College for Financial Planning Board of Directors
The College for Financial Planning®—a Kaplan Company's Board of Directors is responsible for the financial, academic, regulatory, and operational integrity of the College. Our board is comprised of one private member, our College president, and four independent public members.
Dirk joined the College for Financial Planning in 2001 as Controller, served as the Vice President of Sales & Marketing before becoming President of the College. As a seasoned financial and operational leader Dirk has an extensive knowledge of all aspects of the College and industry as well as being academically credentialed including the CFP® certification launched by the College in 1972.
In addition to his CPA and CFP® certifications, Dirk earned a Bachelor of Science degree from Columbia College (Columbia, MO) and an M.S. in finance and accounting from Regis University (Denver, CO).
Prior to joining the College, Dirk had 10 years in operations, finance, and accounting management. Dirk was operations manager for retail stores from 1991 through 1995. In this business development position, he was responsible for the growth and operations of multimillion dollar sales for retail operations in four states. Dirk subsequently became accounting manager for regulatory accounting and budgeting in the broadband industry in 1995 and became finance director for business development before joining the College in 2001.
James Williams founded J.F. Williams Co., Inc. in 1995 to help people manage their money to tend to their life. His prior experience includes an extensive career in personal and estate tax planning and compliance management with a national accounting firm; as well as providing income tax, property and excise tax compliance management and special finance planning for a variety of businesses.
He also has developed specialized expertise in managing retirement planning and other life transitions by participating in the Sudden Money Institute and similar professional networks.
Jim holds a bachelor’s degree in accounting from University of Southern Colorado, and a master’s degree in accounting with emphasis in taxation from Colorado State University. He has held a CPA certification since 1978 and his CERTIFIED FINANCIAL PLANNER™ certification since 1995. He is a member of the FPA, NAPFA, the Personal Financial Planning Division of the American Institute of Certified Public Accountants, the Colorado Society of Certified Public Accountants, and the Rocky Mountain Estate Planning Council. He also has served on the Discipline and Ethics Commission of the Certified Financial Planner™ Board of Standards.
Judy is the founder and president of Shine Investment Advisory Services, Inc., an independent financial planning and investment advisory firm founded in 1993. Judy received a BA in psychology from Ohio State University in 1979 and became a CERTIFIED FINANCIAL PLANNER™ practitioner in 1985.
She is proud to be a longstanding member of the Financial Planning Association, the largest organization of professionals dedicated to championing the financial planning process, and served as a board member of the Association for four years. From 1996‐2001, she chaired the Editorial Advisory Board of the Journal for Financial Planning.
Judy speaks and writes frequently on all aspects of personal financial planning. She has been quoted in various financial publications and professional journals, including Business Week, The Wall Street Journal, Forbes, Fortune, Financial Advisor, Worth, Smart Money, US News & World Report, The New York Times and The Boston Globe. She is also a frequent contributor to Dow Jones MarketWatch.
Karen Spero founded Spero-Smith Investment Advisors in 1972, a firm that specializes in personal financial planning and portfolio management for individuals and small business owners, with a special emphasis on retirement and succession planning. The firm manages in excess of $300 million. Karen sold her interest in the company and has no financial interest in the firm nor is she employed by the firm. She has the honorary title of Chairman Emeritus and is a member of the firm’s Advisory Board.
Karen maintains both the CFP®, CERTIFIED FINANCIAL PLANNER™ certification and the Accredited Investment Fiduciary Analyst (AIFA®) designation. She earned her B.S. degree in business administration from Lake Erie College, where she served as vice chair of the Lake Erie College Board of Trustees and is now an emeritus member of the Board. In 2002, Karen was inducted into the Hall of Excellence of the Ohio Foundation of Independent Colleges, Inc.
For more than 20 years, Karen was the Staff Financial Advisor for TV 5’s Morning Exchange. She also was a weekly commentator for public radio’s “Ohio Portfolio” for its 3-year tenure. Karen has been consistently quoted in financial publications, including The Wall Street Journal, USA Today, “Smart Money,” magazine, and others. She has done money makeovers for USA Today and Mutual Funds Magazine. For 7 years, Worth Magazine named Karen to its list of the 'Best 250 Financial Advisors in USA.'
Lauren is also a Certified Financial Planner® She earned her undergraduate degree from the Woodrow Wilson School for Public and International Affairs at Princeton University and her MBA from Harvard Business School. She is a member of the Board of Directors for the American Alpine Club, serving as the Chair of the Piolet Society since 2015.
Lauren and her wife Mimi live in the Vail Valley and are the parents of 2 furry dog children, Spike and Nibbles, and one human child, Kate Wilcox, who is a medical resident in internal medicine and pediatrics in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. Lauren’s passions outside of personal financial planning include backcountry skiing, mountain biking and rock climbing.
Neal is Managing Director at WealthPro, LLC and a Registered Principal at The Strategic Financial Alliance, Inc. He began investing as a teenager and then following graduation from the State University of New York (Potsdam) in 1983, he took what he thought would be a temporary job in professional financial services. He fell in love with the power of helping people make wise financial decisions, and never looked back.
After earning his CERTIFIED FINANCIAL PLANNER™ designation through the College for Financial Planning in 1989, he also earned the CLU, ChFC, and CASL designations through The American College of Financial Services. During 2019 he completed the Client Psychology Program an intensive program developed by The Wharton School in coordination with the CFP Board - Center for Financial Planning.
Neal embarked on what became a busy career with activities across the Financial Planning profession and universe, including serving as a Director at the Certified Financial Planner Board of Standards, Inc. (“CFP Board”), and holding numerous leadership roles at the Financial Planning Association and its predecessor the Institute for Certified Financial Planners, including among others; Chairing FPA’s Government Relations Committee, serving as a Technical Expert representing the United States, before the International Standards Organization (ISO), Chairing FPA’s political action committee, FPA’s Public Issues Committee, development of strategy whitepapers on mechanisms for regulating the profession, and on appropriate fiduciary strategies. He spent 14 years as an Editorial Review Board Member at the Journal of Financial Planning, has served as an Expert Witness and Consultant to Attorneys, and has been widely quoted by major publications. Neal served as a corporate Director with SFA Holdings, Inc. and Atlanta based financial services firm that is parent to several broker dealers and investment advisory firms. He is a member of the Estate Planning Council of Eastern New York, and contributed a foreword to The Art of Investing & Portfolio Management — A Proven 6-Step Process to Meet Your Financial Goals, published in 2004 by McGraw-Hill. He is a charter member of the Nazrudin Project.
During 2008, Neal initiated, organized and served as Program Leader for an international ambassadorial program jointly coordinated between the FPA and The People-to-People organization. Neal brought 90 leading US financial planners to Russia for professional exchange with counterpart Russian financial professionals
The Financial Planning Association has awarded Neal the prestigious “Heart of Financial Planning Award”, in recognition of his distinguished service to the Financial Planning Profession (2012).
In the healthcare industry, Neal is Chief Financial Officer at Hearing Care Resources, LLC a professional practice of Audiology operated by his wife, Dr. Robin Solomon.
Neal and Robin are regularly engaged in various charitable activities and have traveled widely throughout the world (between the two of them they have visited approximately 80 countries). They live in Saratoga County, NY with their feline children.
Meet our Faculty
Our wealth management faculty consists of expert practitioners in every facet of the financial services industry.
Professional Designations and Master's
Developed for every stage of your career, professional credentials from the College for Financial Planning®—a Kaplan Company equip you with the expertise to tackle complex financial issues, empower you to recommend solution-based strategies, strengthen your knowledge, and increase your confidence with clients.