How To Become A Certified Financial Planner (Career Tips)

Updated 19 September 2023

A certified financial planner (CFP) develops financial strategies to enable clients to manage their resources and meet their fiscal goals. They use their in-depth knowledge to provide advice about investments, insurance and other financial matters. Understanding the requirements for becoming a CFP can help you take the necessary steps to begin this career. In this article, we explain what a CFP is, discuss how to become a certified financial planner, review their responsibilities, required skills and work environment, and provide tips for advancing in this career.

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What Is A CFP?

A CFP is a finance professional with an internationally recognised certification from the Financial Planning Standards Board (FPSB). Their certification indicates that they have obtained formal financial education, passed the stringent FPSB examinations, and demonstrated a high level of professional ethics. It also signifies that they have the financial expertise and acumen to advise individuals and businesses about managing their finances.

Related: What Are A Financial Planner's Responsibilities And Skills?

How To Become A Certified Financial Planner

The following steps may help you understand how to become a certified financial planner:

1. Pass 10+2

Passing the Higher Secondary School Certificate (HSC) examination is an essential step for getting started in a financial planning career, as it is a basic eligibility requirement for further education at the college level. You can complete the HSC in any stream from a government-recognised board. A minimum of 55% aggregate marks is necessary to pass, but competitive college admissions may require a higher score.

2. Earn an advanced degree

After completing 10+2, it may be necessary to pass college entrance examinations to enrol in a four-year graduate programme. Most employers expect candidates for a CFP position to have at least a bachelor's degree in business, accounting, economics or finance. It may be necessary to have a master's degree or a doctorate for senior roles in this field.

3. Select a CFP education route

The FPSB website provides access to learning materials such as textbooks, slide presentations and practice tests. You can choose a self-study, instructor-taught or prior learning route. The self-study route is self-paced, while the instructor-taught one may be online or offline with a duration of up to 12 weeks. You can select the prior learning route if you already have the required educational qualifications or work experience of at least three years. In this route, you may be exempt from the CFP course and examination requirements.

4. Clear the CFP exams

The FPSB conducts five CFP examinations. If you take the Regular Pathway, then it is necessary to appear for all five examinations. If you take the Challenge Status Pathway, it is only necessary to clear the fifth exam. The CFP programme has six modules:

  • Introduction to Financial Planning

  • Risk Analysis and Insurance Planning

  • Retirement Planning and Employee Benefits

  • Investment Planning

  • Tax Planning and Estate Planning

  • Advanced Financial Planning

Related: CFP Vs CFA: Differences, Requirements And Tips To Choose One

5. Get work experience

Previous work experience in the financial sector can aid with clearing the CFP course and obtaining certification. It can also inform you about the real-world work duties and skills of a CFP. You can find available internships on job sites such as Indeed and can apply for some of them while still in college.

Related: How To Become A Financial Advisor: A Complete Guide

What Does A CFP Do?

The following are typical work responsibilities for a CFP:

  • Evaluating the income, expenses, liabilities and other financial details of clients

  • Developing, implementing, monitoring and updating financial plans to meet client requirements

  • Researching, preparing and presenting business analysis and financial reports

  • Assisting clients with financial, investment, insurance, estate, retirement, tax and education planning

  • Recommending suitable financial products and services to clients for short-term and long-term gains

  • Staying up to date with governmental regulations and informing clients of any changes that impact financial planning

  • Undertaking risk management to ensure clients can avoid or minimise financial setbacks

Related: How To Become A Wealth Manager: A Complete Guide

What Are The Necessary Skills To Be A Successful Financial Planner?

The following skills can help you succeed in a financial planning role:

Communication skills

As a CFP, your job involves developing professional relationships with clients, networking with associates and acquiring new business. You often accomplish these tasks through in-person, telephone, video and email communication. To be able to do this effectively, it is essential for you to have excellent verbal, non-verbal, listening and writing communication skills. Additionally, you need good knowledge of financial terminology and the ability to explain these terms to clients who may not be as experienced in financial matters.

Interpersonal abilities

When working as a CFP, you typically interact with a wide variety of people and require excellent interpersonal skills. Knowing how to get along with different personalities is essential for this role. Aside from building business relationships, it can help you understand how to retain clients. You can also benefit from having the ability to handle conflicts and remain calm in stressful situations.

Research skills

Good research skills can help you obtain a comprehensive overview of your client's finances. With these skills, you can get relevant data from multiple sources and keep yourself up to date with the changing trends in the financial world. You can also learn about new financial products and investment opportunities.

Analytical skills

Analytical skills can help you analyse all the available financial and market data and deconstruct it into smaller, easy-to-understand units. You can use the information to understand the current economic situation, make accurate risk assessments, construct profitable portfolios and find appropriate solutions for finance-related issues. You can make sound, fact-based investment, retirement planning and estate planning decisions for better wealth management.

Related: What Are Financial Modelling Skills? With Examples

Business acumen

As a CFP, understanding how businesses operate, how to finance them and how return on investment works is essential. You can use your business knowledge to advise clients about making suitable investments and taking the proper steps to start new businesses or develop existing ones. You can understand how to identify key performance objectives, track investments and get the best deals on financial products. You can use your insight on business matters to inform clients about emerging markets and help improve your sales to increase profits.

Organisational skills

Managing financial planning tasks for various clients requires strong organisational skills. Possessing these skills can allow you to effectively arrange your physical and digital workspaces, set goals, delegate tasks and improve communication. You can use organisational skills to prioritise tasks and determine how much time to spend on each one, ensuring you meet deadlines.

Attention to detail

As a CFP, your work requires you to pay attention to details, catch errors and produce highly accurate reports. It is necessary for you to be observant and methodical in your work, remember minor details, focus on causes and ask critical questions. You can also use this skill to improve your work quality and productivity.

Related: 11 Certifications For Financial Advisors (With Importance)

What Is The CFP Work Environment?

CFPs typically work in an indoor office setting and often share the office space with other professionals. There may be occasions when you meet with clients outside of the office. You may be part of a team or oversee the work of assistants. You generally follow a regular full-time schedule of up to 40 hours per week, but it may sometimes be necessary to work longer hours on evenings and weekends. Some CFPs work part-time or in consulting roles.

Related: What Are Functions Of Financial Management? (With Purpose)

Career Tips For Advancing As A CFP

The following tips may help you advance your career as a CFP:

  • Invest in ongoing learning. The CFP certification indicates that you are competent to provide comprehensive financial advice, but it is helpful to continue your financial planning education even after getting it. You can also consider focusing on niche areas such as insurance, private wealth management and financial and investment analysis.

  • Seek membership in a financial planner professional association. These associations arrange meetings and conferences that provide industry information to beginner and experienced financial planners. They can point you towards beneficial courses, reading materials and industry-related news.

  • Attend financial planning conferences. These conferences can help with continuing education and enable you to network and build professional relationships with other finance professionals. The information you receive about wealth management and investing can help you advance professionally.

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