Making a difference

Multimillion-dollar gift funds Sanford Center for Financial Planning and Wellness

Photo of Sanford Center ribbon cutting

About a decade ago, Todd Sanford, B.B.A.’83, CEO and president of Sanford Financial Services, had an idea. It wasn’t fully formed. It wasn’t yet specific. But it was a spark—an undeniable passion to fund a project at the Haworth College of Business that would help grow the personal financial planning major and also help WMU students and community members gain a better understanding of financial literacy. 

That spark became the Sanford Center for Financial Planning and Wellness, which had its grand opening ceremony in winter of 2019 and will be a permanent part of the college for all future generations.

You see, Sanford’s eye has long been on the future. As a personal financial planner, he specializes in helping people become more financially secure. He analyzes the goals of each of his clients and develops personalized financial plans to help inform financially sound decision making. Sanford’s future focus included his alma mater, and there was a plan there as well.

photo of Todd Sanford“The importance of personal financial planning and its impact on society cannot be overstated,” says Sanford. “Countless research studies confirm my professional experience that many Americans are unprepared to retire with financial security. They desperately need education, counseling and empathy. The number of qualified professionals available today to assist the entire spectrum of society is clearly insufficient for the demand. I remain optimistic that the training provided to the next generation of financial planners through the center will help fill that gap while also bringing much needed change to our industry.”

Sanford Center for Financial Planning and Wellness: A Plan in Action

The center offers many impactful programs to members of the WMU and Kalamazoo communities, including:

  • Workshops and seminars
  • Financial coaching
  • Certificate programs
  • Summer camps and youth programs

The center acts as a catalyst for:

  • Grants for research regarding college and retirement planning
  • Recruitment activities for the personal financial planning major
  • Internship opportunities
  • Curricular emphasis on financial literacy
  • Building a network of experienced professionals to serve the campus and community in a variety of ways
“I remain optimistic that the training provided to the next generation of financial planners through the center will help fill that gap while also bringing much needed change to our industry.” - Todd Sanford

One of the ways that the center will bring change to the industry is through a focus on outreach to women and students of color regarding the personal financial planning major. This focus will allow for greater diversity within the major and ultimately in the field, better reflecting the population of the U.S. "We know that there is a critical need for certified financial planners and their services," says Dr. Jim DeMello, chair of WMU's Department of Finance and Commercial Law. "The center will make both the personal financial planning major and the services of financial coaches more accessible. This access is critical for our community and our country. We are so grateful to Todd for his generosity in making this center a reality."

The finance faculty and Sanford hope that the center will one day be a national model—a unit that is at once deeply involved in academics but also a service provider for students and community members who need advice prior to key financial decisions.