You might have found yourself at a crossroads of either continuing with the career you’ve been in for years or shifting gears and moving into a completely different profession altogether. Financial planning is a great option for those who are looking for a fulfilling career that will provide stability and security. When you become a financial planner you essentially become a guide to help people plan their finances, investments, taxes and reaching their financial goals. In this blog post, I’ve decided to answer some of the questions I’ve come across as a coach, mentor and advisor for nex-gen financial professionals that want to understand how to become a financial planner.
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Is financial planning a good career?
With the multitude of areas that financial planning careers span, there is a place for everyone. Financial planners can range from those providing portfolio management to tax and estate planning as well as insurance services. Financial advisors work with clients of all types including individuals or families that have been successful in their careers but need some help making the right financial decisions. Those decisions may center around estate planning, insurance planning, tax planning or the ever-so popular retirement planning. There are also opportunities to specialize such as working with entrepreneurs or young families, which can be highly rewarding. Financial planners are often working with people throughout their careers to make sure that they have the resources available when they need them most. In becoming a financial planner, your role is really as “servant” to clients and their needs.
Is financial planning a good career for me though?
I’m often asked the above question by career changers. My answer is a resounding “yes”. Financial planning is a great career, especially if you’d like to make a difference in the lives of people.
I’ve often joked that for as much good as financial advisors and financial planners do, most people might think that they just help you sell stocks. Many financial planners and financial advisors do much more than just help people save money. By providing advice to people in the area of finance, you actually hold a very critical and important place in the life of your client. I love the feeling of meeting new clients and helping them set up their financial plans. It’s a great feeling to know that clients will depend on you when you become a financial advisor and turn to you for advice throughout the years of your relationship.
In becoming a financial planner, it is important not only to focus on what skills are needed but also how those skills can translate into helping people financially.
How to become a financial planner
There are many steps you can take as a career changer to become a financial planner. As opposed to the path of Certified Public Accountants (CPAs), a financial planner doesn’t have to have a bachelor’s degree in finance or financial planning. In not requiring a business degree, but just a bachelor’s degree–in any discipline–makes this a career ideally suited for career changers.
However, even though you don’t need a bachelor’s degree or master’s degree in finance, it is highly recommended that those who want to go into this career have some basic personal financial planning knowledge as well as an understanding of basic financial services concepts.
Do I Have to Become a Certified Financial Planner (CFP)?
Arguably the gold standard for the financial planning profession would be the Certified Financial Planner (CFP) exam offered by the Certified Financial Planning Board of Standards. The CFP Board offers three opportunities during the year to take the exam so that you can obtain this certification. There are several options for career changers to achieve the education requirement necessary by taking courses at one of the many colleges or universities that offer financial planning degrees, or enrolling with an education provider’s certificate program.
As a career changer, if you don’t choose the CFP exam path, you’ll have to at least become an Investment Advisor Representative of a registered investment advisory firm. Contrary to popular belief, this is not a certification. Going this route also doesn’t require that you take the Securities Industry Essentials Exam, (SIE Exam) or become a General Securities Representative (Series 7 Exam) but that you take and pass the Uniform Investment Adviser Law Exam (Series 65). Further education is necessary if you want to serve your clients at the highest levels regardless of the current minimum standards of the industry for financial advisors.
For more on “day in the life of a CFP”, click here:
What about getting experience?
Once you have the education and exam completed, it’s important to get some experience under your belt. A career changer coming from another career field may not have the wealth management or financial planning experience, but they definitely bring other skills to the table that can help them become successful in this career path. More than your knowledge of mutual funds or investment planning, you have a set of transferrable skills that are valuable. You just need to learn how to convey that to future employers so that you stand out from other candidates.
I created a video on YouTube covering this answer in a lot more depth if you want to know how to become a financial planner.
Is Becoming a Certified Financial Planner worth it?
At what point is the Certified Financial Planner path worth the time and money investment? It is a difficult question to answer in general since it depends on so many factors. Obviously, if you have the financial resources and time available, going for your CFP certification will be beneficial no matter what career field you come from. Once you become a CFP® professional, there are several perks including but not limited to:
• Participation in a broad array of practice management and business development opportunities to promote your CFP® professional designation;
• Expanding client base through referrals, networking with other financial planners and utilizing social media tools to enhance your finance career;
• The public recognition that the CFP® certification provides.
The Certified Financial Planner Board of Standards has put tremendous effort into increasing awareness around the marks. Still, there is a lot to consider, so consult other financial advisors about their experiences before embarking on this journey. Remember that many of them will be happy to share the lessons they’ve learned with you if you ask! Just don’t expect all of them to give you free advice–just as you probably wouldn’t give free financial advice.
How does the Financial Industry Regulatory Authority (FINRA) regulate financial advisors and personal financial advisors?
Regulation. Here’s a topic that no one wants to talk about.
What is FINRA? It stands for Financial Industry Regulatory Authority (FINRA), formerly known as National Association of Securities Dealers (NASD). FINRA is an independent, not-for-profit organization that is the largest financial regulatory entity in North America with more than tens of thousands of securities industry professionals.
They are the ones who govern the financial service industry, including financial planners and financial planning firms. A common myth is that they regulate insurance companies, but actually each state regulates that.
FINRA requires personal financial advisors to register with them. They set forth rules that financial planning firms must follow, including the rules for how you become a financial advisor, continuing education requirements, and what’s required in their practice.
Because there are a lot of personal financial advisors marketing investment products as the “silver bullet” to meet every single one of their clients’ financial goals, we need regulation. Thus, their main job is protecting the investing public.
Can you be a financial advisor as a second job?
At this point, I hope you don’t feel that this is a career that you can do as a side gig. It is not as simple as selling insurance products, mutual funds, real estate, or any other shortcut solution in the absence of comprehensive advice!
Some people think that they will become financial planners in their spare time while working another job. In my opinion, this is just not the type of career that works that way.
This is even more difficult to pull off if you don’t work independently and you work for someone. Aside from a background check (very common in this industry), you’ll need their permission to work your “main gig” while also being employed as a financial advisor–it is called declaring an outside business activity.
Like I tell all of my students if being a financial advisor or financial planner is something that you truly want to do then you should treat it seriously as a full-time job. Do not be afraid to invest in your professional education or training, and always plan ahead!
What other jobs can a financial advisor do?
This depends on a lot. One consideration is your interpersonal skills. Do you like talking to people? Some financial advisors are very extroverted and don’t mind selling themselves, talking about themselves, etc. On the other hand, some financial advisors are very introverted, and therefore they do not enjoy cold calling or much less selling financial products.
There are so many jobs and job variations that you can discover based on your professional experience. Rather than a career as a financial planner, you could find a job in investment or portfolio analysis. Training to be a Chartered Financial Analyst (a designation offered by the CFA Institute) will help you secure jobs that involve portfolio analysis and securities selection for clients of the firm. Most CFAs work at an investment company however, it’s not uncommon to see them at professional investment management firms, commercial banks, financial planning firms, and insurance companies.
How do I start working with clients?
You may be thinking…
That’s great and all Dom, but how do I get experience so I can start working with clients?
The clients that you’ll be working with will expect the best from your services and they should receive nothing but excellent service from you or the firm you work for.
In order for clients to have confidence in their advisors, they need to know that the person is qualified, educated, and has a great deal of knowledge. Beyond this, your professional conduct and how you carry yourself as a person, I highly recommend the rigor of the CFP (which includes an ethics component). This is a certification that clients have grown to trust.
As you may be beginning to understand, becoming a financial advisor is not always about selling financial products, but it is actually about providing professional advice to your clients. When you combine this professional expertise with a deep understanding of personal finance issues and investment management strategies, then you are well on your way to becoming the perfect fit for any firm that will value these qualities!
With these tips, you can make a career change to the lucrative field of financial planning and advising. If you’ve been considering making a switch but don’t know where to start, I hope this post has given you some helpful information and advice for your journey into the world of finance! I’d also say that as a career changer, that the job of being a certified financial planner requires the ability “people manage”, not just crunch numbers.
Let us know what other questions or topics that interest you by commenting on our post below. We would love to answer any additional queries from readers who are in similar situations as well!
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If you want to start your own firm, read this post.