It’s true that Kentucky is one of the poorest states in the nation, with the 8th lowest median income level in the country and a poverty rate of 16 percent according to Business Insider in 2019. But these are things that make financial planning more important, not less. Kentucky families that are struggling to make ends meet are exactly the people that need sound financial advice, the kind of advice that only a well-trained, well-informed financial advisor can offer.
That’s particularly true for those with kids who are approaching college age, or even younger. The path out of poverty is education, but for families who are already on the bubble, affording a college-level education is becoming harder and harder. In 2019, the Courier Journal reported that funding cuts at public universities were driving up tuition rates by as much as four percent per year at popular schools like the University of Kentucky and the University of Louisville.
In the face of that kind of outlay, strong, disciplined, and achievable savings plans are the only way forward, and only well-educated financial advisors can put them together.
That may be why, despite the low income rates, the Kentucky Center for Statistics forecasts that the number of financial planning jobs in the state will increase by 3.6 by 2021. Insurance sales agents, a closely related field with similar planning capabilities, will go up by even more, 4.5 percent.
And there are definitely high-value pockets of clientele in Kentucky, the kind of folks who will be looking for serious investment advice and estate and trust planning services, and be willing to pay top dollar for them. According to Business Insider in 2019, little Anchorage, just outside Louisville, is the richest town in the state, with a median income of just over $170,000 per year. That gives financial advisors something to work with, and clients who can pay good money for the advice… but only if you have advice worth paying for.
Getting The Right Education to Become a Financial Planner in Kentucky
The way you turn yourself into one of the advisors that has advice worth listening to is through a college degree. Finance and economics are enormously complex fields, and it’s almost impossible today to pick up the essentials that you need to understand them without a formal classroom education. Even if you could get a handle on that part of the job, financial advising involves a lot more than that: customer relationships, sociology, history, and analytical skills are all critical parts of the job, and a modern college education is the only sure way to get them.
Bachelor’s Degrees for Financial Planners
That starts at the bachelor’s level for financial planners. Not only do these four-year, liberal arts degrees cover all your bases for general knowledge and basic math, accounting, and communication skills, but they also include critical college credits that will qualify you for professional certification in the field.
The range of degrees you can pursue and still get into financial planning is vast. Although traditional majors like financial services, accounting, business, and financial planning itself are all on the table, you can also specialized in esoteric areas like trust and wealth management, or even go with something crazy and outside the box like English or psychology.
In any event, either that major or a minor should be from a CFP Board-Registered program. That’s because, in addition to the degree itself being required for a Certified Financial Planner (CFP) credential, the CFP Board mandates 15 credit hours in 9 specific areas, from ethics to estate planning, and Board-Registered programs are guaranteed to include them.
Master’s Degrees for Financial Planners
You may, if you prefer, pick up a CFP Board-Registered program at the master’s level instead. Since many of the most successful financial planners have these advanced two-year degrees, that’s a viable option, or a great choice if you are making a career change, having picked up a bachelor’s that didn’t meet those requirements.
A master’s is more than just punching your ticket for a CFP, though. These are the degrees sought after, and demanded, for the most of the high-level positions in investment and financial planning firms, and by discerning clients who expect the very best in planning services.
That’s because you focus in almost exclusively on your chosen area of study in a master’s program, engaging in original research, high-concept theoretical work, and often internships out in the field that let you put it all to the test. It’s the kind of advanced study that puts the polish on all your experience and knowledge to take you to the elite level of financial planning.
Selecting an Accredited Degree Program
If you hope to learn at any level of college, though, you need to make sure you are learning the right concepts, from the right people, and with the right resources to support you.
That’s what accreditation is about. Independent agencies, themselves evaluated by CHEA, the Council for Higher Education Accreditation, examine colleges and their programs to ensure they have the right instructors, curriculum, and administrative support to offer a solid education to students.
For the most part, general accreditation is a given for major American universities. But in a specialized field like finance, you want to look at additional specialty accreditation status from one of these three agencies:
- Accreditation Council for Business Schools and Programs (ACBSP)
- International Assembly for Collegiate Business Education (IACBE)
- Association to Advance Collegiate Schools of Business (AACSB)
They go beyond general evaluations and look at the business-specific elements of the programs and schools they accredit, ensuring that the education is fit to the standards that the American business community expects today.
Enrolling in a FinTech Bootcamp for Financial Planning
Education can take many forms, and one new one that might interest you is the fintech bootcamp.
Bootcamps are hardcore, intensive training exercises that fall outside the basic college format and deliver a high degree of focus into a short period of time—often only a few weeks or a few months. They stress practical applications and techniques in their subject matter area, eschewing theory for hands-on practice that puts you through the motions of active practitioners in the field today.
For fintech, that means engaging in a series of projects that will teach you subjects like:
- Advanced Excel formulas and analysis
- Python programming and use of financial libraries
- Cryptocurrency and blockchain tech like Ethereum
- Solidity and other smart contract offerings
- AI and machine learning principles
- Advanced technical analysis skills
It all happens in concert with a cohort of dedicated, ambitious students, led by instructors who have real-world experience in the field.
You can find bootcamps offered by a variety of entities, but many colleges are now getting in on the game, with two big names that are available to Kentucky residents coming from the Northwestern FinTech Boot Camp and the Rice University FinTech Boot Camp. Both are part-time, six-month programs and are offered online, making them some of the easier camps to attend for professionals currently at work in the industry.
Like other bootcamps, they come with career services departments who can help you brush up your resume, organize interviews, and show off your portfolio to help you land a job in the industry or advance within your current organization on the basis of your new skills.
Adding a Professional Certification to Boost Your Qualifications as a Financial Planner
Finance is a field where much of the assessment of your qualifications is left to independent agencies and national standards of certification. Some of the biggest certifications in the field 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
Employers will want to see you either hold or at least making progress toward earning these certifications; clients will be reassured when they see those letters after your name. That’s because each attests to a level of knowledge, education, and experience that has proven to be the right combination for successful financial specialists.
The CFP, as noted previously, requires not just a bachelor’s degree, but also the special coursework within the program to qualify you. But you aren’t out of luck if you are coming in from outside the planning field; there are also CFP Board-Registered certificate programs that offer only those required 15 credits of coursework to qualify you if you already hold a bachelor’s.
How to Obtain an Investment Adviser License in Kentucky
Investment adviser (IA) firms and their representatives (IAR) who work with the residents of Kentucky must be registered with the state in accordance with the Kentucky Security Act. State-level registration with the Kentucky Department of Financial Institutions Division of Securities (less than $100 million in assets under management; however, IAs with no office, no IARs, and five or fewer clients in the state are not required to register) as well as federal-level registration through the SEC (more than $100 million in assets under management) is processed through the Financial Industry Regulatory Authority’s (FINRA’s) CRD (Central Registration Depository) system. Under Kentucky law, the North American Securities Administrators Association’s (NASAA’s) Series 65 examination must be passed with a raw score of 94. In lieu of this exam, the Series 7 examination may be taken along with the Series 66 examination (which requires a raw score of 75 to become registered).
Investment adviser firms with global, national and regional presence may be found across the state of Kentucky. Ameriprise Financial, New York Life Insurance Company, and Morgan Stanley Smith Barney all have offices in Louisville. MCF Advisors has an office in Lexington; Fidelity has a location in Covington; and Edward Jones has offices in Frankfort, Lexington, and Louisville. You are likely to start your career at one of those retail shops, but your horizons will open up after you gain experience and certification in the field.
How to Obtain a Stockbroker License in Kentucky
Broker-dealer agents in Kentucky must register with the Kentucky Securities Division through FINRA’s Central Registration Depository (CRD). Prior to registration, either the Series 63 exam (with a raw score of 43) or Series 66 exam (with a raw score of 75) must be passed, along with another product-specific FINRA exam.
All registered broker-dealer agents must fulfill continuing education (CE) requirements specified by their governing SROS. The Regulatory Element of FINRA CE requires all registered agents to complete a training course updating them on amendments to rules, as well as informing them of the creation of new rules and regulations. This must be done within 120 days of the second licensing anniversary, then again every three years after that as this training module is frequently updated to reflect regulatory changes. The Firm Element of CE requires all firms to provide formal training to registered agents. This in-house training usually covers sales strategies and product knowledge.
How to Obtain a License to Sell Life Insurance and Fixed Annuities in Kentucky
The Kentucky Department of Insurance licenses qualified individuals to become life insurance and annuity producers. A 20-hour pre-licensing education course must be completed before taking the state’s insurance licensing exam. Applicants must then submit to a criminal background check. Finally, qualified individuals may take the life insurance licensing exam online at the National Insurance Producers Registry (NIPR).
Once licensed, life insurance producers in Kentucky must complete 24 hours of continuing education (CE) every two years. This CE may be in either classroom or correspondence course format. Three hours of this training must deal specifically with ethics related topics.
Licensed life insurance producers may seek variable contracts licensure in Kentucky, which allows them to sell variable annuities. This requires life producer licensing plus securities sales rep registration, which means applicants must pass either the Series 6 Exam or Series 7 Exam.