Western students again grab second place, $5,000 at American Express event

CULLOWHEE – For the second year in a row, a team of Western Carolina University students captured second place and $5,000 in scholarship money at the annual American Express Financial Planning Invitational, a competition in which students pit their financial planning abilities against students from other universities across the nation.

The Western team consisted of finance majors Michael H. Bird and Lisa M. Boyd, both of Waynesville, and Dwayne W. Powell of Canton. Each student received $650 for the second-place finish in the event, in addition to the $5,000 they won for WCU’s financial planning scholarship fund. The students were accompanied by Grace Allen, associate professor of finance and faculty adviser.

Fort Hays State University won first place, and Western’s second-place finish put the team from Cullowhee ahead of Kansas State, Slippery Rock, Texas Tech and Virginia Tech universities.

Teams from 12 colleges and universities nationwide entered the competition’s first round by submitting a financial plan for a fictitious family. Six teams, including Western’s, were chosen to travel to Minneapolis, Minn., home of American Express Financial Advisors corporate headquarters, for phase two of the competition.

In Minneapolis, teams were judged on their ability to revise their financial plan based on new circumstances that happen to the fictitious family, and on their performances during the “How Do You Know?” challenge, a game-show style competition designed to test their financial planning knowledge.

This marks the third consecutive year that Western students have claimed a top three finish. In the inaugural competition in 2000, WCU students finished third and brought home $1,000 in scholarship money for the university’s financial planning program.

Because each WCU team is composed of seniors, the roster of team members changes each year.