How to Become a Financial Planner

Thinking of launching a financial planner career? You are not alone. Many are looking to this dynamic and engaging field as career that offers the opportunity to work with people and have a better understanding of economics and the development of wealth. Financial planning is different than a stock broker or insurance agent. These individuals must consider all financial aspects of the client, requiring a broad knowledge of investments, retirement vehicles, business law, insurance and banking.

Working as a Financial Planner

Financial planners frequently work for investment businesses or insurance companies, selling the company’s financial products, such as mutual funds and IRAs. Some choose to work on a freelance basis, starting a work from home business that allows them to balance their family and work lives. Some planners work as educators, offering workshops to teach people how to manage finances.

Those who wish to set out to create their own financial planning business are well advised to secure some experience working for a financial planning company first. You should also have an entrepreneurial spirit if you plan to run your own business. This field is becoming especially attractive to mothers who wish to work from home. By establishing a career as a financial planner, they can become independent professionals, set their own schedules and run the business however they please.

How to Become a Financial Planner

In most cases, a financial planner must have a Bachelor’s or Master’s degree in economics or finance. Some states also require financial planners to be licensed. Financial planners can seek the designation of Certified Financial Planners (CFP) after working in the field for three years. To get certified, you will need a 4-year degree from a program that the CFP Board approves and you must pass the CFP Board’s examination. In order to offer financial advice, the planner must have a Series 66 or 63 and a Series 7 license. For a Series 7 license, the planner must have a company sponsor.  This is another reason why it is better to gain experience within a company before striking out on your own. Companies that hire financial planners include Primerica, John Hancock and Ameriprise Financial.

As a financial planner, it is important to stay abreast of changing rules and regulations in the financial field. To maintain certification, financial planners must attend 30 hours of continuing education every two years.  Effective financial planners understand legal restrictions and laws that apply to retirement plans, trusts, and insurance. In addition, they must be able to read, understand and interpret complex financial and legal documents.

Skills Needed

financial-planner-career

Being a good financial planner means looking at all aspects of a client’s financial situation and analyzing all the possible courses to meeting future goals and objectives.  Financial planners must look at the “big picture” and understand how financial decisions today affect the future at each stage in a client’s financial life. From this analysis, the financial planner will create a map or blueprint of the steps needed to achieve long-term financial goals.

Financial planners are important at all stages in a family’s financial life. It is not just saving for the kids’ college tuition or for retirement. Financial planners will also look at cash flow management, investing, risk management, insurance, taxes, estates and debt management. They must be good communicators, with the ability to explain all of the options available to a client and why a particular strategy is the best one. The career can be highly rewarding in grateful clients who would otherwise have no idea how to best manage their finances.

The first part of financial planning involves gathering data through questioning and documentation. The planner must be able to organize and analyze the information quickly and efficiently. He or she must ask the right questions to secure the information necessary to make good decisions. The planner must also find out the client’s short-term and long-term goals in the most detail possible and then analyze the situation to see how those goals can best be met, or how they must be altered to present a more realistic strategy.

There is also a strong psychological component to financial planning, in that the planner must be able to understand and adapt to the client’s personality, risk tolerance and lifestyle. Many of those in financial planning are there for the personal interaction, rather than the number crunching. It is akin to the role of a therapist, helping clients through lean and plentiful times alike. The planner must often convince clients to put off frivolous goals in order to adopt more secure and realistic ones. The planner must then draft a financial plan that can be followed by the client. The client may choose to follow or ignore the plan as they please, which can lead to a either a sense of accomplishment or a feeling of doing a lot of hard work for nothing. The financial plan and markets that affect it must be constantly monitored for necessary adjustments.

Financial planners will often need to work with a client’s attorney, accountant and stock broker to fully understand the client’s financial goals and objectives. Without communicating fully with all of a client’s trusted advisors, the planner may develop a plan that conflicts with the advice of these other professionals.

Career Outlook

Financial planning is an expanding field with an exceptional outlook, growing at a far greater rate than average. The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics expects financial planning to become one of the fastest growing fields in the coming years.  Concerns over the availability of Social Security Retirement benefits have fueled a growing concern among Americans in saving for their retirements. As the populous baby-boomer generation reaches middle age, they are increasingly concerned with retirement and investing.

Financial planners are needed to service these needs. A good financial planner can earn more than $70,000 per year. The highest paid planners make more than $200,000 per year. Financial planning can also lead to other lucrative careers in investment banking or financial consulting and analysis.

Financial planning is a career that offers great personal rewards and satisfaction for those who communicate well with clients and other professionals to develop a plan to helps the client reach his or her financial goals.

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