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The Start of My Journey to becoming a Financial Planner

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My Journey to becoming a Financial Planner

My journey to becoming a financial planner is just starting so I figured I will document it. Some might find it helpful, but the real reason I am doing it is for me. It will be interesting to see how the journey progresses and in a few years, I can reflect back at this post to see where it all started. Or, not at all because I didn’t keep documenting the journey. But who knows?

The Beginning

Well, this might be disappointing but I don’t have a Star Wars running wall of text to this intro. It’s pretty simple and straight forward. 

So here it is. I like finances. In particular, personal finances. BOOM! I know, mind-blown.

I like the general concepts of personal finances such as budgets, cash flow, net worth, and balance sheets. I love investing and investment planning. I like taxes, in particular my own tax planning which is something that most people loathe – but that’s understandable. And lastly, I love planning for my retirement. It’s exciting to invest my money, watch it grow and know my future is secure. Also, within that future lies financial planning.

Huh? What?! I have realized that once I retire from the military I will need to keep myself busy. And that something is something I want to do but that helps people in the process. There is a huge market for financial planners due to the large portion of the population approaching retirement. Individuals will need professional guidance on investing and retirement planning.

Also, I have helped family members, friends, co-workers, Sailors and Marines with their personal finances. It’s always rewarding to hear them reach financial milestones and goals they thought not possible. 

Lastly, my wife and best friend was the catalyst that made me leap. She said I enjoyed finances too much not to do it at some point in my life and retirement would give me that opportunity. As always with my adventures, she is steadfast and supports me throughout which gives me that extra boost of confidence of “I can.”

So how does the journey begin?

As with any journey, there must be a starting point. You can’t just talk about it or declare it, there must be some action taken. 

I declare my journey has begun

To receive a ChFC or CFP designation there are requirements. In practice, certified financial planners (CFPs) and chartered financial consultants (ChFCs) aren’t all that different. However, the CFP designation has been marketed as the industry standard for financial planners and advisors. Overall, the differences lie more in what’s required to earn each certification. 

Education Requirement

A CFP is required to take seven courses, while a ChFC must take nine courses. While a CFP must take a comprehensive board exam after completing all coursework, a ChFC takes an exam at the end of each course.

The CFP board exam is only offered three times a year and consists of two 3-hour sessions separated by a scheduled 40-minute break. The exam is 170 multiple-choice questions, including stand-alone questions and sets of questions associated with short scenarios or case histories.

The ChFC exams are closed-book proctored exams at Pearson VUE Testing Centers. The exams consist of 100 multiple choice questions and must be completed within three hours. Luckily, in Kuwait where I am currently deployed for nine months, they have these testing centers on base so I’m able to take the exams. But I will get into more detail about that later! 

CFP Courses:

  • HS 300 Financial Planning: Process and Environment
  • HS 311 Fundamentals of Insurance Planning
  • HS 321 Income Taxation
  • HS 326 Planning for Retirement Needs
  • HS 328 Investments
  • HS 330 Fundamentals of Estate Planning
  • HS 333 Personal Financial Planning

ChFC Courses:

  • HS 300 Financial Planning: Process and Environment
  • HS 311 Fundamentals of Insurance Planning
  • HS 321 Income Taxation
  • HS 326 Planning for Retirement Needs
  • HS 328 Investments
  • HS 330 Fundamentals of Estate Planning
  • HS 333 Personal Financial Planning: Comp. Case Analysis
  • HS 347 Contemporary Applications in Financial Planning

As you can see, the only difference is the additional class (which was two courses initially that was rolled into one premium course as of 31 December 2019), HS 347, which examines contemporary financial planning challenges through a series of modern case studies, including:

  • Aiding divorcees and blended families
  • Financial planning for families with special needs
  • Serving non-traditional families and LGBT clients
  • Unique challenges associated with modern retirement income portfolios
  • Hands-on application of behavioral finance, ethics, and estate planning

(referenced from The American College of Financial Services)

Experience Requirement

Both designations have a certain level of professional experience that must be met.

Certified Financial Planner (CFP)

For the CFP, the CFP Board requires you to have 6,000 hours of professional experience related to the financial planning process, or 4,000 hours of Apprenticeship experience that meets additional requirements. See more details here.

The professional experience requirement “must be completed within 10 years before and five years after successful completion of the CFP® exam. If the start date for an experience entry falls outside of the 10-year or five-year windows, the candidate will need to add additional experience within the appropriate timeline. If progress has been made, but more time is needed, the Candidate has the option of submitting a Policy Exception Request Form for an extension of up to three years.” 

cfp experience infographic

Chartered Financial Consultants (ChFC)

For the ChFC, which is a Huebner School designation, three years of full-time business experience is required. See more details here.

“The three-year period must be within the five years preceding the date of the award. An undergraduate or graduate degree from an accredited educational institution qualifies as one year of business experience. Part-time qualifying business experience is credited toward the three-year requirement on an hourly basis, with 2,000 hours representing the equivalent of one year full-time experience. The following activities meet the required business experience qualifications included in the certification process.”

Insurance and health care

  • Field underwriting and management, including sales and service activities, supervision and management of persons involved in sales or services, or staff support of persons in these activities.
  • Company management and operations in positions involving substantial responsibility.

Financial services and employee benefits

  • Client service and related management, including direct contact with clients, supervision and management of persons involved directly in the process of providing financial services or employee benefits, or staff support of persons in these activities.
  • Financial institution management and operations in positions involving substantial responsibility.

Other

  • University or college teaching of subjects related to the Huebner School curriculum on a full-time basis at an accredited institution of higher education.
  • Government regulatory service in a responsible administrative, supervisory, or operational capacity.
  • Activities directly or indirectly related to the protection, accumulation, conservation, or distribution of the economic value of human life; these include the work of actuaries, attorneys, CPAs, investment advisers, real estate investment advisers, stockbrokers, trust officers, or persons in other similar occupations.

Ethical Standards Requirements

Both uphold the highest ethical standards and require Financial Planner to adhere to them.

Certified Financial Planner (CFP)

CFP® professionals agree to adhere to the high standards of ethics and practice outlined in CFP Board’s Code of Ethics and Standards of Conduct and to acknowledge CFP Board’s right to enforce them through its Disciplinary Rules and Procedures. When you have completed the education, examination and experience components of the CFP® certification process, you will be directed to complete a CFP® Certification Application on which you will be asked to disclose information about your background, including your involvement in any criminal, civil, governmental, or self-regulatory agency proceeding or inquiry, bankruptcy, customer complaint, filing, termination/internal reviews conducted by your employer or firm.

CFP Board conducts a detailed background check for all candidates, including review of any disclosures made on the CFP® Certification Application. Matters that may or will bar you from obtaining certification are investigated in accordance with CFP Board’s Disciplinary Rules and Procedures. Authorization to use the CFP® marks will not be approved until the background check and any investigation are concluded successfully.

Chartered Financial Consultants (ChFC)

Besides meeting the ethical standards, you must comply with The American College Code of Ethics and Procedures. 

To underscore the importance of ethical standards for Huebner School designations, the Board of Trustees adopted a Code of Ethics in 1984. Embodied in the Code are the Professional Pledge and eight Canons.

The Professional Pledge

“In all my professional relationships, I pledge myself to the following rule of ethical conduct: I shall, in light of all conditions surrounding those I serve, which I shall make every conscientious effort to ascertain and understand, render that service which, in the same circumstances, I would apply to myself.”

The Canons

 I. Conduct yourself at all times with honor and dignity.

 II. Avoid practices that would bring dishonor upon your profession or The American College.

 III. Publicize your achievements in ways that enhance the integrity of your profession.

 IV. Continue your studies throughout your working life so as to maintain a high level of professional competence.

 V. Do your utmost to attain a distinguished record of professional service.

 VI. Support the established institutions and organizations concerned with the integrity of your profession.

 VII. Participate in building your profession by encouraging and providing appropriate assistance to qualified persons pursuing professional studies.

 VIII. Comply with all laws and regulations, particularly as they relate to professional and business activities.

Why are you telling me all of this?

I know I left you with a hanging chad of where this journey begins but I wanted you to understand the various requirements that must be completed before receiving the designation and certification. I didn’t even include the annual fees and continued education (CE) requirements. Like most professions, financial planners must be cognizant of current/future policies, trends, and offerings to ensure they provide the best services and recommendations to their clients.

So where does it begin?

I am starting at ground zero! I have some experience that might be accepted towards the requirement but otherwise, I need to meet all the requirements. The reason I discuss both the ChFC and CFP is that the ChFC requirements for school meet the CFP education requirements, plus more. Besides, the ChFC education and exams will prepare me for the CFP exam later on. Lastly, the professional requirements are near identical, so why not add more alphabet soup to the end of my name? Just joking! In reality, it will open the door to more networking opportunities and help me become well-rounded as a financial planner.

Oh noes, school….again.

School! Yay! Or, not. 

I swore to myself after receiving my undergraduate and graduate degree in Healthcare Administration, I would be done with school. Well, I was wrong. Not like I didn’t enjoy the education and learning, but blackboard and forum posts left a sour taste in my mouth. A year after taking classes, each week was less enjoyable. I felt like I was putting the “checks in the box” to get one more class done to fulfill my degree requirements.

This time it would be different because I would be taking classes outside of my career progression towards something I enjoy thoroughly. Also, it’s something I want to learn which changes my mindset towards accomplishing it.

Which school, what program?

One of the biggest hurdles holding me back was the education requirement. I had used a majority of my Post 9/11 to complete my undergrad/graduate degree because tuition assistance (TA) would only cover 16 credits per year, which is equivalent to 5 classes. It would have taken me over 10 years to complete both degree programs so I dipped into my Post 9/11 to complete my degrees much faster. Like way faster!

I have some Post 9/11 benefits left, however, I want to roll those over to my dependents. I wasn’t going to take a student loan to cover the costs, so I was looking at lower-cost programs………..then a miracle happened.

So, here is the list of schools I had researched and concluded were my best options. Wait! What about the miracle?! Don’t worry, I know you’re excited and the anticipation is killing you, but you’re gonna have to wait 🙂

Schools & Programs

  • College for Financial Planning
  • Boston University
  • Kansas State University
  • University of California Los Angeles Extension
  • University of Florida
  • Bryant University
  • George Mason University
  • The American College of Financial Planning

I sent a generic letter asking general questions and stating my interest in their program. Another huge caveat was the program needed to be online and self-paced with the ability to take tests online or proctored at a testing center located in Kuwait. All the Universities responded, however one stood out from the rest.

My Journey to becoming a Financial Planner has Started

The American College of Financial Planning. Why? Besides having a self-paced online program with the ability to take the proctored tests out here in Kuwait. They provide full scholarships to active duty, veterans, and their spouses. I have been marketed by other universities in the past about scholarships only to learn I wasn’t eligible so I was very skeptical.

The reason I was so skeptical is that I already have an undergrad and graduate degree, I am an Officer in the Navy (income threshold) and I had some Post 9/11 benefits still available. Mind you, I wrote this all on my application and was very straightforward about my goals and ambitions to be a financial planner within the next 10 years since I want to retire with a pension and benefits from the military.

The application process was easy and straightforward. Create an account online, fill in your profile information, write responses to some specific questions and supply three references. To my surprise, the application wasn’t instantly declared ineligible or rejected. Alright, that’s a win so far. 

Next, I received an email for a teleconference interview with the representatives from the school and scholarship program. Again, another win and maybe I have a chance.

Within a week I had a teleconference (they were understanding of the time zone) and I had an awesome conversation with the representatives. Tedd Digges, retired Navy Captain, and Executive Director, Penn Mutual Center for Veterans Affairs was the lead on the phone call and he was supportive and understanding of my goals. I thought by telling them that I planned to learn and network over the next 10 years before I consider opening my firm would be shooting myself in the foot. But, that wasn’t the case and he understood the commitment to the Navy and how it would help me gain experience in the financial sector. 

Sheila Runkel was the other representative and she has been my main point of contact throughout the whole process and she was the one who informed me of the scholarship opportunity. She is a fantastic resource and if you’re interested in the scholarships or programs, she would be the best point of contact.

After my phone conversation, they told me they will discuss my application and interview with the board and I will receive an answer within 48 hours. Talk about the longest 48 hours……

Now the miracle. I woke up on Saturday morning to find an email from The American College of Financial Services:

Congratulations! The American College has selected you for a full scholarship towards your designation or degree program. You have been selected to receive the following opportunity: The American College of Financial Services PMCVA Veterans Scholarship Program.

The American College is pleased to recognize you as a scholarship recipient. Your application, references, and interviews indicate you have the potential to become a real asset to the financial services profession. We are committed to your support through educational and job opportunities, which we believe will strengthen our industry.

I can’t tell you how excited I was when I found out I had been selected. I was overwhelmed with emotion, joy, and excitement.

Where I am at now

I am currently three weeks into school and loving the curriculum. I know, I took a while to write about this. One thing I am appreciative of Sheila for, is she directed me towards the ChFC curriculum and program when I had only intended to do the CFP curriculum. She explained how the ChFC curriculum surpassed the CFP education requirements, plus the additional class would give me skill sets to provide financial services to newer generational clients.

How the Classes Work    

Only one class can be taken at a time and the final exam must be passed before starting the next. There is no homework or required forum posts. You read, watch videos, take quizzes, and learn through interactive modules. I started with HS 300 Financial Planning: Process and Environment as recommended by Sheila to give me a foundation upon which I can learn, build, and progress.

Conclusion

Now that my journey to becoming a Financial Planner has officially started as of three weeks ago. I plan to keep my nose in the books, make flashcards and dive deeper online to learn the ins-and-outs of the financial planning industry. If you have any questions regarding the scholarship or process, please reach out! Don’t let education be the hurdle that prevents you from becoming a Financial Planner.

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