How to Become a Financial Advisor: Tips and Steps to Succeeding in This Field

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Financial advisor consulting with client couple

The financial challenges facing millennials and members of Generation Z are more diverse and complex than those of their parents or grandparents. Decades ago, a middle class income was often enough to allow families to secure their own home and retirement. But today, millennials and members of Generation Z have to handle financial stressors like credit card and student loan debt, a highly competitive and overly crowded job marketplace and a real estate industry where dwellings in desirable cities are often out of their price range. With these issues in mind, the thought of retirement seems daunting.

For members of these generations, retiring comfortably is not an impossible task. But millennials and Gen Zers may not know the steps they need to take to ensure they can comfortably retire later in life, let alone what they should do to keep their money safe until they reach retirement age. Thankfully, they can turn to professionals known as financial advisors, capable and astute monetary experts who can provide guidance on what steps to take to ensure financial stability, now and throughout the future.

Serving as a financial advisor can be a rewarding career choice for individuals with a background in finance and a desire to help individuals of all ages and from all walks of life. Discover how to become a financial advisor below.

Becoming a Financial Advisor

According to NerdWallet, a financial advisor is a person (and, in some cases, a tool or service) who offers assistance with an individual’s finances. “The catch-all term ‘financial advisor’ is used to describe a wide variety of people and services, including investment managers, financial consultants and financial planners,” the website states.

A financial advisor could help create a monthly budget and spending plan for a family of four, help an entry-level employee choose the stocks that are the best investment for the long-term, provide financial guidance to a married couple who experienced an unexpected life event and help expecting parents plan for their newborn’s future.

For those who want to become a financial advisor, the Balance Careers site provides a helpful list of tasks and duties that these professionals perform for their clients. These include offering advice on spending, building and maintaining an emergency fund, choosing a life insurance plan, improving one’s tax situation, and managing and maintaining mortgage payments.

The Balance Careers also notes how financial advisors and planners may offer various types of payment structures for their own services, such as an hourly rate or a periodic retainer. For example, a financial advisor may charge $50 an hour for all services performed and for time spent communicating with clients. A different advisor, though, may charge a flat rate of $1,000 for their financial services, regardless of how many hours of work are actually performed for that client.

Individuals who wish to become financial advisors may also hold a particular specialty or skill set beyond providing general advice. A financial advisor could work solely in retirement planning and hold a deep knowledge base about particular funds and investments. Another financial advisor may focus primarily on helping parents and families develop long-term plans that can help them prepare for their children’s college expenses.

Those who become financial advisors also can obtain credentials and the necessary requirements to purchase stocks or make investments on their own. “Many personal financial advisors are licensed to directly buy and sell financial products, such as stocks, bonds, annuities and insurance. Depending on the agreement they have with their clients, personal financial advisors may have the client’s permission to make decisions about buying and selling stocks and bonds,” according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.

Because financial advisors generate their own income by working with clients, they also can spend a large amount of time and resources advertising their services or locating new clients through events and networking.

Financial Advisor Education Requirements and Tips

There are various skills, competencies and knowledge bases that financial advisors need to be effective in their field. How a financial advisor goes about gaining these skills, though, can vary.

Earning a bachelor’s degree in a relevant field, such as business or economics, is often a necessary first step in pursuing this role. However, it may not be required that an advisor hold a particular business or finance-related degree, depending on the organization in which he or she is seeking employment. A masters degree in a related field, the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics notes, can “improve a personal financial advisor’s chances of moving into a management position and attracting new clients.”

What is a key education requirement/tip for financial advisors, though, is that they amass a deep knowledge of financial tools and markets. For example, college students who graduate with a degree in business or finance are likely to have gained a strong understanding of financial tools and markets from their coursework. Other students who hold a degree in a liberal arts field may not have studied any finance-related subjects in their major, but they still could have gained knowledge of the field, such as different stocks and retirement planning options, through additional coursework, continuing education, online classes or other learning opportunities. Financial advisors can also receive on-the-job training when they start their positions.

However, a key professional and educational step for financial planners is earning the certified financial planner credential, or CFP. The CFP is administered by the CFP board, and there are a number of steps required to obtain it. These include education in key financial planning fields, including professional conduct and regulation, tax planning, estate planning and financial plan development. A bachelor’s degree is also required for initial certification, but it isn’t an immediate necessity to take the CFP exam. Those who wish to earn a CFP also must complete an extensive work experience component, pass an exam that consists of multiple questions relating to the field and abide by necessary ethics regulations.

It is possible that an individual can serve as or become a financial advisor or planner without holding a CFP credential. However, the credential provides legitimacy to financial advisors and planners, and signals to clients that the advisor is knowledgeable, trained and a strong choice to handle their money.

Financial Advisor Skills

The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics details various skills that are needed for financial advisors. These range from analytical, math and sales skills to softer interpersonal abilities, such as public speaking and communication.

Analytical skills could include being able to forecast potential changes in the stock market and recommend or make necessary adjustments to a customer’s portfolio. It could include understanding how a new piece of federal or state legislation may impact certain industries and markets, and taking advantage of positive financial trends that may result from that, or preparing for negative ones. Additionally, the BLS notes how some clients may be more comfortable with risky decisions, such as allocating their money to a risky but high-yield stock, while others may opt for a safe course of action, such as investing in blue chip or “safer” stocks proven to grow reliably but often not at such a high rate as more risky investments.

A delicate balance of sales and interpersonal skills are needed for financial advisors. These professionals need to be able to distinguish themselves from their peers and help prove to clients that they can provide a trustworthy and reliable service. This can include a mix of being self-motivated, such as when seeking out new clients through family and friends, but not being overly aggressive in obtaining new business, such as when trying to convince a potential client to use their services, despite that client not having any particular desire or need for a financial advisor.

The BLS also notes the importance of financial advisors’ ability to speak comfortably with clients and make them feel at ease regarding their investments. Many clients may not have as deep a knowledge about insurance rates, 401(k) options or different stocks as a financial planner or advisor, and they may become confused when the advisor discusses more technical or in-depth topics. Additionally, clients may also be seeking financial advisors to help with delicate interpersonal and family situations, such as planning the estate of a family member who is ill. Having strong empathy and communication abilities can help to ensure financial advisors succeed in this realm.

Financial Advisor Resume Tips

A financial advisor’s resume needs to show to prospective clients and employers that he or she possesses the skills needed to succeed in the position. There are many stylistic ways in which financial advisors can craft and present their skills and accomplishments on a resume, but there are general resume tips for financial advisors.

The career website JobHero provides examples of several resumes of people currently employed in the field that may be beneficial to those who wish to become financial advisors. Within these resumes is key information, including years spent in the field, years served in a particular role and specific degrees earned. More specific information includes amount of money managed (such as $10 million or $500,000 per year), as well as number of clients managed and services provided (such as investment planning and tax tips).

Within these resumes are also descriptions of specific duties that financial advisors performed, as well as notable accomplishments. Specific duties can range from individual services that a financial advisor has provided to clients on a day-to-day, regular or semiregular basis, as well as duties that were performed throughout the year (such as speaking events or participating in larger company initiatives). Specific accomplishments can include any notable goals that financial advisors reached in their position. They can be more quantitative and measurable (such as a specific percentage growth in overall revenue or an increase in clients per period), as well as more abstract and intangible concepts (such as making clients feel at ease or increasing awareness of an advisor’s own business or firm). What’s critical is that financial advisors develop a way to stand out among the competition.

Just as every financial advisor is unique, so will be their resumes. But general financial advisor resume tips include highlighting one’s own strengths, certifications, specialties and accomplishments; emphasizing an array of tasks and services provided on a regular and specialty basis; clearly indicating what knowledge bases and certifications one holds; and the scope of the business that one conducts. Additionally, financial advisors should make sure they tailor their resumes to any specific job they may be applying to. Some companies may be seeking candidates who excel in obtaining clients through cold calling methods, while others may place a higher emphasis on individuals who have managed complex portfolios with large amounts of money. Understanding what a specific employer is looking for is a crucial resume tip for financial advisors.

Pursuing a Financial Advisor Career

There are many ways in which one can pursue a financial advisor career. One is by seeking out new positions that are available with financial advisory firms and companies that offer financial advising services. These positions can be found through job boards, such as Indeed, where an individual can locate new financial advisor positions in different parts of the country. These positions can also be found through networking, such as by attending conferences and events with other financial advisors and learning of potential job opportunities, as well as through the career services offered by one’s own university.

Many of these positions, though, will require that current advisors and those interested in becoming financial advisors hold relevant work experience. This type of experience can be gained through serving as a financial advisor as well as by pursuing other entry-level and internship financial advising roles during or shortly after one’s time in a degree program.

However, regardless of where financial advisors may be in their career, or how many clients they manage or the expansive portfolios they help obtain, a crucial part of the position is that financial advisors pursue, gain and maintain new business. “Finding clients who need those services and building a customer base is crucial to experiencing success as a financial planner, because referrals from satisfied clients are an important source of new business,” according to Investopedia.

For example, even for a financial advisor who successfully helps develop a retirement savings plan for a young married couple, that advisor will need to still be thinking about what new business he or she can develop after providing that service. A financial advisor who is savvy and motivated could encourage the couple to share a positive review of their experience with other professionals, which could help expand awareness of the advisor and his or her services to that couple’s larger social circle.

Financial planners often work in other finance-related fields, such as insurance sales or accounting, prior to entering a financial advisory role. Another way of pursuing a financial advising career could include a professional who has worked in a different business field for an extensive amount of time, and then tapping into the resources and relationships they gained in that position. This could include an accountant who wants to become a financial adviser reaching out to current and former clients at their workplaces. Working in these types of financial roles enables prospective and current advisors to develop broad social networks where they can discover new leads and create new business.

Financial Advisor Resources

There are various resources for financial advisors including digital tools, such as a Google app called the Nestegg Simulator, which helps extensively break down a client’s finances and retirement projections, as well as Black Diamond, which offers different services that help to manage accounts and portfolios.

There are a variety of professional societies that can also help financial advisors as they advance throughout their career, Investopedia notes. These include the Financial Planning Association (FPA), the National Association of Insurance and Financial Advisors (NAIFA), the National Association of Personal Financial Advisors (NAPFA), and the Society of Financial Service Professionals. Each of these organizations may provide unique services and resources to financial members, as well as mentorship and professional development opportunities, regular and annual events, and up-to-date news and information resources. Membership in these organizations may also require a fee.

Because it is important that up-and-coming financial advisors are up to date on the latest news in their industry and what may be beneficial to clients, they should also follow financial publications and outlets. These can include CNBC, Bloomberg, the Wall Street Journal and MarketWatch. For financial advisors with a particular specialty, such as insurance or estate planning, pursuing news sources and reading trade publications in their particular field are helpful as well. It is also beneficial for financial advisors to stay on top of larger social, economic and political trends to get a better understanding of what financial changes are impacting clients and what services they may be able to provide.

Succeeding as a Financial Advisor

Becoming a financial advisor requires that professionals have a comprehensive background and training in various aspects of finance, as well as the necessary certifications and interpersonal skills to help them find and maintain new business. The position is demanding and challenging, but it can reap both personal and financial rewards for advisors who are able to provide valuable services to their clients.

The good news is that there is a strong career outlook for prospective financial advisors. The BLS notes that employment of financial advisors is expected to grow 7% from 2018 to 2028, and that even with the development and popularity of new online financial advising tools, clients will still likely seek out the services of human professionals who can provide both financial expertise and needed interpersonal and professional comfort.

The field is still demanding, though, with the most competitive jobs and most valued clients going to advisors who possess not only a thorough knowledge of the field but also the most exemplary credentials. Rider University’s online Master of Accountancy program provides students and professionals with a deep accountancy and financial skill set, enabling them to pursue particular specialties, as well as the ability to master technical and data management tools and knowledge bases. Rider University’s online Master of Accountancy program also offers a concentration in finance, enabling students to get a firm understanding of each industry and the required skills to excel within both. The flexible program works with professionals and their current life commitments while still providing them an avenue to a rewarding financial career and future.

Recommended Readings:

CPA vs. CFA: Comparing Key Accounting Titles

What Accounting Careers Can Be Pursued After Earning an Advanced Accounting Degree?

How to Become a Manager: A Guide for Prospective MBA Degree-Holders

Sources:

Balance Careers, “How a Financial Advisor Can Help You Meet Your Goals”

CFP Board, Education Requirement

Investopedia, “10 Best Tools for Financial Advisors”

Investopedia, “Four Professional Associations Financial Advisors Should Join”

Investopedia, “Is a Career in Financial Planning in Your Future?”

JobHero, Financial Advisor Resume Samples

NerdWallet, “How to Choose a Financial Advisor”

NerdWallet, “What Is a Financial Advisor, and What Do Financial Advisors Do?”

Rider University, Online Master of Accountancy

TheStreet, “How to Become a Financial Advisor: What You Need to Know”

U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, How to Become a Personal Financial Advisor

U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, What Personal Financial Advisors Do