Becoming a Financial Planner in Colorado

Ski slopes, clean air, and a high concentration of wealth and assets to be managed… what’s not to love about Colorado for financial planners?

According to the US Bureau of Economic Analysis, Colorado’s per capita personal income was the 12th highest of all states in the nation in 2019, up by two slots since 2010. Wealthier areas of the state include the Boulder region, the Edwards area, and the Denver-Aurora area… really all along the Front Range Urban Corridor. Phoenix Marketing International reported in 2017 that the number of millionaire households in Colorado was equivalent to six and a half percent of the state’s total population.

As more people migrate from California looking to trade the higher cost of living there for the mountains and clean air of Colorado, the state’s population continues to grow. That opens up opportunities for more financial planning through clientele at both the younger and older spectrum of the market. The Bell Policy Center, an economic research group based in Denver, estimates that the state population will hit 8.7 million by 2050. Although Colorado has not historically had a large population of elderly residents, the state is going through the same aging effect of the Baby Boom as every other part of the country, creating a high number of individuals who are suddenly getting very serious about retirement planning.

On the younger side of the scale, Colorado has one of the highest college degree attainment rates of any state in the nation. At 47.1 percent, Colorado’s population of adults with at least a two-year degree is considerably higher than the national average of 38 percent. Many Colorado families will need the services of financial planners specialized in maintaining tax deferred college tuition savings plans that grow fast enough to keep pace with the ever-increasing costs of a college education.

With the right kind of education, training, and attitude, you can reap the benefits of clients in any of those groups as a financial planning professional.

Getting The Right Education to Become a Financial Planner in Colorado

Credentials have become an increasingly big deal in the finance industry. Very few people start off sweeping floors at the brokerage and wind up sitting in a cushy chair as a senior VP with a corner office. You need to have ambition and wits, to be sure; but you also need to have knowledge and critical thinking skills, which you will only get if you start off with the right education.

Bachelor’s Degrees for Financial Planners

What is the right kind of education? Well, it almost always begins with a four-year bachelor’s degree. You will find that there are many different subjects that can be relevant to financial planning… everything from accounting to psychology to business. And, of course, there are many degrees now dedicated to financial planning itself, as well as concentrations offered on more mainstream degrees, like Bachelor’s in Business Administration.

Your degree isn’t just important from a strict employment perspective. College credits set you up for earning some of the certifications that are considered critical in many financial planning fields. For example, a four-year degree is required if you want to earn the Certified Financial Planner (CFP) from the CFP Board, the gold standard in that profession. A CFP Board-Registered program will also include the mandatory 15 credits in 9 key areas that the board considers necessary for planners.

Master’s Degrees for Financial Planners

A bachelor’s degree may be considered the minimum for financial planning professionals, but if you have the kind of drive you need to succeed in this business, you aren’t going to just stop at the minimum. Most, and most successful, financial planners eventually go on to earn a master’s degree as well.

You can get a master’s in all the same specialized areas that you can find bachelor’s programs in. The difference in these advanced two-year programs, however, is that you will dive much deeper into the technical aspects of the training, and usually spend significant time at an internship or in other practical, hands-on tasks like conducting directed research in the field. You graduate with a much more in-depth set of skills and information that will give you the confidence and intellectual weight to make the right decisions and stick with them.

You can also find CFP Board-Registered programs at this level of study, so if you are coming in to financial planning from an unrelated field, you have the opportunity to get qualified for the CFP as a part of your master’s studies.

Selecting an Accredited Degree Program

Not just any degree will do, however. Of course, like any other American college student, you should only choose a school that has a current accreditation from one of the six major regional accrediting agencies in the United States, establishing the basic academic credentials of the instructors and staff.

Beyond that, though, you should also seek out programs that have received a specialty accreditation in business or accounting from one of the three specialty accreditors in the country that cover those areas:

Working in concert with the American business and investing community, these agencies take the time to review business-specific aspects of programs, ensuring that the curriculum, experience, and materials involve in them all meet the highest standards and expectations of American commerce today.

Enrolling in a FinTech Bootcamp for Financial Planning

A degree, at either the bachelor’s or master’s level, will give you a lot of options when it comes to finding jobs in the finance field, but despite the best efforts of schools and accreditors, there are some aspects of finance that are so cutting-edge that even the best schools can’t keep up with the state-of-the-art. If you want to pick up expertise in hot topics like cryptocurrency or blockchain contracts, the most advanced melding of information technology and financial services, you’re going to have to look to another source: a fintech bootcamp.

These camps are fast-paced, lasting only weeks or sometimes a few months. They’re intensively hands-on, spending very little time on theory and putting the bulk of your effort into practical projects that mirror the kind of work that fintech pros are executing in the field right now. They deliver that kind of training on subjects like:

  • Python programming and financial libraries
  • Machine learning algorithms
  • High-speeds, algorithmic trading concepts
  • Machine learning driven financial analysis
  • Advanced Excel
  • Blockchain technology like Ethereum

All of it is offered by instructors who have deep real-world experience in the field and bring you the latest techniques and technologies. You typically work on small teams with your cohort, building teamwork and proving your value day in and day out. After graduation, most bootcamps offer career services teams to help you land interviews, polish your resume, or build out a portfolio that big investment banks will die for.

While most boot camps happen on the ground, in person, you can more and more often find online offerings like the ASU FinTech Boot Camp now. A six-month, part-time program that is easy to fit into your current career obligations, you will also appreciate the backing of a fully-resourced college department behind it, staffed with expert instructors as well as experienced support staff.

Adding a Professional Certification to Boost Your Qualifications as a Financial Planner

All of your training and experience will be building up to on thing: a professional certification in the field where you decide to practice.

These specialized certifications demand not only sufficient college education, but also a range of experience in active practice, signaling to employers and potential clients alike that you have the benefit of not just knowledge, but demonstrated skills in the field.

  • Chartered Financial Consultant (ChFC) – Requires 27 semester credit hours in specified courses, although not a completed degree, plus 3 years experience
  • Chartered Investment Counselor (CIC) Not required; however, must hold a CFA, plus 5 years experience
  • Chartered Financial Analyst (CFA) Hold 4 years combined professional and/or university experience
  • Certified Financial Planner (CFP) Hold a bachelor’s degree, plus 3 years experience
  • Personal Financial Specialist (PFS) Have 75 hours personal financial planning education; also, hold a CPA, which requires a degree, plus 2 years experience

All of them are highly relevant and respected within their respective areas. The CFP, the gold standard for financial planners, has the highest educational requirements, including not only the bachelor’s degree, but completion of the 15 credits in specified subjects that the CFP Board requires. Fortunately, you have the option of taking a stand-alone certificate program to get those 15 credits if for some reason you missed them during your schooling.

How to Obtain an Investment Adviser Representative License in Colorado

The Colorado Department of Regulatory Agencies Division of Securities registers and regulates investment adviser (IA) firms and their representatives (IAR) who work with clients in the state. Aspiring IARs must register using the Financial Industry Regulatory Authority’s (FINRA’s) IARD (Investment Advisor Registration Depository) system to become licensed by the Colorado Division of Securities. Passing the North American Securities Administrators Association’s (NASAA’s) Series 65 examination, or the Series 7 examination in combination with the Series 66 Examination, fulfills exam requirements outlined in the Colorado Securities Act.

Investment adviser firms with global, national and regional reach have locations throughout Colorado. They include Edward Jones, which has offices around the state; Great-West Financial in Denver and Englewood; Charles Schwab in Englewood, as well as Janus Capital Group, and Bank of the West, all with offices in Denver.

How to Obtain a Stockbroker License in Colorado

All stockbrokers in Colorado must register through both the FINRA-managed Central Registration Depository (CRD) in order to be licensed by the Colorado Division of Securities. Exams that must be passed include the Series 63 or Series 66 state exams, plus one of the FINRA exams. The choice of which one is often made by registered reps’ sponsoring broker-dealer firm based on the investment products their reps will be selling.

NASAA and FINRA require stockbrokers to fulfill continuing education requirements. The Regulatory Element is taken after two years of registered service, then every 36 months thereafter. The Firm Element, provided by the employing broker-dealer firm, keeps registered reps in the know about regulatory changes and product developments that may influence sales strategies and protocols.

How to Obtain a License to Sell Life Insurance and Fixed Annuities in Colorado

The Colorado Division of Insurance licenses life insurance producers who may also sell fixed annuities, which are well recognized among the most popular retirement planning products. Fifty hours of pre-licensing education must be completed (3 hours on principles of insurance, 4 hours on legal concepts and regulations, 40 hours on life insurance specific topics, and 3 hours of ethics). Pearson VUE Testing Centers facilitate the Colorado insurance examinations, and licensing applications are only accepted online through Sircon.

After licensure, continuing education (CE) requirements must be satisfied every 24 months to keep a life insurance/annuity producer license current. This CE consists of 24 hours, which must include 3 hours of ethics, 18 hours of life insurance specific education, and an additional three hours categorized as miscellaneous, which leaves room for some elective training opportunities. If a life insurance producer wishes to sell variable annuities in Colorado, other requirements must be met. The sale of variable annuities requires a securities license earned by passing the Series 6 or Series 7 exams, as well as registration through the FINRA-managed CRD. Although no additional pre-licensing education is required for variable annuity agents, continuing education requirements of both the Division of Insurance and those required by the applicable self regulatory organizations (SROs) for securities licensees apply.