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What is your best advice for someone like me (23 years old, almost a CFP) who is wanting to be the best advisor they can be?
First of all, bravo for finishing your CFP by 23! That’s such a huge advantage to get started early. Experience is going to be key at this nascent point in your career. I’d recommend looking for a position as a client service associate or a similar position serving in an entry-level operations role at a fee-only RIA or boutique fee-based financial planning company if possible.
If you like working in a fast-paced environment and you live in a tech hub like San Francisco or New York, you may want to apply for jobs at a FinTech startup where not as many people have your skillset. Companies like Ellevest, Betterment, and SoFi all have financial planners on their teams. There aren’t a lot of CFPs with experience at startups so it can be a unique way to grow your career.
Be sure to steer clear of firms that brand themselves as financial “advisors” or financial “planners” when in reality they are insurance firms that employ insurance salesman masquerading as financial planners. Rather than being compensated for doing financial planning, these insurance salesman work on commission which they receive by selling insurance products.
In my personal opinion, starting out at a smaller firm will be more beneficial as you will get to see and partake in almost all aspects of the business. You’ll learn how the business onboards new clients, how they care for existing clients, and all the managerial and operational tasks that are involved in running a financial planning firm.
In addition to learning the ropes at a financial planning firm, you’ll want to do as much networking as possible. Not only do you want to build your network to increase your job opportunities, but it’s incredibly beneficial to learn about the experiences of others who work at different firms. The way that different firms and different planners operate can vary widely, so try to meet as many people as you can and ask them about their roles and responsibilities.
Two exceptional organizations for building your network are the Financial Planning Association (FPA) and the National Association of Personal Financial Advisors (NAPFA). Additionally, both organizations have great programs for young planners: FPA NexGen (age 36 and under) and NAPFA Genesis (age 33 and under). These organizations have conferences as well that can be really important to attend because you’ll meet other young planners who are growing their careers as well as more established planners looking to hire top talent.
One you have your CFP designation and a few years of experience under your belt, you’ll be able to decide what type of financial planning career you’d like to pursue. The most important question is do you want to start your own business and get your own clients, or would you prefer working for an established firm that already has processes in place? This will dictate the next phase in your career so be sure to always have that in the back of your mind.
If you decide that you do want to start your own firm, you’ll have to determine if you want to serve primarily younger clients or serve a more traditional clientele of older workers and retirees. If you’re interested in serving younger clients, you’ll want to look into the XY Planning Network (XYPN). If, however, you’re looking to serve older clients, then the Garrett Planning Network may be a better fit. Either way, welcome to the financial planning profession…we’re glad to have you!