Becoming a Financial Planner in Hawaii

Is there anyone who doesn’t want to retire in Hawaii? Yes, Florida and Arizona are where most people actually end up, but whose dream doesn’t start with relaxing on the beach in the island sun with a cold mai tai in hand? Mahalo for sure, brah.

That makes the Aloha State a sieve for catching high-net-worth individuals heading toward retirement. According to a Phoenix Marketing International survey tracking millionaire households, Hawaii ranks fourth overall in the country as of 2017, an artifact of people who have the money to move to paradise actually doing so.

If you are aiming to become a financial advisor, those are exactly the kinds of clients that you will want to have. And why not have them in a place where killer beaches and surfing are also on the menu? It’s a win/win.

Although only 19 percent of the population is over the age of 65 according to U.S. Census estimates from 2019, the time to plan for retirement is before you get there. That population is growing, and projections show that by 2035, 24.3 percent of Hawaii’s residents will be age 65 or older. Retirement planning, healthcare accommodations, and trust and estate planning are significant concerns shared by those Hawaiians.

They’ll be looking for answers from professional planners who have got the education and experience to give them the right advice for navigating those inevitabilities in life. And you have plenty of options for building up your credentials to be one of those planners here in paradise.

Getting The Right Education to Become a Financial Planner in Hawaii

It’s true, Hawaiians are some of the most laid-back people you will ever meet. But that doesn’t mean they will trust just anyone with their money. If you want to be a financial planner here, you’re going to need to get the minimum qualifications out of the way, and in almost every case that includes earning a college degree.

That’s because at least some college credits are required for many of the professional certifications that are widely used in the field to assess your skills and qualifications. And building your competency in highly complex fields like tax planning or financial analysis requires some book learning and instruction from professors who can help you wrap your head around them.

Bachelor’s Degrees for Financial Planners

Both clients and companies are pretty reluctant to hire anyone who doesn’t at least hold a bachelor’s degree, so that should be your first objective. Fortunately, you have a lot of possible choices when looking at acceptable degrees for financial planners, including:

  • Bachelor in Financial Planning
  • Bachelor in Financial Services
  • Bachelor in Accounting
  • Bachelor in Business
  • Bachelor in Trust and Wealth Management

But really you can build almost any major into a reasonable choice for financial planning with the selection of the right minors and elective coursework.

Something you should definitely consider, however, is ensuring that you are enrolled in a CFP Board-Registered program. That’s because the CFP Board, the agency that offers the all-important Certified Financial Planner credentials, mandates that you have at least 15 credits in 9 specific areas in your educational background. By picking a board-registered program, you’ll know that you are getting exactly what the board is looking for, and won’t have any trouble meeting their educational qualifications.

Master’s Degrees for Financial Planners

You can find CFP Board-registered programs at the next level up the educational ladder, too: a master’s degree. These two-year degrees take your education and experience to the next level through more advanced coursework, more research-heavy studies, and often through internships that place you out in the field with people who are professional practicing financial planning at the top of their game.

That kind of study will qualify you to take on the kind of high-level positions in the industry that really bring in the big money, or burnish your credentials in order to pull in the highest quality clients. And you’ll also come out of it with the confidence and the knowledge to meet the highest standards of professional performance and responsibility.

You can find master’s programs in all the same subjects that bachelor’s degrees are offered in, with more advanced exploration of the field in investment analysis, accounting principles, tax and estate planning, and more.

Selecting an Accredited Degree Program

Picking accredited programs is something that most students never really have to think about; almost every American university worthy of the name has earned at least a basic academic accreditation from one of the six major regional accrediting agencies that are acknowledged by CHEA, the Council for Higher Education Accreditation. This establishes basic, universally-recognized standards for instructor selection and performance, school resources and funding, and academic standards.

But since you are studying in a highly specialized field, you will also want to make sure you pick a program that holds a specialty accreditation from one of these three organizations:

These accreditors only deal in business and accounting schools and programs. And that makes them uniquely qualified to assess the specific qualities that make a financial planning education worthy: delivering the right coursework to ensure your education is right in line with the current expectations of business and finance leaders in American commerce.

Enrolling in a FinTech Bootcamp for Financial Planning

Something that no college education can fully deliver is the state-of-the-art in financial technology, or fintech. Many of the concepts and techniques in this cutting-edge field are still being developed, and won’t make it until official curriculums for years.

That’s where a fintech bootcamp can come in to help you get your own edge in the financial planning field. Bootcamps are far faster than degree programs, clocking in at only a few weeks or a few months. They are also much less expensive. But they offer an entirely different type of training, too, a hands-on, practical education that comes through projects you’ll engage in using real-world financial data and real-world tools that are still rapidly evolving through innovation and market demand.

Those topics can include subjects like:

  • Advanced Excel formulas and analysis
  • Machine learning and artificial intelligence applications in financial analysis
  • Python programming and using financial libraries
  • Blockchain and cryptocurrency use and analysis
  • Smart contracts such as Solidity

You progress through the programs with the same cohort of fellow students around you from start to finish, and under the watchful guidance of instructors who have done their time in the industry and proven their own skills on the job.

At one time, most bootcamps were offered by private organizations, sometimes running on a shoestring and without a lot of backing. But today you’ll find more programs that are being developed by colleges and universities themselves, like the Berkeley FinTech Boot Camp. Available online to Hawaii residents, and offered on a part-time basis over six months that makes it convenient to attend while you are also holding down a regular day job, it offers the same curriculum as other programs, but has the full resources of one of the premier universities on the West Coast behind it.

That includes not only the expertise of the instructors, but a full career services department that can help you build your portfolio, brush up for interviews, and hone your resume to land the kind of advance fintech career that you are dreaming of.

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

Almost all professional positions in financial planning will come with the expectation that you either hold or will soon earn a certification relevant to your area of practice in the field. These certifications often involve a test of your knowledge along with certain educational requirements and a number of years of relevant experience in the industry.

Some of the most common include:

  • 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

Because of the requirement that you not only hold a full bachelor’s degree, but that you have had a college-level education in nine specific subject areas with a set number of credits required, the CFP is one of the most difficult of these certifications to get. It’s also one of the most important for financial planners, so you might feel like you are out of luck if you are coming into the profession as part of a career transition, long after you earned your degree and without the requisite courses.

But the CFP Board also recognizes a long list of available certificate programs that are aimed exactly at individuals who meet all the other requirements, but need to pick up those fifteen required credits. You can do so with a minimum of time and fuss and still get your CFP.

How to Obtain an Investment Adviser Representative License in Hawaii

Hawaii’s Department of Commerce: Securities Division licenses investment adviser (IA) firms and investment adviser representatives (IAR) in the state. This involves registering through the Financial Industry Regulatory Authority’s (FINRA’s) IARD (Investment Advisor Registration Depository) system. Examinations that must be passed include the Series 65 examination, or the Series 7 examination in combination with the Series 66.

There are many investment adviser firms with offices in the state. Among these are the internationally recognized Edward Jones, which has offices in Honolulu, Kahului, Kapaa, and Hilo; the regional Central Pacific Bank in Honolulu; the regional Bank of Hawaii with offices in Oahu, Kailua-Kona, and Honolulu; and the nationally known AXA Advisors with an office in Honolulu. Odds are you will be applying at one or more of them to get established in the industry, even though your eventual goal may be to operate on your own, so do your research on which might be the best fit!

How to Obtain a Stockbroker License in Hawaii

Broker-dealer agents must register with the Commissioner of Securities under the Hawaii Uniform Securities Act. Registration through FINRA’s Central Registration Depository (CRD) is required as well. Stockbrokers in Hawaii must successfully pass either the Series 63 or the Series 66 state examinations in combination with one of the FINRA examinations, usually the Series 6 or 7 depending on the products they plan to work with.

FINRA requires two kinds of continuing education of its broker-dealer agents. The first, the Regulatory Element, consists of a computer-based refresher course taken at the 24-month anniversary of original licensure and then every 36 months for the remainder of the agent’s career. The Firm Element, the second part of the continuing education requirement, involves firm-based training that covers topics that include industry changes that impact sales protocols, and new regulatory developments that influence the sale of certain securities or financial products.

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

The Department of Commerce: Insurance Division regulates life insurance producers, many of whom offer retirement planning services by selling annuities. A life/annuity specific examination administered through one of the Pearson VUE testing centers located on each island (Honolulu, Kamuela, Kapaa, and Kahului) must be passed. Once licensed, insurance producers must maintain that license by fulfilling continuing education requirements of 21 hours every two years, with three of those hours being in an ethics or law course.

Because a variable annuity contract is a hybrid with both insurance and securities features, if licensed life producers in Hawaii wish to become variable life/annuity agents, they must seek licensure through both the Division of Insurance and the Division of Securities of Hawaii’s Department of Commerce. Registration through FINRA’s CRD is necessary, which involves passing the Series 6 or the Series 7 Exams. Continuing education requirements of both the Division of Insurance and of FINRA must be met to maintain this variable life/variable annuity license.