Dr. Wade D. Pfau, CFA®, is the Professor of Retirement Income in the PhD in Financial and Retirement Planning program at The American College of Financial Services. Expert in annuities, investments, portfolio management and retirement planning, he also contributes to The College’s Retirement Income Certified Professional® (RICP®) designation program curriculum.


A noted author and speaker, Dr. Pfau frequently publishes in a variety of academic and practitioner research journals and has spoken at national conferences for the CFA Institute, Financial Planning Association, National Association of Personal Financial Advisors and the American Institute of CPAs (Personal Financial Planners). He is co-editor of the Journal of Personal Finance and a contributor to both Forbes and The Wall Street Journal. Besides blogging for the Retirement Researcher, Dr, Pfau is a monthly columnist for Advisor Perspectives and a RetireMentor for MarketWatch. His research has been discussed in the print editions of The Economist, The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal, and Money Magazine.

Dr. Pfau has received numerous honors for his contributions to the financial services profession.  Based on his innovative research and articles on retirement investment planning, specifically the merit of William Bengen’s 4 percent retirement withdrawal rule, he was recently named an “Icon and Innovator” by Investment News. He also was selected as InvestmentNews “Power 20” in 2013 and “40 Under 40” in 2014, Investment Advisor (IA) 35 for 2015 and IA 25 for 2014, and for Financial Planning magazine’s Influencer Awards. Besides being a two-time winner of the Journal of Financial Planning Montgomery-Warschauer Award and the Academic Thought Leadership Award from the Retirement Income Industry Association, he was a best paper award winner in the retirement category from the Academy of Financial Services.

In addition to his Chartered Financial Analyst® (CFA®) designation, Dr. Pfau holds a doctorate in economics and a master’s degree from Princeton University, and Bachelor of Arts and Bachelor of Science degrees from the University of Iowa.

Learn more about Dr. Wade Pfau, his inspirations and how he was lured away from teaching in Japan in this edition of Faculty Spotlight  

What brought you to The College?

My first job after graduate school was teaching economics at a university in Tokyo, Japan. As I never intended to stay in Japan permanently, I earnestly sought a position in the U.S by 2012. At that time, Dr. Walt Woerheide of The American College of Financial Services reached out to me about the development of a new PhD program in financial and retirement planning and a position to teach in the program. I visited the college in August 2012 and was impressed. The College provided an excellent opportunity to become part of the financial planning academic community. I finished the academic year in Japan and began working at The College in April 2013.

What is your best memory or favorite part of your job with The College?

Teaching in the PhD program has been very enriching because the students are all high-level practitioners with the experience and insights to help develop academic thought around financial planning to ensure that it is practical and relevant for clients in the real world.

What is your favorite book?

I’ve become a big fan of Bill Bryson ever since his first book, The Lost Continent. I’ve read the book countless times. It begins with, “I come from Des Moines. Somebody had to.” This opening line resonates since I am also from Des Moines.

If you could travel anywhere in the world, where would you go?

I have been fortunate to travel to many places, in part after having lived in Japan for ten years before coming to The College. One area that I haven’t yet visited, but I often think about, is Alaska and northern Canada. I’d like to see the Northern Lights.  

What is your favorite quote?

My mother has a magnet on her refrigerator with a quote attributed to Henry Ford: Whether you think you can, or you think you can't — you're right.” I think I’d have to go with this one.

What is something people would be surprised to know about you?

Concerning traveling, I have a hobby of visiting presidential historical sites and graves, and Olympic host cities. I haven’t been to them all yet, but I’m making pretty good progress.

What courses do you teach at The College?

In the PhD program, I teach the courses on accumulating and decumulating financial assets, public policy for financial planning, and a research methods class. In the Master’s program, I teach the retirement planning class.

Who has made the most significant impact on your professional aspirations or achievements? 

Moshe Milevsky is the leading academic in the area of retirement income planning, and an excellent role model. He is a professor at York University in Toronto. He creates mathematically rigorous academic research, develops insights from history, and also writes about retirement and financial planning topics at a level that is entirely comprehensible to laypeople. This is what I aspire to do.

Do you have any tips or advice for balancing a designation training program with full-time employment?

I understand this concern after having worked through three examinations for the CFA program. It’s important to keep a commitment to spend a few hours studying each evening, perhaps after the kids go to bed. Try to stick to a schedule as much as possible to keep building momentum.


Inspired to further your financial planning career? Check out The College’s Retirement Income Certified Professional® (RICP®) designation program curriculum, contributed to by Dr. Pfau, and find out what you will learn and accomplish through the program. If you’re local, stop by Dr. Pfau’s office for a chat or career inspiration.

Learn more about the value of strengthening your Retirement Income expertise by downloading The Guide to Being a Successful Retirement Income Planner.  

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