All students must complete two 3-credit practicum experiences in family financial planning. The 6 practicum credits may all be taken in one semester or split between 2 semesters.

The objective of the practicum is to provide students with an opportunity to integrate the knowledge, skills, and attitudes learned in the classroom with actual practice. Your practicum experience should not replicate past experiences or present employment. Rather, it should build upon these and contribute to your future career goals.

The practicum can be participating in an internship, but for those already in the field it can also be fulfilled with experiences such as:

  • Research and writing a paper for publication
  • Developing new products to be used in the student’s business
  • Creating and presenting educational programs to adults or youth
  • Volunteering in the area of counseling or tax preparation

Students are required to have 120 contact hours for each 3-credit practicum. You will not need to quit your job to fulfill the practicum requirement.


The practicum experience is developed on an individual basis between the student and their major professor. Prior to the semester in which the student is registered for the practicum, the student completes a practicum proposal that addresses questions such as:

  • Future career plans
  • Professional strengths
  • Areas needing further development
  • Three or four goals established for the practicum experience
  • Detailed proposal for the practicum experience

Deadline: You must submit the proposal prior to the semester in which the student is registered for the practicum.

Student responsibilities

  • Discuss practicum experience and requirements. Contact about practicum experience and requirements prior to developing your proposal.

  • Complete Practicum Proposal form. Submit the form to the instructor for approval of the proposed practicum experience.

  • Obtain 120 hours of practicum experience. For each three credits the students is enrolled in, 120 hours of practicum experience is needed. It is not necessary that all hours be spent at the practicum site. Students may have an assignment from the practicum supervisor that can be completed at home.

  • Submit a weekly report. This report is sent to the instructor via email. Requirements of this report will be discussed at the time of your practicum.

  • Submit a final report/portfolio at the end of the semester. The portfolio includes the following. (More information on this final report will be sent to you.)
    • Practicum logs
    • Learning goals
    • Practicum description
    • Abstracts and reflections of research articles related to your experience
    • Practicum self-evaluation
    • Updated resume
    • Any supplemental materials that were developed as part of the practicum

Practicum examples

Practicum examples

Take your practicum course (FFP 591): 6 credits of practicum are required to graduate from the masters program. Most students split this into 2 separate 3 credit courses. Here are some examples of what students have done:

  • Financial planning firms — job shadowing/support services, construct and edit financial profiles for client follow-up, work with individual clients with oversight by a supervisor

  • Work with limited income persons in tax preparation

  • Assist with individual counseling and delivery of financial workshops at military family service/support centers

  • Assist extension program specialists with marketing and delivery of educational programs

  • Assist university advancement offices with annual campaigns

  • Work in a student financial aid office giving presentations to potential students, parents,and classes

  • State Jump$tart Coalition — assist with planning, marketing, and implementing workshops

  • Identification of ways to enhance and market a financial planning practice

  • Development of community resource directory; development of survey and interviews to see extent of financial counseling and planning services in a county

  • Supervised teaching of undergraduate personal finance course

  • Member of coalition to develop housing trust fund

  • Financial presentations to organizations in community

Independent study projects

Researched and/or developed presentations on:

  • Estate planning issues of farmers
  • Saving for higher education
  • Bankruptcy
  • Bank chartering
  • Roth IRA
  • Investigation into the design of efficient portfolios
  • Self-modules on financial planning for company employees
  • Financial planning overview for individuals in their 20′s
  • Analysis of financial planning software
  • Use of Excel to analyze approaches for funding long term care

Final exam requirements and planning


The final oral examination for the MFCS - Family Financial Planning specialization degree is based on the practicum experience and the financial plan that the student prepares as part of their Case Studies course. While the financial plan and practicum are the basis for the oral examination, questioning may cover any coursework taken for the MFCS-Family Financial Planning degree.


Case Studies course: Because the oral examination is partially based on the financial plan you write as part of the Case Studies course, it is highly recommended that you take the Case Studies course the semester before you plan to graduate. (It should be taken after you complete the six certificate courses - fundamentals, insurance, retirement planning, estate planning, tax planning, investments.)

Arrangements for final exam: You must make arrangements for your final exam — whether it will be online or in person — early in your final semester. Details are on the Final Oral Exam page.

Case and practicum summary: The case and the practicum written summary or output must be submitted to the committee two weeks prior to the final oral examination.

PowerPoint presentation: The PowerPoint presentation on your case study client must be emailed one week prior to your final oral exam.

Exam requirements and preparation

The final oral exam is based on your practicum experience and financial plan that you will develop in FFP 595 (Case Studies). FFP 595 must be completed the semester prior to your final oral exam, the practicum experience and the exam could be concurrent.

Practicum summary and case documents. Your committee must receive a written product of the practicum and the case documents two weeks prior to your final oral exam. You will need to ask your committee if they prefer to receive your documents via email or hard copy.

Case study PowerPoint. Prepare a 30 minute PowerPoint presentation on your case study client. This should include:

  • Background information on your client
  • Their goal/presenting problem
  • Overview of your recommendations

This presentation must be emailed to your committee and Ann Bugler ( one week prior to your final oral exam.

Day of exam

The member of your committee from another GP-IDEA institution will be participating in your final oral exam online via AdobeConnect. Depending on where you live, you may have the option to participate online via Adobe Connect. In this case both an audio and video connection will be made to you. Your ISU committee members will be in a media equipped room to see and hear you and/or your 3rd committee member. 

Your major professor will ask you to give a brief introduction about yourself. (e.g. your goals, future plans with degree, where you are from, what you did for your practicum). You will then present your plan using your PowerPoint. Your committee will then ask you questions. Although questions may be asked on any of your coursework, the majority of the questions will be focused on your case study and practicum. Following the question and answer portion, your committee will deliberate in a closed session. This deliberation generally takes a half hour or less.

Decision status/details » 

  • Contact Information

    MFCS graduate program information

    (Questions about admission, registration, etc.)

    Karen Smidt
    310 MacKay Hall
    Iowa State University
    Ames, IA 50011-1120
    Phone: 515-294-5397
    Fax: 515-294-5385

    Academic issues

    (Questions related to academic progress, such as advice on courses, timing of courses, career path, etc.)

    Jonathan Fox
    1317 Palmer
    Ames, IA 50011-4380

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