California Lutheran University Financial Planning Scholarship & FinServ Foundation Scholarship 2022 Awardee Rafael Nieves Rios


In June 2022, the California Lutheran University Financial Planning scholarship was awarded to Rafael Nieves Rios. This scholarship was jointly established with the CFP Board Center for Financial Planning. Scholarships aim to help increase the number of CFP professionals from populations currently underrepresented in the financial planning profession regarding gender, race, and ethnicity. 


As well, Rafael Nieves Rios was awarded the FinServ Foundation Scholarship. FinServ Foundation established this scholarship to allow students to attend the Excell Conference, coaching, mentorship, community access, and internship opportunities. Their goal is to help create the best next generation of financial service professionals and provide opportunities for success. 


Meet the Awardee, Rafael Nieves Rios


Nieves Rios started his career after he launched his first business at age 12 to save for college and help his parents with the bills. He sold snacks and packed lunches to customers every day after school across the street. From there, he worked for three years in the restaurant and hospitality industry, was a former loan assistant for the SBA, and started a small consulting business to help clients with various projects. His passion for pursuing the financial services industry began when he realized he did not want to work as a manager at a restaurant and noticed that many people in his community are underrepresented and underserved with resources for financial independence. Now looking to transition into financial planning, Nieves Rios looks forward to using his education, connections, and resources to help underrepresented and diverse communities. 


Why Nieves Rios Choose California Lutheran University 


“Going to grad school was always a goal I had in mind since I started my undergraduate degree at CSUN, but I wasn’t sure when I would go,” Nieves Rios said. “Once the pandemic began in 2020, I decided to take a leap year and apply to grad school. The question I had once I got accepted was how I would pay for the program. My goal was to attend the program debt free, and the scholarship is part of making the plan come to fruition to accomplish my dream of completing my MBA,” he said. 


When searching for an MBA program focused on financial planning, Nieves Rios found that California Lutheran University (CLU) had a unique curriculum and professors that are experts in their respective topics. “The three check marks I had for the program were it had to be an MBA with a concentration in Financial Planning, required courses for the CFP exam, and I can study anywhere around the world (online). The program has given me the flexibility to study with my busy and long schedule,” Nieves Rios said. He intends to complete the program in 2-3 years and pass his CFP Exam before graduating from the program. 


Nieves Rios’s Plans for After California Lutheran University


After Nieves Rios has finished his MBA and earned his CFP Designation, he plans to apply for CSUN’s MS in Taxation Program to take the qualifying education courses for the CPA exam. “I want to not only provide financial planning services to my clients but offer tax planning services all in one place,” Nieves Rios said. His niche will also be retirement planning, working with small business owners, and tax preparation services for all clients. Then beyond his practice, he wants to focus on giving back to communities that do not have financial resources and educate communities on the importance of financial literacy. 


What Nieves Rios is Most Excited About the Program


After taking a leap year from his studies during his undergraduate school years, he is excited to continue his education. “Attending CLU was always one of my goals, but now I am attending with a purpose that will serve my ambition and give back to the community. I want to apply all the information I learn in class not only to my financial situation but to my career too. 


From the many job and venture experiences Nieves Rios had, he wants to network with colleagues and professionals across the industry. However, he has one question he intends to answer during the remaining years of the program. His question is, “How will I get there?” “I don’t know which path to take in the industry, but I do know that my path will not be straight to success because success takes many years of dedication and hard work,” he said. 


The importance of Networking 


“I’ve always believed that building strong relationships gives us meaning and richness to work our best lives. A community that supports you during your wins and losses motivates you to be your best self. Networking opens opportunities that seem impossible to achieve or better your career,” Nieves Rios said. The importance of building relationships and learning how to do so will not only help process his career but is an essential skill that will grow his book of business. Finally, he looks forward to learning more about financial planning and the impact the topic provides on clients.


About the Author: 

Rafael Nieves Rios is a graduate student at California Lutheran University, graduating in 2024. He is studying for an MBA in Financial Planning.