How to Earn Your Stripes

Today, I am writing from the rooftop of the Amara Bangkok hotel in Thailand. In anticipation of taking a trip to Tiger World to feed the baby tigers, I wrote a special blog for my financial advising friends back in the states. Everyone was pretty much shut down in celebration of the Buddhist New Year/Songkran Festival so I won’t be able to see the tigers this trip, but I still would like to share an important message.

Side note: If you ever have the opportunity to go to Thailand, DO IT.

Bear with me on this blog. It might get a little corny with my pun usage. But I have a point, and its important. Plus, who doesn’t love a good pun? So, today, and everyday if you want, consider yourself a tiger.

This week’s blog is all about earning your stripes.

Unfortunately for tigers, the outlook for their existence isn’t the best. Tigers of every breed are an endangered.

On the other hand, the financial planning career is undergoing some tremendous “population” growth. According to Consumer Reports Money Advisor, the population of financial advisors will grow by 32% over the next decade. Think of three more advisors in your county for every 10 you already know.

While that may be daunting, we have a ton of control over our survival and success in this business. Tigers do not have that luxury, as their endangerment is a result of outside factors such as – loss of habitat, poaching, illegal wildlife trade, and climate change. Regardless of regulatory changes, investors and consumers are increasingly seeking out professional advice regarding their financial prosperity. Financial advising, insurance planning, risk management, estate planning are services that are not going anywhere. People looking for personal, professional, and financial fulfillment are increasingly wanting to become a financial advisor.

So as the strong and regal financial planning creature that you are, how do you differentiate yourself from all the other cats?

We have to earn our stripes.

There are several ways to earn your stripes, but today we are going to talk about one of the most important– getting credentialed through a curriculum that is recognized to be professional, standardized, and thorough. In fact, the morning of my flight to Bangkok, I took an exam for one of the courses I’ll be discussing below.

Why would you consider getting a certification?

-  Give you an edge over your uncredentialled competitors

- Open doors to conversations you might not have had access to otherwise

- Immediately identifies you as someone with rigorous competency, professionalism, and ethical standards.

- Shows that you are not only knowledgeable, but committed

- Helps you better serve and be a resource your clients. Better advice = more successful career.

- Keeps you up to date on trends and tools in an evolving landscape

- Provides a system of accountability

-  Provides job security or job opportunities – depending on your employment situation

- Is an excellent way to specialize

Whether you are just starting out or have been in the business for a long time, there is always room for improvement and learning.

What Institutions Should I Consider?

There are a couple primary schools that are popular among financial professionals. The schools provide a lot of flexibility in how to get your educations in a way that works for your lifestyle including – individual self-study, mentored study, and classroom instruction.

-          The American College of Financial Services

The American College was founded in 1927. Its first offering was the Certified Life Underwriter (CLU). Since then, over 100,000 financial professionals have earned their CLU and the American College has earned a reputation for being the place to get a quality education. Some of their courses include:

-          Certified Financial Planner (CFP)

-          Chartered Financial Consultant (ChFC)

-          Retirement Income Certified Planner (RICP)

-          Wealth Management Certified Professional (WMCP)

-          Financial Services Certified Professional (FSCP)

For more information on The American College and their programs, click here.

-          The College for Financial Planning

College for Financial Planning was founded and was the first to introduce the Certified Financial Planner (CFP) certification in 1972. Now, they have over 150,000 graduates from several different programs of study, including:

-          Certified Financial Planner (CFP)

-          Accredited Portfolio Management Advisor (APMA)

-          Chartered Retirement Planning Counselor (CRPC)

-          Chartered Retirement Plan Specialist (CRPS)

-          Accredited Asset Management Specialist (AAMS)

For more information on The College for Financial Planning and their programs, click here.

-          Traditional Colleges

You may want to consider going through a state university to get your certification. Many times, your studies will award you both a Bachelors Degree, Masters Degree, or Ph.D. as you simultaneously get your designation.

For a list of the top colleges for financial advisors, click here.

The course you choose is going to be specific to you, your clients, your business, and schedule, but there are a couple I recommend that you consider.

-          Retirement Income Certified Planner (RICP)

The RICP certification is a relatively new course designed for any and all things retirement income. I lead with this one because it is a specific and concentrated course that prepares you to assist your clients in having a secure transition from the accumulation to decumulation phase. In the process, you will learn how to mitigate the 18 risks Americans will face in planning for their retirement.

There are three exams required to get this certification, so it can be done in a shorter period of time than some of the other certifications that require you to pass 5 – 9 exams. I just passed my second RICP exam the day I left for Thailand !! I’m getting a lot out of this class and I’d be happy to share my experience with you.

For more information on the RICP, click here.

-          Certified Financial Planner (CFP)

This is one of the most popular and esteemed certifications for financial advisors. It shows comprehensive expertise in portfolio accumulation and decumulation, estate planning, retirement planning, insurance, employee benefits, tax, and risk.

This accreditation is internationally recognized and accepted in about 25 countries world wide. There are over 70,000 CFP’s in the United States, as of 2018.

For more information on the CFP, click here.

For now, I leave you with this:

“An investment in knowledge pays the best interest.” – Ben Franklin

Let’s get out there, explore our options, and earn some stripes!!