A financial planner assists individuals with the management of their personal finances. Successful financial planners usually possess excellent interpersonal and selling skills, as well as broad knowledge of personal finance.
Financial planning activities include estate planning, tax planning, budgeting, asset allocation (i.e., recommending proportions of a client’s wealth to invest in stocks, bonds, commodities, etc . . .), and review of life insurance needs. A financial planner usually does not engage in stock picking or analyzing/recommending individual stocks for their clients. For investments, most financial planners focus on mutual funds and ETFs.
Early in their career, a person working in this area might either (a) work to build their own book of business or (b) support an experienced financial planner by assisting with back office work, preparing customer reports, and preparing presentations for prospective clients.
For most students interested in financial planning, we recommend starting out as a support person for an experienced financial planner or team of experienced planners. Working as a support person would allow you to gain experience and to develop a set of contacts. We recommend looking for employers who are interested in mentoring and developing their early career hires.
Building a book of business (i.e., obtaining clients) is challenging and takes time. The success rate of early career planners in building a book of business is low. Keys to success include very good selling and interpersonal skills, a well established set of contacts, and the drive and ability to work long hours. Entry level commission-only jobs are very challenging.
Financial planners might work for themselves, a small to medium sized financial planning firm, or a large investment advisor (e.g., Vanguard, Fidelity, Merrill Lynch), or a bank (e.g., Bank of America, First Citizens, Wells Fargo). Many banks have a wealth management division. We recommend that you consider extending your job search out to each of the aforementioned types of employers, including smaller firms in your geographic areas of interest.
Students who wish to pursue a career in financial planning should consider passing the Securities Industry Essentials (SIE) Exam and taking steps to become a Certified Financial Planner (CFP). Passing the SIE is the first step in obtaining a Series 7 (General Securities Representative) and other licenses that are generally needed to work in financial planning. To learn more about the SIE, go to finra.org (FINRA oversees SIE) and select “Registration, Exams & CE” or search for “Qualification Exams” on the FINRA website. Visit CFP.net to learn more about the CFP. A number of on-line options exist to fulfill the education requirement portion of the CFP. AppState does not offer a CFP Board approved program.
Finally, it is worth noting that many established financial planners started out in other lines of work (e.g., commercial banking, insurance, retail banking, accounting, or even something far afield from finance). So, we encourage you to keep an open mind about initial job opportunities. A common thread in these “other lines of work” is building a network of contacts.
Suggested Elective Courses
- Professional Selling – MKT 3215
- Principles of Risk Management & Insurance – FIN 3100
- Personal Financial Management – FIN 3030
- Employee Benefits – FIN 3700
- Group Benefits Management – FIN 3720
- Advanced Sales Techniques – MKT 4560