Patrick Rorabeck spent nearly 30 years in the banking world. The majority of those years were spent with M&I Bank, and the final few were with BMO Harris Bank, where he finished his corporate career as senior vice president.
A financial planner by trade, Rorabeck had mapped out the possibility of a career change around the age of 50. When his position with BMO was eliminated when he was 51, it opened the opportunity for that second professional chapter to begin.
“I had opportunities to join other organizations in wealth management leadership roles,” he said. “That probably would have been the easy thing to do. But I didn’t want to just do that.”
Rorabeck read the book “Halftime” by Bob Buford, which encourages people to consider how they can orient the second half of their life around making a difference. He networked with community members. Those conversations led him to the nonprofit sphere and, ultimately, Brenda Campbell.
Campbell is president and chief executive officer of Milwaukee-based SecureFutures, an 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 business community volunteers or teachers. Its services are provided free of cost to participating students and schools.
After a conversation with Campbell, Rorabeck was sold on the mission and made her 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 I will bring anything I can to the table to help you in the organization, and in return, what I’m looking to do is learn about these things I haven’t been exposed to, 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, but the opportunity to get a full-time employee with for-profit executive leadership experience in the financial sector?
“I was blown away,” she said. “… I was just blown away that we had access to that 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 to figure out what resources students needed to navigate post-high school life.
Halfway through his 15-month tenure, Rorabeck approached Campbell with another proposal: He wanted to join the organization as a permanent employee to continue his work.
“I said, ‘No pressure, but I really love it here and what we do and the mission and the team, and if you think there’s a position around the types of things you have me working on, 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 paid previously.’ I said, ‘I understand that.’”
After a brief discussion, Rorabeck and Campbell agreed on the terms of his employment as the new business director of SecureFutures.
The timing was fortuitous for the organization, Campbell said. Around that time, leaders had identified inequities related to financial education in the community. Campbell sensed the need for a new program that would specifically target students in under-resourced areas of Milwaukee who come from low-income families.
On the project, Rorabek partnered with a previous program director with SecureFutures, who is a Milwaukee Public Schools alumna and brought perspective on what students needed. Rorabeck brought his financial planning and advising background to the table. Together, they launched a new program, called Money Coach, which provides small-group and one-on-one mentoring for teens to help them develop strong money management habits and long-term financial capability.
“It was a match made in heaven,” Campbell said.
As that program grew, Rorabeck identified another need in the community.
“We want (students) to have the financial skills and knowhow to manage their financial situation independently,” he said. “Regardless of what you choose to do, (after high school) you have to navigate your financial situation. The second thing is: What is life going to look like based on the path you’re going to take after high school? I saw a gap in tools available to teachers and students.”
Rorabeck began testing out some programming in the classroom and envisioning a piece of software that could help students better plan for the future. He spearheaded the development of an app that would allow teens to get a picture of their financial future, depending on decisions they make, like which college they go to, which career they choose and how they budget and save money.
“We built it because we couldn’t find that tool anywhere – I’m not talking just in Wisconsin – anywhere in the country,” he said. “We searched.”
The app, called Money Path, launched in 2018 with the backing of Heartland Advisors’ chairman Bill Nasgovitz and his wife, Marianne. The “secret sauce” of the tool is how it consolidates large sets of data from independent websites and platforms into one place – including up-to-date starting salaries across industries, tuition costs from individual colleges, and financial aid – and allows all that information to “talk to one another,” Rorabeck said.
“It’s so eye-opening for the students,” he said. “… For college path kids, it shows them what their student loan debt will look like upon graduation, and oftentimes, it’s the first time they’re seeing that. We show them what the cost is in total and then we show them what their payments will be each month.”
The app allows students to build a starter budget, which embeds their loan payment and entry-level salary into it.
“We show them, based on their savings plan, how their monthly savings will allow them to achieve important financial goals in the future, like saving for a down payment for a car, saving for an emergency fund, saving for a down payment on a home,” he said. “It shows them how long it will take them to do those things based on the amount that they’re saving, and then shows them where their retirement contribution will grow to after 40 years.”
Now the organization is focused on getting the app into more students’ hands. This year, the app was made available free of cost 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, over 9,000 students have used the app, Rorabeck said.
Next, the organization plans to roll out the app nationally.
“Our first goal is to continue to expand in the state of Wisconsin,” Rorabeck said. “… We’ve validated it here in Wisconsin, and so we believe other states and teachers and kids are no different and they have similar needs. We don’t believe this tool exists anywhere else.”
The upshot, Rorabeck said, is students who are better informed about their financial future are empowered to make better decisions.
For Rorabeck, financial planning and a successful banking career empowered him to make the decision to give back for his final professionals years. Campbell hopes his story serves as a call to action for corporate leaders who feel the nudge toward mission-minded work.
“Are there places where you can share your time and talent that might make a difference in the life of someone in our community?” she said.
Holiday flash sale! Subscribe to BizTimes and save nearly 40%!
Limited time offer. New subscribers only.