Working as a financial planner

Working as a financial planner, also called a personal financial advisor, provides the opportunity to work directly with clients and businesses to navigate the fundamental principles of personal finance.

Financial planners advise their clients on how to achieve their financial goals. Some financial planners provide comprehensive planning services without offering recommendations, while others offer both planning and transactional services.

Financial planners often work for a larger insurance or investment company, but there are some who operate independently. Regardless of the service structure or environment in which they work, all financial planners have a similar job description.

Key takeaways

  • A financial planner or financial advisor works directly with clients and businesses to help them navigate the world of personal finance.
  • Financial planners help their clients achieve their financial goals, from saving to investing to planning for retirement.
  • Financial planners typically work for large insurance or investment companies, but can also operate individually outside of a corporation.
  • The education requirement to become a financial planner is not strict. Typically, a bachelor’s degree is sufficient; however, an MBA and other certifications help you get jobs.
  • Financial planners must complete licensing exams based on their area of ​​focus, such as Series 7 and Series 66.

Work description

Financial planners work with individuals, families, and businesses to help these clients understand their financial circumstances and how to achieve their short-term and long-term financial goals.

Clients provide relevant financial information during an initial interview, answering questions about their total annual income, debt obligations, monthly non-debt expenses, current investments, savings account balances, tax obligations, and insurance plans. Financial planners analyze this information and present realistic and meaningful recommendations based on their clients’ financial situations and goals.

Financial planners discuss many personal finance topics with their clients, including debt management, savings goals and strategies, and personal and family budgeting. They also discuss investment strategies, estate planning considerations, insurance protection planning, and accumulation and distribution tactics for retirement.

Financial planners can provide information on tax efficiency, but they usually do not deal with tax returns. A financial planner working with a business or institutional client can analyze and provide guidance on topics such as cash flow, projected income, debt management, or employee benefits. Each of these aspects plays a role in the overall financial well-being of an individual or business, so financial planners can have a substantial impact on a client’s financial future.

Prospecting, which is the process of finding new clients, is a substantial part of a financial planner’s job. It often involves networking with other established professionals, such as Certified Public Accountants (CPAs) or estate planning attorneys. Financial planners can also attend and make connections at charitable or social events. The prospecting process ensures that financial planners cultivate relationships with their clients, thus keeping their retention rates high.

Education and training

The financial planning career does not require any formal higher education, but a bachelor’s degree is recommended. A graduate degree, such as a master of business administration (MBA) with a focus in finance or marketing, can be beneficial for an individual wishing to establish a financial planning company. However, an advanced degree is not required to be successful.

Financial planners must also have certain licenses to advise and implement specific transactions related to securities or insurance. Securities licenses often include the Financial Industry Regulatory Authority (FINRA) Series 7, which tests knowledge of the securities industry and certain investment-related transactions, including the sale of variable annuities, options, government securities, municipal bonds and corporate securities.

A Series 66 FINRA license may also be required, which is the North American Securities Administrators Association (NASAA) exam. Each FINRA license has continuing education requirements to maintain a good reputation with the regulatory body.

Additional certifications can help advance a career in financial planning. For example, the financial industry and potential clients hold the Certified Financial Planner (CFP) designation in high regard. A bachelor’s degree, an intense six-hour exam, and continuing education are required to earn a CFP designation.


Successful financial planners quickly establish strong relationships with their clients. Connecting with others is necessary for both networking and customer retention aspects of the career. Similarly, clients must trust that their financial planner has their best interests in mind.

Financial planners thrive when they have a deep understanding and passion for personal finance. Several factors play a role in creating and implementing a financial plan, and a financial planner must be well versed in financial matters. Additionally, financial planners must be able to meaningfully interpret their clients’ financial data. The most successful financial planners can analyze and retain a substantial amount of information.


Financial planners in the United States earn an average base salary of about $ 67,775, according to Glassdoor, as of July 2021. However, most of a financial planner’s annual income comes from a combination of fee- and commission-based planning services from products, such as the sale of investment securities, annuities, life or disability insurance, and mutual funds. or exchange-traded funds (ETFs). According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, in May 2020 (the most recent data available), the total compensation for a financial planner ranged from approximately $ 44,100 to more than $ 208,000.

The median annual salary for a personal financial advisor in 2020 was $ 89,330.

A financial planner who works for a larger investment company or insurance company may earn a lower commission payment than one who runs his own company. However, the benefits of profit-sharing plans, health insurance subsidies, and education reimbursement can offset lower commission payments over time.

The bottom line

Financial planners help people achieve their financial goals, including saving, investing, and planning for retirement, which can be a rewarding career. To become a financial planner, a person must demonstrate knowledge of industry and personal finance, and demonstrate social skills.

The education requirements to become a financial planner are not high, having a bachelor’s degree will suffice, while higher degrees and certifications help build a stronger career.

Depending on the region in which a financial planner works and the type of company, the salary can vary widely; however, in most cases, being a financial planner can be a lucrative career.

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Mark Holland

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