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Financial Planner

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Financial Planner Career Overview: A Financial Planner advises individuals on setting personal financial goals and strategies. Many work independently or in small firms, though larger financial services firms either are adding Financial Planners to their staffs or are insisting that their Financial Advisors (or Financial Consultants) also become certified as Financial Planners.

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Education: A Bachelor's Degree is expected for a Financial Planner. Coursework in finance, accounting and/or economics is helpful, though not required. Strong quantitative and analytic skills are essential. An MBA may be valuable in the hiring process, depending on the firm.

Certification: Requirements to function as a Financial Planner vary by state. Even in jurisdictions where it is not mandated by law, passing the exam to become a Certified Financial Planner (CFP) is highly advisable. The CFP designation increases your credibility and marketability, both to employers and to clients.

Duties and Responsibilities: A Financial Planner helps clients create personal budgets, control expenditures, set goals for saving and implement strategies for accumulating wealth. He or she may have working relationships with Financial Advisors, Investment Managers and/or Mutual Fund Companies, utilizing these specialists for the actual investment of their clients’ funds. The job requires keeping current about developments in financial products, tax laws and strategies for personal financial management, particularly with respect to retirement plans and estates. Success also requires sales ability, both in the acquisition of new clients and in the development of new ideas to improve the financial situation of existing clients.

Typical Schedule: The time commitment is highly variable, dependent on the type of practice you are in, your client load, and the effort you are putting into acquiring new clients. Thus, it can range from a part-time effort of under 40 hours per week to one that far exceeds 40 hours. To accommodate their clients' schedules, Financial Planners frequently must be available for meetings and telephone consultations in the evenings and on weekends.

What's to Like: Depending on the firm, a Financial Planner may enjoy a high degree of professional autonomy. The job should appeal to those who enjoy teaching, given that many of your clients will be unsophisticated financially and require education in the fundamentals of personal finance. The job also offers an opportunity to improve your clients' lives in a tangible way.

What's Not to Like: Financially unsophisticated clients often require much handholding from a Financial Planner, and may be quick to criticize recommendations that did not produce results as they expected.

Salary Range: Per the Princeton Review, average salaries for Financial Planners can range from $20,000 starting to $40,000 for those with 5 years' experience, to $90,000 for those with 10-15 years' experience.

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