Jillian Nel, CFP®, CDFA, is the director of financial planning for Legacy Asset Management in Houston. She is a CERTIFIED FINANCIAL PLANNER™ professional (CFP®) and a Certified Divorce Financial Analyst (CDFA) and was hired by Legacy in 2011 to open and direct a financial planning practice for the firm. Ms. Nel and her team provide comprehensive financial planning and risk management to individual clients, business owners and their families. She also provides consulting and advisory services for the Qualified Retirement Plan practice of the firm to business owners, plan administrators, and participants.
Ms. Nel has a passion for education and the empowerment it provides to both clients and the general public. She regularly speaks at financial planning seminars and employee educational meetings on how goal setting and risk management is essential for success in any financial planning scenario. She contributes commentary regularly to financial planning articles and was featured on the cover of the Retirement Advisor magazine in March 2015 as a dually licensed advisor. In October 2015, she was the Women in Insurance cover feature. Ms. Nel has also served as an instructor of Retirement Planning and Employee Benefits for this program since March 2013 and continues to teach on a regular basis.
Ms. Nel has the Series 7 & 66 securities license, as well as the Series 24, general securities principal, and is licensed as a General Lines Insurance Agent for the State of Texas. Ms. Nel received a bachelor’s in business administration from the Leeds School of Business at the University of Colorado at Boulder. She earned the CFP® designation in 2011 and became a Certified Divorce Financial Analyst in 2015. She is an active member of the Financial Planning Association and the Greater Houston Women’s Chamber of Commerce and serves on the board of the Women’s Finance Exchange. Ms. Nel also serves the community through charitable efforts. She is a member of the Corporate Guild for Dress for Success Houston and an active member of Women of Wardrobe. She is on the board of directors for the Women’s Fund, the board of directors for the HER Foundation that supports the Women's Fund and the advisory board of directors for the Periwinkle Foundation, all local Houston charities.
Associate Academic Program Director
Andrea K. Freedman, CFP®, is an independent financial advisor, where she conducts in-depth reviews of each client’s financial circumstances and goals. She has more than 25 years of experience specializing in financial planning and asset management. Her expertise extends into areas of retirement and education planning, asset allocation, investment selection and risk tolerance analysis.
She has NASD Series 7, 63, 65 and 31 licenses. Ms. Freedman holds a bachelor’s in communications from The University of Texas at Austin.
Course instructors for Rice University's CFP® Certification Education program are experienced practitioners in the financial planning industry and have met Rice University's standard of quality.*
James C. Abel, MSM, CFP®, ChFC®, CLU®, CRPC®, AEP®, AIF®, is a certified financial planner professional and a registered investment advisor representative with Raymond James Financial Services, Inc. in Saint George, Utah, Mr. Abel works primarily with members of the medical and dental community providing comprehensive financial planning and investment management services. He started in the financial services industry in 1990 after serving eight years in the U.S. Navy as a Naval Aircrewman. Professionally, he has worked in the banking, wire house, and now the independent channel and has seen the application of financial planning from several different modalities. An advocate of education, Mr. Abel holds several advanced designations along with FINRA Series 6, 7, 24, 63, and 65 licenses as well as life, health, and disability insurance licenses from multiple states. He earned his B.S. finance from the University of Phoenix, and his M.S. management with an emphasis in leadership from The American College. Much of his education he received online, so he is very comfortable in the online environment. Mr. Abel has served in many civic and industry leadership positions and enjoys giving back to the community and his profession whenever possible.
Joseph R. Birkofer, CFP®, is the principal and founder of Legacy Asset Management in Houston. A consultant to individual and corporate clients for the evaluation of retirement plans, Mr. Birkofer also works with plan sponsors to improve communications, monitor investment performance and streamline administration. As a CERTIFIED FINANCIAL PLANNER™ professional and a Registered Investment Advisor, he helps clients concentrate on financial planning and asset allocation. Prior to founding Legacy Asset Management, he served as a trust officer with Texas Commerce Bank.
An active member of the community, Mr. Birkofer serves on local boards including The Periwinkle Foundation and The Houston Society of Financial Service Professionals. He has been published in or provided commentary for the Houston Chronicle, the Houston Business Journal, Benefits & Compensation Solutions and local Houston radio and television shows.
Mr. Birkofer earned his bachelor’s degree in Foreign Service from Georgetown University and his M.B.A from The University of Texas at Austin. He has several securities licenses, including the NASD Series 7, 24, 27, 63 and 65, as well as various insurance licenses.
Christy Brown, CFP®, CLU, is a Certified Financial Planner® and Chartered Life Underwriter® with over 10 years of experience in comprehensive financial planning. She specializes in helping successful financial advisors incorporate insurance‐based solutions into their practice. As Vice President of National Accounts, Christy works closely with financial advisors and their clients, seeking first to understand the clients’ needs, then communicating even the most complex solutions in terms everyone can understand and feel comfortable with. Christy and her team understand the importance of the advisor‐client relationship, and pride themselves on delivering a high level of service as if each client were their own. As a trusted team member, she brings innovative ideas and solutions for high net worth clients seeking strategies beyond investing, such as minimizing income and estate tax, creditor protection, business succession planning, and wealth transfer, as well as disability and long-term care planning. Christy is a member of the Financial Planning Association; the Houston Estate and Financial Forum; and the Houston Business and Estate Planning Council, an exclusive, invitation‐only professional organization. Christy is involved in her local community and supports The Women’s Home and The Women’s Resource of Greater Houston. She holds a B.S. in Business Administration and a B.A. in French. In her free time she enjoys spending time with her daughter, yoga, salsa dancing, traveling, camping and hiking.
Andrea K. Freedman, CFP®, see instructor biography above.
W. Ben Keel, III, CFP®, ChFC®, CFE®, CLU®, is a financial advisor with Financial and Insurance Consultants. He was named as one of the Top Financial Planners in the Nation by Consumers’ Research Council of America* in 2008 and 2009, and he was listed as a 2010 five star wealth Manager® by Texas Monthly. Mr. Keel is currently serving on the Board of Directors of the Houston Financial Planning Association. He is also a Certified Financial Educator teaching financial education classes through the non-Profit Heartland Institute of Financial Education for companies that would like to offer non-biased financial education to their employees. In addition, he teaches financial literacy classes to all branches of the United States Military as well as government employees. In the past, he has been a financial planner with American Express Financial Advisors, Fidelity Investments and his own firm. Mr. Keel served in the US Army and Texas Army National Guard branch detailed Airborne Infantry. He holds a B.B.A. in finance from Stephen F. Austin State University.
Andrew Lewis, J.D., MBA, is a partner in Lewis and Lewis, PLLC. He has approximately 15 years of experience as an attorney and judge, practicing in the areas of litigation, contract law, estate planning and probate, business planning, arbitration and mediation. Previously, he served as a county judge in Cobb County, Georgia, as well as deputy director for the Supreme Court of Georgia, Office of Dispute Resolution. He has experience teaching professionals in government, corporate and university settings.
Mr. Lewis is a member of the State Bar of Texas and the State Bar of Georgia. He holds a JD from Tulane University, an MBA from Emory University and a bachelor’s from Rice University.
Michael Middendorf, MS, CFP®, MPAS℠, CRPC®, is the regional director of client services for Alpha Cubed Investments and also serves on the Investment Committee. He has been in the financial services industry since 1995 and earned designations as a certified financial planner, master planner of advanced studies and chartered retirement planning counselor®. Mr. Middendorf has worked for Merrill Lynch, Ameriprise Financial and TD Waterhouse. He graduated with a bachelor's degree in economics from the University of Kentucky and an M.S. from the College for Financial Planning in Colorado Springs. Mr. Middendorf holds FINRA Series 7,63,66,9 and 10 licenses as well as various insurance licenses. He served on the board of directors for the Houston Financial Planning Association form 2013 to 2015. He enjoys coaching youth sports non-profit organizations such as the South Montgomery YMCA and Nemesis Athletics.
Jim Munchbach, CFP®, CLU®, ChFC®, CPCU® is Founder and CEO at Family Wealth Builder of Houston and Director of Wealth Management at Tremont Street Advisors. Jim has been teaching Personal Finance at the Bauer College of Business at University of Houston since 2012.
Jim and his team are dedicated to helping individual investors, families, and business owners manage the risk and opportunity of everyday life, recover from the unexpected, and realize their highest purpose.
Jim is the author of three books related to Financial Life Planning, is a lifetime member of the Christian Coaching Network, and a non-active previously qualified member of Kingdom Advisors.
Ali A. Nasser, CFP®, ChFC®, AEP®, is the Principal of Altruista LLC, an independent, comprehensive wealth-planning firm providing specialized services to high-net-worth business owners, corporate executives and professional athletes. Ali utilizes a unique planning process that integrates tax and legal components to an overall financial plan. The core areas of his practice are in estate, investment and retirement planning. He holds a degree in Finance from the University of Houston and is CERTIFIED FINANCIAL PLANNER™ (CFP®) Practitioner, Chartered Financial Consultant and an Accredited Estate Planner. Ali is a member of MDRT Top of the Table, Financial Planning Association, AALU, Strategic Coach, and Valmark Securities.
Jillian Nel, CFP®, see instructor biography above.
Ben Simiskey, CFP®, CPA/PFS is the owner and founder of PLS Advisory, LLC – a fee-only financial planning and investment management firm. He focuses on providing wealth management solutions to oil and gas professionals in the greater Houston area. He has been a CFP since 2007, and a licensed Certified Public Accountant since 2004.
Brian G. Tees, J.D., LL.M., is an attorney with the law firm of Ewing & Jones, PLLC, a full-service commercial law firm located in Houston, and he is Board Certified in Estate Planning and Probate Law by the Texas Board of Legal Specialization. Mr. Tees focuses his practice on representing individuals in all forms of estate planning, and individuals and businesses in a wide variety of commercial transactions. He regularly helps his clients form comprehensive estate plans, which may include tax planned wills, trusts (revocable/irrevocable), family limited partnerships, and general business succession planning. Mr. Tees also prepares Federal Estate Tax Returns (IRS Form 706), including returns for taxable estates, and Federal Gift Tax Returns (IRS Form 709). He holds a J.D. from the University of Texas School of Law, an LL.M. (taxation) from the University of Houston, and a bachelor’s degree from Texas A&M University (journalism).
John L. Wilson, CFP®, CPA*, helps high-net-worth families better achieve their financial goals using the six-step CFP financial planning process. He works with clients to develop a holistic plan that integrates financial independence, investment, business and estate planning. Mr. Wilson designs and implements multimillion-dollar portfolios for his clients. Prior to his current role as an advisor to individuals, Mr. Wilson worked various positions in the sales, marketing and trading of derivatives including swaps, caps, futures, options and other derivative instruments for several Fortune 500 companies. He holds a bachelor’s degree from Rice University.
David Zahn, CFP®, CPA, is an Assistant Vice President and Client Relationship Officer at Sentinel Trust Company and is responsible for the delivery of investment, planning, fiduciary and family office services to a select group of ultra-high net worth families. Prior to joining Sentinel, he worked in public accounting with a focus on taxation for high net-worth clients and closely held businesses. David earned his Bachelor’s degree from the University of Houston. He is also a graduate of Rice University’s CFP® Certification Education program and holds his CFP® license. David currently serves as Board Chairman for the Young Catholic Professionals of Houston and is a two-time Ironman finisher.
*Licensed but not practicing.
Instructors are subject to change.
Certified Financial Planner Board of Standards Inc. owns the marks CFP®, CERTIFIED FINANCIAL PLANNER™, and CFP (with flame logo)®, which it awards to individuals who successfully complete initial and ongoing certification requirements.