Personal financial advisors, also known as financial planners or financial consultants, advise clients of their financial options in order to help them reach their short-term and long-term financial goals. They use their knowledge of investments, tax laws, and insurance to address issues such as retirement and estate planning, funding for college, and general investment options. Some may specialize in risk management or retirement and estate planning, but most offer a wide range of expertise. The advisor begins by reviewing the client’s financial information and goals. Then they develop a written or verbal financial plan that includes problem areas, recommendations for improvements, and investment recommendations. They usually meet with their clients at least once a year to check in about any factors that might affect their financial goals. Some personal financial advisors buy and sell mutual funds or insurance as part of their practice, and some manage their clients’ investments for them.
Those job candidates seeking positions as personal financial advisors need to have excellent mathematical, computer, analytical, and problem-solving skills. Because their jobs require them to constantly explain complex financial concepts and strategies to clients and professionals, they must have highly-developed verbal and written communication skills. Other desirable qualities include self-confidence, maturity, and self-motivation.
In 2002, financial analysts earned a median annual salary of $56,680. The middle 50% earned between $36,180 and $100,540. The following shows the median annual salaries for the industries employing the highest numbers of personal financial advisors:
- Other financial investment activities – $74,260
- Securities and commodity intermediation/brokerage – 68,110
- Depository credit intermediation – 51,030
Training and Education
A college education is strongly recommended for those wishing to become personal financial advisors. Most employers prefer a bachelor’s degree in accounting, finance, economics, business, mathematics, or law. Helpful courses of study include investments, taxes, estate planning, and risk management. Many personal financial advisors enter the occupation through a related field, such as accountant, auditor, insurance sales agent, lawyer, or securities, commodities, and financial services sales agent. However, more colleges and universities are starting to offer programs designed specifically for careers in personal financial advising. Personal financial advisors may obtain professional designation by earning the Certified Financial Planner credential, known as CFP (R), issued by the Certified Financial Planner Board of Standards, Inc. Applicants must pass educational requirements and a comprehensive examination. Personal financial advisors may advance to managerial positions, or by acquiring more clients and managing more assets.
In 2002, personal financial advisors held about 119,000 jobs. 38% were self-employed. 31% were employed by securities and commodity brokers, exchanges, and investment services firms. 14% were employed by banks, savings institutions, and credit unions. A small percentage worked for insurance carriers and insurance agents, brokers, and services.
Between 2002 and 2012, the number of personal financial advisors is expected to increase faster than the average. This will be due to an increase in the need for investment advice among baby boomers saving for retirement and among a better educated and wealthier public. People are also living longer in general, and so must plan more comprehensively and carefully for retirement. In addition, the globalization of the securities markets and the deregulation of the financial services industry will increase demand for investment counseling.