Financial advisors are practicing professionals who are tasked with helping people make decisions about their finances, including investment, tax, debt and insurance decisions. They meet with their clients to determine their financial goals and then using the information they have gathered, they will create a plan that they can follow to reach the said goals.
People usually seek out the services of a financial advisor when they are faced with changes in their lives like marriage, starting a family, sending children to college, divorce or preparing for retirement. They may also hire financial advisors to help them identify good investment opportunities and to monitor their investments and accounts.
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Duties of a Financial advisor
- Spending time and other resources especially during the early stages of their career, filling out their client roster by prospecting for new customers. They meet with a lot of individuals and try their best to convince them to become their client. They engage established clients and interview them to assess their risk tolerance and financial goals.
- Financial advisors recommend a variety of investments such as stocks, bonds, mutual funds and real estate to help clients to reach their goals for college savings, retirement and wealth building. They recommend an allocation of assets consistent with the risk tolerance of clients and their life stage.
Skills Needed to Become a Successful Financial Planner
- Good at finance: you must understand the principles of finance, debt, insurance, investment and other complex financial concepts
- Communications and connections: Financial advisors need to be able to communicate complex financial terminologies and concepts to their clients in a way that they will be able to understand it. This goes to show that communication skills and the ability to connect with clients is essential.
- Sales and marketing: While sales and marketing may not be the first thing that comes to mind when you think about a financial advisor, there is no denying that the job of a financial planner is like a sales business in the sense that you will have to find your own clients with the use of your marketing skills.
- Organization and attention to detail: Of course, it may go without saying that organization is essential for a financial advisor to succeed.
- Problem solving skills: the major role of a financial advisor is to solve the complex financial difficulties in the life of his or her client. Once a client engages the services of a financial advisor, their expectations will be high, and as such, you should have the skills to manage this high level of expectation that will be put on you.
- Expertise and experience: Lastly, of course, you must have the expertise in the financial planning arena to be able to effectively do this kind of job. Experience in a similar field will also help you get hired, but with the right combination of all of the above, you are billed for success.
How long does it take to become a Financial Advisor?
There is no one way to become a financial advisor, but irrespective of the path you choose to tow, you will need to have at least a bachelor’s degree under your belt. Prospective financial advisors might pursue degrees in business, law, mathematics, economics, accounting, or finance. Some financial advisors receive on-the-job training after being hired by a firm, while others take courses and complete their training independently.
Being successful as a financial adviser doesn’t always require lengthy periods of studying, but just as it was specified above, a degree will be needed. You may find it worthwhile to continue studying toward a graduate degree or to obtain a financial certification.
In order to become a certified financial planner, the following steps are involved:
- Initial Bachelor’s Degree: Most financial advisers usually have a bachelor’s degree under their belt before starting their profession as a Financial Planner. In order to complete an undergraduate program, you will need to spend at least 4 years in the higher institution (if you are undertaking a full-time study). On the other hand, if a full-time study is not convenient for you, you can always undertake a part-time study in order to obtain a degree. A part-time study does not put you at any disadvantage whatsoever as a financial planner. Also, note that your degree can be in any academic discipline, though majoring in course areas like finance, economics or accounting can help you meet the educational eligibility requirements for certain professional designations, such as a certified public accountant.
- MBA: A common course of graduate study that financial advisers choose is the Master of Business Administration, also known as MBA. It ultimately depends on whether you choose to take a full course load or to attend part time, but the typical MBA program can be completed in as little as 18 months. Since the course of study for MBA programs focus exclusively on business-related topics such as finance, economics, accounting and marketing, the practical knowledge you gain can better prepare you for a financial-advising career.
- Certifications: if you intend to become a financial planner, then you should consider obtaining a certification in financial planning or any other closely related field. This is because a certification will improve you credibility. The Certified Financial Planner (CFP) certification is by far the most popular certification that financial advisers obtain. You will need to pass a 10-hour exam that is offered only three times per year. Since the exam topics cover income, estate and gift taxation, retirement benefits, investments and other practical information about the financial planning process, the amount of time you’ll need to spend studying will depend on the depth of knowledge you possess in these areas as a result of prior academic work, related employment or both.
CPA and CFA
The CFP is not the only form of certification that is available to people who wish to be certified financial planners. You can also choose to go through the Certified Public Accountants and Chartered Financial Analysts route. To take the CPA exam, you’ll need to have a bachelor’s degree with a sufficient number of courses taken in accounting and related business areas. To become a CPA, you must pass a lengthy four-part exam. The amount of time you’ll need to study for each part can vary significantly since it depends on your level of familiarity with the topics covered, such as financial accounting and income taxation, but in most cases, each part will require more than just a few days of study given the scope of information covered. The CFA certification is regarded highly in the finance industry but requires a more significant amount of study time than the CPA exam since there are three levels of testing. The CFA exam process takes an average of three-and-a-half years to complete.
In the year 2016, 271,900 people were employed as personal financial advisors in the United States of America. In that same year, personal financial advisors earned an average of $90,539 according to the United States bureau of labor statistics.