Becoming a Financial Planner in Indiana

Hoosiers are, by nature, very unassuming folks. You would never guess that around 130,000 of them, according to a 2017 report by Phoenix International, are actually millionaires. That’s almost five percent of the state, and the number is growing… the state went up by two places in the annual survey since the prior year.

That plainspoken Midwestern approach to wealth has another aspect, one that is of great interest to financial planners: a tendency to carefully manage that hard-won cash.

That may be why Indiana’s Department of Workforce Development projects that the number of financial planning positions in the state will go up by about three percent by 2021, and insurance sales agents, a closely related function, by about the same amount.

Hoosiers value education, too, as evidenced by the fact that around 70 percent of all high school graduates in the state pursue a bachelor’s degree after graduation, according to the Indiana Commission for Higher Education’s 2019 College Readiness Report. As this trend of enrollment is expected to continue in the coming years, college-savings specialists will see an increased demand from Indiana’s families looking to put aside money to grow in tax-deferred and tax-exempt accounts to cover the rising cost of a college education.

And Indiana residents are getting older, too, as the Baby Boom generation heads toward retirement age. According to the U.S. Census, as of 2019 a little over 16 percent of Hoosiers are over the age of 65 already. Both they and their soon-to-be-retired cohort are looking to financial planners for the advice to create and stabilize their nest eggs in uncertain times.

You can be one of those trusted advisors, and earn a solid living in the process, with the right kind of preparation and skills.

Getting The Right Education to Become a Financial Planner in Indiana

That preparation starts with a college degree in almost every case. Today, financial advisors are expected by both their clients and potential employers to have a bachelor’s degree at a minimum. But it’s not just their expectations: you need the kind of knowledge and skills in everything from basic economics to interpersonal communications to succeed in this kind of business.

You’ll also find that most of the industry-standard certifications that are available in the industry demand at least some level of college education.

Bachelor’s Degrees for Financial Planners

The humble bachelor’s degree is all you need to get started in financial planning. But your degree doesn’t have to be specific to the field; there are options ranging from majors in financial services to accounting to trust and wealth management that can all get you started off on the right foot.

What’s important is picking a program that has the right combination of critical thinking and hard economic, business, and accounting principles to hone your planning skills.

One sure way to find programs that will meet those qualifications is to look for CFP Board-Registered bachelor’s degrees. The CFP Board is the body that awards the most widely-recognized and in-demand certification in the financial planning world, the Certified Financial Planner (CFP) credential. They require that you earn 15 college credits in 9 specific types of coursework before you can test for the CFP, so you’ll want to make sure you have your bases covered by getting a degree that meets the standard.

Master’s Degrees for Financial Planners

You can also take care of that obligation at the master’s degree level, the next step up from bachelor’s programs. Although they are awarded in all the same sorts of fields, you’ll find a two-year master’s degree far more intensive and focused on the intricacies of the work you are performing. Master’s graduates are the ones pulling down the big paychecks in the financial planning industry, coming up with the most advanced strategies and making the big decisions.

To get there, you go in hard on the most advanced topics in finance, from stock and options pricing to corporate analysis to tax regulation and public policy. With in-depth research and interactions with some of the finest minds in the profession, you get the confidence and skills to hold your own with the big boys.

Selecting an Accredited Degree Program

Not just any degree will do, however, at any level. While almost every American university that you might seriously consider will hold a general accreditation attesting to their basic academic and organizational quality, financial studies are a bit different: they require schools and programs that have a particular combination of curriculum, instructional quality, and business connections to ensure you graduate with the right skill level to be taken seriously in the financial industry.

You can find those schools and programs by looking for those that hold a specialty accreditation from one of these three agencies:

Each has been recognized by the Council for Higher Education Accreditation (CHEA) as being qualified to assess specialized business and accounting programs of the types you will be looking at.

Enrolling in a FinTech Bootcamp for Financial Planning

A college degree will take you a long way, but it won’t get you quite to the cutting edge. That’s because the most advanced aspects of high finance are always evolving, being developed out in the field by people with skin in the game, blending high technology with high finance in a sub-specialty of the field that’s now being called fintech.

But just because you can’t learn it in school doesn’t mean you can’t learn it somewhere. That’s exactly what fintech bootcamps are for, including these online options that are open to Indiana students:

Although they are backed by big schools and are offered online and part-time, you can find a wide range of bootcamp offerings from all kinds of organizations, aimed at many different proficiency levels. As introductory-level bootcamps, they offer studies in:

  • Advanced Excel and formula-building
  • Python programming
  • Financial library application
  • Machine learning and artificial intelligence
  • Blockchain and cryptocurrencies

All of it comes at you fast, over a course of months at the most, delivered in the form of hands-on projects that you will execute using the kind of tools and techniques that are actively being developed by real working finance professionals every day. Your instructors are drawn from their ranks, their experience getting passed along to you face-to-face, as you work with live data and realistic goals.

Most bootcamps don’t stop with the education angle, however; many of them include advanced career services options, which help you out with getting your resume glossed up, building up a project portfolio, or even setting up career days to allow you to show off your work. It’s a great way to build up your credentials or boost your career prospects.

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

Finance and investing is a highly regulated field, and you’ll probably find yourself taking a lot of tests to comply with those requirements over the years. But in addition to the regulatory angles, it’s a profession that relies on qualifications that are assessed by a variety of professional certifications. Some of those 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

Potential employers and prospective clients are all going to be looking to see if you have these, and you’ll notice that all of them include at least some college education. The crown jewel, the CFP, also requires a certain sequence of credits… and if you didn’t get it during your degree program, you still have a chance afterward. The CFP Board also registers post-baccalaureate certificate programs that will cover those topics so you can make a mid-course career change without going back to school.

How to Obtain an Investment Adviser License in Indiana

The Indiana Securities Division is responsible for registering and licensing investment adviser (IA) firms and representatives (IARs) so as to render them legally able to work in the state of Indiana. Registration through the IARD (Investment Advisor Registration Depository) system is the protocol for both state and federal level IA registrants—which means you.

Indiana law states that anyone working as an investment adviser in the state must first pass the North American Securities Administrators Association’s (NASAA’s) Series 65 (Investment Adviser) examination; or the Series 7 (General Securities Representative) examination in combination with the Series 66 (Uniform Combined State Law) examination.

Major investment adviser firms, which employ many of the investment adviser representatives in Indiana, have offices located throughout the state. They include the usual suspects, like Merril Lynch and Edward Jones, alongside less well-known, but more exclusive shops like Windsor Wealth Management. Someday, one of those hot boutique firms could be yours!

How to Obtain a Stockbroker License in Indiana

Broker-dealer agents, commonly known as stockbrokers, are licensed by the Indiana Securities Division by way of registration through the FINRA-managed Central Registration Depository (CRD). Securities sales gents in Indiana must pass the NASAA Series 7 (General Securities Representative) and Series 63 (Uniform State Law) or Series 66 (Uniform Combined State Law) exams. The Series 24 (General Securities Principal) exam is required for principals of broker-dealer firms operating in the state.

Self regulatory organizations (SROs) like FINRA set standards for the continuing education (CE) of broker-dealer agents. FINRA’s Regulatory Element program must be completed after working as a broker-dealer agent for two years, then every three years throughout the agent’s career. This updated, interactive program helps keep broker-dealer agents abreast of changes in rules, regulations, and standards of practice within the securities industry. The Firm Element program, provided by broker-dealer firms, mandates that all broker-dealer firms supply their agents with training designed to keep them current on subjects related to sales practices and the products in which they deal.

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

The Indiana Department of Insurance (IDOI) regulates life insurance producers working in the state. These licensed life producers may choose to sell fixed annuities, thereby becoming financial planners. Prospective life insurance producers must complete 24 hours of state-approved pre-licensing education, which may be self-study or in a live classroom format. IDOI-Authorized pre-licensing providers may be found here. Those with the following professional designations may be exempt from the pre-licensing requirement:

  • Chartered Life Underwriter (CLU)
  • Accredited Advisor in Insurance (AAI)
  • Certified Financial Planner (CFP)
  • Chartered Property and Casualty Underwriter (CPCU)
  • Certified Insurance Counselor (CIC)
  • Chartered Financial Consultant (CFC)

The next step in life insurance producer licensing is to sit for the Indiana state insurance examination. Applicants will be tested on Indiana Laws and Regulations as well as Indiana Statutes pertaining to the life insurance line of authority. Licensing examinations are scheduled through a third party proctoring company, Pearson VUE, with locations throughout the state.

Continuing education (CE) required by IDOI includes 24 hours of CE every two years. Department-approved independent self- study, classroom, computer based, and online courses are generally acceptable.

Licensed life insurance producers interested in becoming variable annuity agents must become licensed as securities sales agents, which means passing the Series 6 or the Series 7 Exams. The continuing education requirements of both the governing SRO and the IDOI must be met in order to maintain variable contract licensure.