How to Be a Financial Planner

As a financial planner, you can work as a financial analyst and measure the economic performance of industries and companies, or you can work as a personal financial adviser and measure the financial needs of individuals who hire you. As a financial planner, you should expect to build your own customer base and you should be able to juggle multiple clients at a time. That makes strong interpersonal skills and organizational skills essential to complete the job. If you’re up to the task, here are steps you should take to be a financial planner.


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    Invest in a Formal Education.
    • Earn a bachelor’s degree, which is a requirement for many firms that hire financial planners.
    • You can obtain a degree in economics, statistics, accounting, business administration or finance to learn the information you need to be a financial planner.
    • Expect to take courses that teach you about accounting procedures and policies, financial analysis methods and corporate budgeting.
    • Continue your education and obtain a graduate degree. Handling the finances of someone else is a specialized field, and both firms and clients alike appreciate financial planners with a higher level of study.
    • Consider a master’s degree in business administration or finance.
    • Another option is to enroll in a program at your school that is designed for financial planning.
    • Enroll in advanced courses that can help you learn bond valuation, options pricing and risk management. This may or may not be a required part of the curriculum, but it’s important information to know if you want to be a financial planner.
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    Obtain the Required Certifications and Licenses.
    • Earn your license through the Financial Industry Regulatory Authority (FINRA), formerly known as NASD. Licensure is required to work in certain fields, such as securities. FINRA works with companies to help financial planners obtain the required licenses, so it’s not necessary to obtain this license before you get a job. However, licensure is necessary to succeed in the industry.
    • Take an exam prep course recommended to help you study the areas of importance before taking the required tests.
    • File the appropriate application with FINRA. If you work with a FINRA affiliated firm, file a Form U4. If you are with a non-FINRA member firm, submit a form U10 to FINRA Field Support Services. They’ll send you a confirmation form upon receipt of your paperwork.
    • Schedule your exam through Pearson VUE or Prometric. Schedule your exam as far in advance as possible, as there are limited spaces available.
    • Pass the two required exams. You’ll take both a national product exam and a state specific exam. You may take both exams in one day if you choose.
    • Obtain certification through Certified Financial Planner Board of Standards. CFP certification is the gold standard to hold personal financial planners to a high standard of excellence.
    • Meet the education requirements. To qualify for CFP certification, you need to complete a CFP Board-Registered education program, apply for challenge status or request a transcript review. The applicant must also have a bachelor’s degree in a field related to financial planning.
    • Take and pass the CFP certification exam. Professionals administer this ten hour exam three days a year at about 50 U.S. locations. You might consider enrolling in review courses to help you pass this exam the first time you take it.
    • Gain the experience required, which is three years of qualifying full-time work as a financial planner.
    • Pass a background check and Candidate Fitness Standards. The Candidate Fitness Standards delineate conduct that can positively or negatively affect your certification chances. You must also disclose all litigation or agency proceedings and agree to the CFB Board Code of Ethics and Professional Responsibility and Financial Planning Practice Standards.
    • Pay your certification fees.

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