For people who are good with numbers and people, personal financial planning could be a rewarding career path.
These professionals — who help people assess their personal financial goals and advise them about investments, tax laws and insurance decisions — are part of one of the fastest-growing occupations in the financial sector.
Employment demand is expected to grow by 32 percent from 2010 to 2020, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. Personal financial planners also made the Georgia Department of Labor’s list of hot careers.
“In this economy, people have a greater sense of wanting and needing more control over their next eggs,” said Charles T. Moses Jr., interim dean of Clark Atlanta University’s School of Business. “They are turning to financial experts to help them manage their investments and plan for retirement. The days of company pensions are more or less over.”
Workers switch jobs more often than in the past and they need to move their retirement plans with them. Other factors contributing to the need for personal financial planning include the rising cost of educating children through college, soaring health care costs and the fact that people are living longer and need more resources as they age. Baby boomers nearing retirement age are driving much of the demand for personal financial advisers.
Seeing a need it could fill, this fall Clark Atlanta University has launched a new finance/personal financial planning concentration within its bachelor’s degree in business administration.
The Certified Financial Planner Board of Standards, which grants licenses for individuals to become CFPs, partners with universities to provide financial planning education. The board reviews a school’s courses to ensure that a program prepares students to take the CFP exam. Clark Atlanta is in the process of seeking approval from the board.
CAU’s business school has always been innovative in providing education needed by the work force, Moses said. “We wanted to be ahead of the curve on this one,” he said.
The six courses (18 credit hours) will provide graduates with the skills needed to land jobs and prepare them to take the exam to become a certified financial planner.
People can enter the field with a bachelor’s degree in finance, economics, accounting, business or mathematics. However, more colleges and universities are beginning to offer graduate and undergraduate degrees in financial planning.
Clark Atlanta’s finance/personal financial planning concentration includes a survey course on financial planning and courses in retirement planning and employment benefits; security analysis and portfolio management; individual income taxes; estate planning; and strategies in personal financial planning.
“Most graduates will go to work in the financial services industry on the retail side. They can work for any business that advises individuals and investments,” Moses said.
That includes finance and insurance companies, banks, investment firms or securities and commodity brokers. About 40 percent of personal financial planners operate their own investment firms, according to Investopedia, an online resource for investing education.
Earning the CFP designation can open the door to better opportunities, more clients and more money.
“The CFP qualification holds great value and is recognized internationally. It’s not easy to get,” Moses said.
Prospective CFPs are required to complete the approved curriculum and pass a two-day exam, as well as adhere to a strict code of ethics. The exams covers the financial planning process, insurance and risk management, employee benefits planning, taxes and retirement planning, investment and real estate planning, liability and statistical modeling.
“Having the CFP qualification definitely moves professionals to a higher level,” Moses said.
Because it takes specialized knowledge and provides a service to people, the occupation requires various skills and aptitudes.
“You have to be financially literate, analytical and good with numbers; that goes without saying,” Moses said. “But you also need to be curious and willing to learn because you’ll have to stay current with economic conditions, regulations and tax laws.”
Strong networking and interpersonal skills are essential, because CFPs work directly with people, he said. Even those who work for investment firms may work largely on commission, so they’ll need to recruit and retain clients. They also explain financial concepts and sell services to clients on a case-by-case basis.
The median annual wage for personal financial advisors in 2010 was $64,750, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, but “for someone with great skills, experience and an entrepreneurial flair, the sky’s the limit,” Moses said.