Sarah Keating grew up in a household that didn’t discuss money. And she’s not alone.

In fact, a 2018 survey conducted by investment management company T. Rowe Price revealed that two-thirds of parents feel reluctant to talk to their children about finances.

Keating, who was born in China and raised in Erie, Pennsylvania, graduated from high school in 2020 amid the economic fallout caused by COVID-19. She passed the time watching YouTube videos on investment management and financial independence.

“During COVID, when the world shut down, I think it gave me a lot of time to think about what I wanted to study in college and what I want to do beyond college,” said Keating, who started her own DJ company when she was just 15 years old. “I’m a very big-picture person, and that’s what got me thinking about my personal finances and how I should manage my money.”

She soon began having conversations with others about their own financial goals.

Recognizing that a lack of financial literacy puts many people – particularly minority groups – at a disadvantage, Keating elected to pursue a Bachelor of Science in business administration with a focus on personal financial planning at the PennWest Edinboro campus.

“At the end of the day, that knowledge about how to use your money and put things to work for you is very powerful. But it comes from having a lot of knowledge,” she said. “You have to know what a 401(k) is and what a Roth IRA is. It’s something that we don’t talk about or teach people. I wanted to be more proactive in that space and be able to help people with money and that aspect of human life.”

Now a senior, Keating credits faculty mentors Drs. Michael Engdahl and Shaun Pfeiffer for guiding her through the program and teaching her where the world of personal financial planning is headed.

“It is very psychology based. It’s not just picking stocks and giving them to clients,” Keating said. “There are many factors. It’s about discovering what their needs are, how they view money and how their family has dealt with money. All of that plays into helping them achieve their goals.”

An active PennWest honors student, volunteer and entrepreneur, Keating is president of the Student Government Association, president/secretary of the Personal Financial Planning Club and treasurer of the Highland Ambassadors.

She has attended several seminars, including “Legacy 360 Summit for Growth and Development” and “Diversitas: Expanding Diversity in Wealth Management.” In addition to her own pursuit of excellence, Keating has led peers on trips to career fairs in Pittsburgh and Washington, D.C. and helped organize financial literacy workshops for her fellow students.

At the suggestion of Engdahl, Keating applied to and participated in the North Star Sophomore Experiential Learning Program held by The Vanguard Group, Inc. – one of the world’s largest and most respected investment management companies. The program focuses on increasing diversity representation within the financial services industry.

“Dr. Engdahl understands that the industry is moving towards more diversity. He recognizes that we need younger wealth advisors, women, people of color, people in the LGBTQ community and people with disabilities,” she said. “He advocates for those students and lets people know that there is space for them in the industry. Even though it may not look like it now, there will be a space for you. We will make space for you.”

Starting in September 2022, Keating spent six months as an apprentice at Rebich Investments. Under the mentorship of owner Todd Rebich, she analyzed business operations and employee relationships and learned about creating value for clients through financial securities, accounts and products.

This summer, Keating was awarded a College to Corporate Advice Internship with Vanguard.

She spent three months near Philadelphia in Malvern, Pennsylvania, where she further developed her expertise of the personal financial planning process. As an intern, she educated financial advisors and peers through presentations and guided discussions regarding the psychology of financial planning, shadowed advisor/client calls and coordinated site-specific and cross-site networking events to provide connection-building opportunities.

“I was extremely fortunate to work with diverse interns, experienced financial advisors and compassionate leaders,” Keating said. “These individuals taught me the power of building relationships, the importance of understanding others, and the impact of kindness in financial services.”

Keating is passionate about helping others achieve their financial goals and improving financial literacy, especially among minority groups. After graduation, she hopes to make a difference through advocacy, leadership, education and transformational financial services.

“This summer was crucial to my personal and professional development. I am grateful to have had this opportunity and to have built such meaningful relationships,” she said. “I really needed that space to grow as a person, branch out and meet other people. It taught me how to adapt to different settings and helped me discover my ability to thrive in a working environment.”