Financial Planner Career Guide

Careers in Financial Planning

The financial planning profession has many seemingly interchangeable job titles such as  financial advisor, financial analyst, or financial consultant.  However, the job title of financial planner is by far the most widely accepted vocational title.  We have collected information from financial planners, top ranked colleges, government data, and student feedback to help provide a succinct peek into the career of a financial planner.

What is a Financial Planner?

A financial planner is a licensed professional who guides individual investors and organizations with investments.  Criteria used to determine proper investment vehicles include risk tolerance, age, income, profession, asset base, personal objectives, market conditions, and financial status.  For most people, amassing wealth requires prudently directing disposable income into viable investment vehicles.

A financial planner not only advises people on investments.  Planners also delve into helping clients grow income and reduce expenditures.  Optimizing expenses can create additional disposable income with which to invest.  This is frequently achieved via  insurance products and tax-free investments.

What Does a Financial Planner Do?

To get a bit more granular, a financial planner helps with retirement planning, estate planning, education funding, property buying and also handles some other general investments.  As interesting as the profession is, it has a major challenge: clients are reticent to allow a financial planner to gain experience.

In other words, clients will be less likely to hire you when they discover you have a dearth of experience.  Yet they all know that you have to keep practicing to gather valuable experience.  On the other hand, people will seek you out once you have gained valuable experience and established a solid reputation.

How to Start Your Financial Planning Career

As a result of this enigma, many newer financial planners opt to charge much less than industry standard as a way to offset their experience to build a book of business.  The more successful services you render, the more your experience, expertise, and general level of professionalism dictates.

Once the reputation and book of business begin to solidify, the newer financial planner can begin to increase the price of their services. After your degree has been conferred and proper licensure has been obtained, it is understandable for most financial planners that finding your first set of clients is usually the most difficult.

You will have to arrange several free seminars and lectures to showcase your breadth of knowledge and expertise in the financial planning field.  The major aim of the seminar is to impress the audience through your knowledge of finance ability to build trust in an effort they elect to give you a trial to prove yourself.  You may also need to do some cold calling and email marketing in conjunction with the seminars to gain some momentum.

This situation can be likened to marketing a software application for mobile phones. The developer of the application needs to get prospects to use a free trial version before paying the full price of the app.  They are so sure that 3 out of every 10 people who used the trial version of the application that they will eventually make an outright purchase and can spend time marketing the app to a variety of prospective users to build their business.

The Best Way to Leverage Your Financial & Professional Skills

As a financial planner, you need to get people to understand your abilities and capabilities. After this stage, things will continue to improve as you would have earned business from clients and receive positive accolades which can be used to leverage your ability to attract new prospects.  It is no secret, the best most effective means of advertising is a word of mouth referral from a satisfied customer.

As a future financial planner, you should have a bachelor’s degree in investments, taxation, risk management, estate planning, law, mathematics, accounting, finance, business, and/or economics. That being said, several colleges have started to adopt financial planning as a full-fledged course of study on its own merit.

Financial Planning Certifications

As with most professional trades, certifications and licensure is required of fiduciaries.  Financial planning is no different as financial certifications are often required to work directly with clients.  The most popular financial planning certifications include:

FINRA is the primary regulatory body for financial planners.  The acronym FINRA stands for Financial Industry Regulatory Authority.  This agency not only administers certification exams for financial planners but they also issue examinations.  Having an undergraduate degree and requisite certifications are a great start for most financial planners.  However, many choose to go on to earn a Master's in Business Administration (MBA).  Having certifications plus an MBA will help you stand out from other financial planners, add substance to your academic portfolio, and give you a formidable edge over other candidates in the field.

If you are just going to work as a personal financial advisor, you may not need a license depending on your state and/or municipality; however, if you plan to jump into the sales of insurance policies, stocks, and bonds then a license is a must.  Most financial planners work in either a financial institution or in an insurance company like a financial investment firm, securities broker, commodity broker, or banking institution.  While most financial planners work for financial institutions, some choose to be unaffiliated with any specific financial institution and self-employed.

Top Responsibilities of Financial Planners

Helping Your Client Save for Retirement

A competent financial planner will help clients develop savings plan leading up to retirement so that he or she will have enough money to live a comfortable lifestyle after retiring from the work force.   Proper planning is such a critical component for everyone as we have all read about individuals simply running out of funds during their retirement years only to be forced to return to work to help make ends meet.   Advanced planning coupled with solid, time-tested advice can avert an array of problems down the line for individuals and families alike.

Saving for Education

A financial planner can help you save for your college education or help you save for the education of your children, whichever one is applicable to your circumstances.  A financial planner will consider the true cost of a college education plus your earnings to determine when and how much should be saved to accomplish your goals.

Saving for the Purchase of an Asset

Another duty of a financial planner is to help his client save towards the purchase of an important asset. The most common assets that require a financial planner are a home and car.  A financial planner can also help with more exotic assets (commodities, yachts, jewelry, fine art, etc.) as the situation dictates.

Budgeting and Expenditure Control

No matter how much you earn from your investments, you need to maintain a proper budget and expenditure control.  You have undoubtedly read about professional sports athletes that earned tens of millions of dollars a year only to file bankruptcy by spending more than they made.

Loans and Investments

If you have to take loans to fund a particular project, a financial planner will advise you on the viability of the idea and help with the choice of loans as the terms and conditions for some loans that have specific repayment clauses.   Likewise, the myriad investment options available today can be mind boggling which is why financial planners leverage their knowledge and financial tools to best place investment dollars for their clients.

Your Financial Planning Career

An exciting career in finance starts with investing in yourself.  The education and personal growth are coupled to enhance your professional skills and attributes.  With a greater understanding of financial instruments and financial tools, you will be equipped to better help clients attain their goals.  Focusing on helping others establish a solid financial plan will help you gain traction in the industry and build a book of business over time.

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