The former finance executive’s second career is investing in financial literacy

Patrick Rorabeck has spent nearly 30 years in the banking world. The majority of those years were spent at M&I Bank, and the final years at BMO Harris Bank, where he ended his corporate career…


Patrick Rorabeck spent nearly 30 years in the banking world. The majority of those years were spent at M&I Bank, and the last years at BMO Harris Bank, where he ended his career as Senior Vice President.

A financial planner by trade, Rorabeck had considered the possibility of a career change around the age of 50. When his position at BMO was eliminated at the age of 51, it opened up the possibility of starting that second professional chapter.

“I had the opportunity to join other organizations in leadership roles in wealth management,” he said. “That probably would have been the easiest thing to do. But I didn’t want to do that. »

Rorabeck has read Bob Buford’s book “Halftime,” which encourages people to think about how they can direct the second half of their lives to make a difference. He made connections with members of the community. These conversations led him to the non-profit sphere and ultimately to Brenda Campbell.

Campbell is president and CEO of SecureFutures, a Milwaukee-based organization that partners with area schools to provide financial education, tools and mentorship to teens. One of its flagship programs, Money Sense, introduces high school juniors and seniors to essential financial literacy concepts, taught by volunteers or business educators. Its services are provided free of charge to participating students and schools.

After a conversation with Campbell, Rorabeck was sold on the mission and made him an offer: he would work pro bono for the organization for 15 months, the length of his severance pay from the bank.

“The deal was that I’ll bring whatever I can to the table to help you with the organization, and in return what I’m looking to do is learn those things that I haven’t. been exposed, quite frankly,” Rorabeck said. .

Campbell was shocked by the proposal. She thought Rorabeck might be interested in volunteering a few hours a week in a classroom setting, but the possibility of hiring a full-time employee with for-profit executive experience in the financial industry?

“I was blown away,” she said. “…I was blown away that we had access to this kind of experience and talent.”

Rorabeck joined the organization, working 30 hours a week, taking on projects including the organization’s strategic plan, and spending time in the classroom determining what resources students needed to navigate life after. the high school.

Midway through his 15-month term, Rorabeck approached Campbell with another proposition: He wanted to join the organization as a permanent employee to continue his work.

“I said, ‘No pressure, but I really like it here and what we do and the mission and the team, and if you think there’s a position around the kinds of things you make me work, I’d be really interested,'” Rorabeck said. “(Campbell) said, ‘Absolutely, I’m very interested in that, but I can’t pay you like you were before. I said, ‘I understand that.’

After a brief discussion, Rorabeck and Campbell agreed on the terms of his employment as SecureFutures’ new business manager.

The timing was fortuitous for the organization, Campbell said. At that time, leaders had identified inequities related to financial education in the community. Campbell felt the need for a new program that would specifically target students from disadvantaged areas of Milwaukee who come from low-income families.

On the project, Rorabek partnered with a former SecureFutures program director, who is an alumnus of Milwaukee Public Schools, and brought perspective on student needs. Rorabeck brought her experience in financial planning and advice to the table. Together, they launched a new program, called Money Coach, which provides one-on-one and small-group mentoring to teens to help them develop strong money management habits and long-term financial capability.

“It was a match made in heaven,” Campbell said.

As this program grew, Rorabeck identified another need in the community.

“We want (students) to have the financial skills and know-how to manage their financial situation independently,” he said. “Regardless of what you choose to do, (after high school), you have to manage your financial situation. The second thing is, what will life be like depending on the path you take after high school? I found a gap in the tools available to teachers and students. »

Rorabeck began testing programs in the classroom and dreaming up software that could help students better plan for the future. He spearheaded the development of an app that would let teens get a sense of their financial future, based on the decisions they make, like what college they attend, what career they choose, and how they budget and save money.

“We built it because we couldn’t find this tool anywhere — I’m not just talking about Wisconsin — anywhere in the country,” he said. “We searched.”

The app, called Money Path, was launched in 2018 with the support of Heartland Advisors President Bill Nasgovitz and his wife, Marianne. The tool’s ‘secret sauce’ is the way it consolidates large sets of data from freelance websites and platforms into one place – including up-to-date starting salaries across industries, fees individual college tuition and financial aid — and allows all of that information to “talk to each other,” Rorabeck said.

“It’s so eye-opening for students,” he said. “…For students on the college path, it shows them what their student debt will look like after graduation, and often this is the first time they’ve seen it. We show them what the total cost is, and then we show them what their payments will be each month. »

The app allows students to create a start-up budget, which incorporates their loan payment and entry-level salary.

“We show them, based on their savings plan, how their monthly savings will help them reach important financial goals in the future, like saving for a down payment on a car, saving for an emergency fund, saving for a down payment on one at home,” he said. “It shows them how long it will take them to do these things based on how much they’re saving, and then shows them where their retirement contribution will increase after 40 years.”

Now, the organization is focused on getting the app into the hands of more students. This year, the app was made available free of charge to all Wisconsin high school students, thanks to additional support from Heartland Advisors and a partnership with the Wisconsin Department of Public Instruction. To date, more than 9,000 students have used the app, Rorabeck said.

Next, the organization plans to roll out the app nationwide.

“Our first goal is to continue to grow in the state of Wisconsin,” Rorabeck said. “…We validated it here in Wisconsin, and so we believe that other states, teachers, and children are no different and have similar needs. We don’t think this tool exists anywhere else.

The result, Rorabeck said, is that students who are better informed about their financial future are able to make better decisions.

For Rorabeck, financial planning and a successful career in banking enabled him to make the decision to give back in his final professional years. Campbell hopes her story will serve as a call to action for business leaders who feel pressured toward mission-driven work.

“Are there places you can share your time and talent that could make a difference in the life of someone in our community?” she said.

Sarah J. Greer