So You Want to be a Financial Planner… Now What?

One of the great characteristics of the financial planning profession is that anyone can enter. Whether you’re straight out of college or a career-changer, financial planning could be right for you. But now that you’ve decided you want to be a financial planner, what do you do next?

• Join local groups, like the Financial Planners’ Association (FPA) and the National Association for Professional Financial Advisors (NAPFA).

These groups are designed to help financial planners meet and learn from each other. Listening to the best practices of these financial planners and asking lots of questions can help you consider what type you would like to do (see the next bullet). Many also offer scholarships for budding financial planners, student discounts, and job opportunities.

• Decide what your services and client market will be.

What type of financial planning services will you offer? Will you specialize in healthcare planning, provide comprehensive financial planning, or focus on tax planning? Do you want to target millennials or UHNW clients? Will you be fee-based, use an AUM model, a hybrid? Thinking about these questions and how you would answer will provide clarity in your decision and provide a motivation to focus and get started. While you don’t have to decide everything right away, it does help others (fellow financial planners and clients alike) understand where you’re coming from and what your goals as a financial planner will be.

• Learn as much as possible.

You’re probably already doing this if you’ve decided that financial planning is for you, but it doesn’t stop there. Far from it, in fact. Listening to podcasts, reading books, subscribing to newsletters (like Michael Kitces’ Nerd’s Eye View) are all part of the continuing education that a financial planner must do. Because financial regulations and rules change over time, staying on top of current trends and upcoming rule changes are important to providing relevant and accurate advice to your clients.

• Consider getting your CFP and take all the CFP classes in the curriculum.

These classes provide an overview of many of the different aspects of financial planning, which can be incredibly helpful if you don’t yet have a background in personal finance or planning. Not only are these classes interesting in themselves, but they are also a great way to meet fellow budding financial planners and you can learn a lot just from their perspectives and experiences as well. The CFP credential also tells potential clients that you  have their best interests in mind and do indeed know about financial planning concepts in which you are advising them.

• Find an associate planner or paraplanner position part- time.

A part-time position in the field will not only start the clock on the experience credential in obtaining your CFP, but also help you gain experience of what financial planning is actually like. Holding a position in the field will be invaluable experience to draw on in the future whether you want to start your own firm or move up in an existing firm. There’s also no better way to meet others in the field than to work with them every day! Virtual paraplanning can be especially helpful because it offers flexibility for career-changers and those not in a hot area for financial planning, as well as the opportunity to work for multiple financial planners at once.

• Practice with friends and family.

If your friends and family haven’t yet started asking you questions about their personal finances, start now! While this may not always be possible in all family situations, practicing thinking about other financial situations outside your own will be great practice for your future career. As a financial planner, it is all about these other financial situations, so make sure you’re not just interested in information relevant to you.

• Make sure it works for you financially and plan for it.

Last but not least, this tip is important too. (What financial planning article could be complete without this advice?) Make sure that this career switch or next position fits within your own financial plan!

If you’re still not sure if it’s right for you, doing the tips above will help you investigate. You can also check out 7 Signs You Should Consider a Career in Financial Planning. If you know it’s right for you, dive in! A future financial planning career awaits you.


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