Intro: How To Be a Financial Advisor

In order to achieve financial goals, a financial advisor is often needed. Financial advisors help in many aspects of finances, primarily retirement and investment planning. They bring confidence and experience to help their clients understand better what the power of money can do for them.

There are many different roads to becoming a financial advisor. Some have been in the field for decades while others are just starting out. Many have branched out into their own businesses and embraced the struggles and joys that can come from entrepreneurship. Others may work for large corporations dealing with a vast number of clients and different needs.

steps to become a financial advisor

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The work of a financial advisor is truly never done. Financial advisors must constantly pay attention to changing trends and skills needed in order to truly succeed at their job. To become a personal financial advisor can be a very fulfilling career path, and it is a career in continually high demand. The process of becoming a financial advisor is now easier than ever with an abundance of tools, guides, and insight to help get there. Before discussing the training and certifications required, let’s cover the starting points and steps to become a financial advisor that you should consider.

  • Do you know how to market yourself? Do you have a particular niche business you’d like to cater toward?
  • Are you truly vested in helping others reach their financial goals?
  • Do you have any previous experience?
  • Do you have a desire to consistently learn and grow in this business?
  • Do you want to own your own business or work for a larger company?

In order to truly succeed as a financial advisor, jumping in and committing 100% is key. Part of becoming a financial planner is realizing that being a part-time salesman is part of the job as well. Clients who are unfamiliar with the options or are worried about their best interests need a confident and knowledgeable person to guide them through the process.

Ideal Education Background

Typically, a bachelor’s degree in mathematics, economics, finance, business, or accounting is ideal. Most four year colleges provide the degrees listed. These degrees are also available through community colleges and online courses, making it easy to pursue this field while working.

While each degree will provide a different set of skills, a combination of knowledge and experience is the best way to become a successful financial advisor. Many people currently in the financial advising field began working in banks, moved up to managerial roles, and then made the switch to full-time financial advising.

While it is not a requirement for all financial advisor positions, most companies will require a bachelor’s degree from an accredited university. As important as it is to have a degree, it’s even more important to remain dedicated to a lifetime of learning, both in the field and out. The best financial planners know that learning is never done and seek to continually improve their skills and knowledge base.

In addition, having a bachelor’s degree is often required for licensing.

Experience Matters

Experience in a large range of subjects is the best way to become a financial advisor. One must know the basics of retirement, taxes, and income, but now more than ever clients are interested in a personal touch as well. That personal touch may include incorporating college fund plans, planning for a new baby in the family, or figuring out the best arrangements for wills.

Many investment advisors begin work at small firms as investment advisor representatives, or IARs. From there, they can begin to establish a client base and eventually start their own business. There are many benefits to this route.

First, the long-standing, trusting relationship with clients who have been there from the beginning will garner strong referrals. People prefer to put their money in the hands of someone they completely trust. Because of this, it’s necessary to establish trust from the very beginning and seek to consistently provide that trust throughout all client relationships.

For official CFP certification, three years of practical experience or two years of apprenticeship experience are needed. If finding an apprenticeship isn’t going as planned, searching for an internship instead can be a great way to gain experience and find a potential employer as well.

Experience can also be supplemented through non-traditional ways, such as finding a mentor or attending networking events. Events provide the opportunity to get to know others in all stages of financial advising careers, and gain powerful insights into where they want to end up. A mentor can help individuals see the big picture and learn from the mentor’s first-hand experiences.

While networking and finding a mentor are important, it’s also vital to spend time wisely in regards to volunteer work. A great way to gain experience is to help others with the knowledge you have, whether that’s a family member or a close friend looking for answers. Also take this time to expand your other professional skills, especially interpersonal communication and public and business speaking. This can help greatly in a future career. Seek to improve your writing as well; this can prove to be vital as you write for and on behalf of clients.

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Why Certifications Are Important

Many potential clients seek proof that financial advisors deserve their business. Over 85% of the general public indicated that successful completion of a certification examination was either ‘very important’ or ‘extremely important.’ There is a high standard for financial advisors, and rightly so, considering these professionals are dealing directly with the money and livelihood of individuals.

becoming a financial planner

Image source: Pixabay states, “CFP® professionals must pass the comprehensive CFP® Certification Examination, pass CFP Board’s Fitness Standards for Candidates and Professionals Eligible for Reinstatement, agree to abide by CFP Board’s Code of Ethics and Professional Responsibility and Rules of Conduct which put clients’ interests first and comply with the Financial Planning Practice Standards which spell out what clients should be able to reasonably expect from the financial planning engagement. These are just some of the reasons why the CFP® certification is becoming increasingly recognized.

“In addition, the CFP® certification prepares you for a career-long commitment to meeting the ever-changing needs of your clients. As a CFP® professional, you become a coach and problem-solver, able to provide truly personalized services to clients and to maintain high levels of financial planning and professionalism. Finally, your expertise and credibility as a financial planner is instantly communicated with the CFP® marks – the financial planning certification most sought after by consumers and financial planners alike.”


There are a few different certifications that relate to positions within the financial advising field. While it’s important to find the best one for you, this is also the best moment to determine if you are more interested in dealing directly with numbers and money or if you are more interesting in dealing with people and improving financial lives on a personal level.

CFA (Chartered Financial Analyst) certification is ideal for those who love dealing with money, numbers, and investing. The best places to work are insurance companies and companies that deal solely with mutual funds. This position typically does not deal directly with clients.

For most financial advisors, the end goal in certification is to become a CFP, a Certified Financial Planner. This certification process is done through the CFP Board, and it “identifies to the public that those individuals who have been authorized to use the CFP® certification marks in the U.S. have met rigorous professional standards and have agreed to adhere to the principles of integrity, objectivity, competence, fairness, confidentiality, professionalism and diligence when dealing with clients” (

A large part of the initial application is agreeing to follow the Code of Ethics and Professional Responsibility, with set rules and guidelines that professionals should follow. Finally, the certification fee can then be paid online.

Part of remaining a CFP includes certification renewal, which must happen every two years. There is a late fee of $75 if the renewal is not completed in time.  Professionals can expect to pay an annual fee of $325 to maintain their CFP license.

Continuing education is required through completing 30 hours accepted by the CFP Board, specific to CE requirements.

The CFP Board offers a comprehensive toolkit to help individuals get started. This site is also a great place to view any CFP jobs in your area through the CFP Board Career Center. These jobs can be specifically tailored to experience level, location, etc.

This site also provides you the option to reach new clients through their online search. After creating a profile, professionals are available to potential clients.

Life as a Financial Advisor

Building a future as a financial advisor can bring many benefits. The career path is known for high income potential, as well as being a respected profession. Working as a financial advisor also brings the satisfaction of helping people plan ahead and being rewarded for it.

This career path also has a large amount of growth expected, nearly 41% by 2016 alone. The average median salary for a financial advisor is $67,520. In 2012 there were over 223,400 jobs in that career type; that number is expected to grow continually throughout the years.

Part of that growth reflects a general desire by the public to be more aware of money, investments, and retirement. People are looking for a trusting relationship with a financial advisor who can coach, teach, and listen to their true needs.

As stated in the beginning, becoming a financial advisor can be incredibly rewarding. It can provide a great salary and, more importantly, can help others in direct relation to their finances. Financial advisors directly help people reach their money goals, and in turn can greatly improve their quality of life.

Financial advisors can coach others to be more knowledgeable in terms of the stock market, investing, and retirement options. Instead of approaching the situation with worry of the unknown, clients can have confidence in the process and learn how to make their money work for them.

Overall, becoming a financial advisor can at times seem like a long and difficult process. Thankfully, there are numerous tools and resources along the way to simplify the process and get you where you need to be.

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