As the home state to the Oracle of Omaha, billionaire founder of Berkshire Hathaway Warren Buffett, you might consider the Cornhusker State as a sort of Mecca for financial planning. Few people have done more to add to the luster of traditional value-based investing that Buffet and his partner, Charlie Munger… both of them born and raised in Omaha.
Whether it’s something in the water or just the good natural sensibilities of plain-spoken Midwesterners, there’s something around here that seems to make for people who can take a look at complicated investment options and figure out the right approach to profit from them.
Financial planners, after the right training and schooling, can hone that natural sensibility into a set of skills that can be used for clients as well. For everything from helping plan for a secure retirement to building up a bundle of savings to pay for a child’s college education, financial planners can make a real difference in people’s lives with those skills.
They can also make a really great living themselves. The median annual wages for personal financial advisors in 2019 according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics were nearly $90,000 per year, going up into the $95,000 range in some hot industries like securities and commodities. And, according to the state’s Office of Labor Market Information, demand for those jobs will be increasing in the state over the next couple of years… increasing by more than 3 percent between 2019 and 2021, while related positions in insurance sales and securities brokers go up nearly as much.
Is one of those positions going to be right for you? Well, with the right kind of education, you can get into almost any specialty or focus on any type of wealth management and planning in Nebraska. The only thing you need to decide is if you have some of that Buffett-touch yourself!
Getting The Right Education to Become a Financial Planner in Nebraska
No matter what your natural financial instincts look like, you’ll need to get a formal college education to really hone them. Financial instruments and technology have advanced a long way, and the complicated nature of individual goals and planning processes takes a skillset that you can’t just pick up on the job anymore.
Because of that, both potential employers and clients will be weighing your education before you can even get your foot in the door in the industry. College credits are also a basic requirement for many of the professional certifications that are needed to advance past the front ranks of the profession as well.
Bachelor’s Degrees for Financial Planners
A four-year bachelor’s degree is considered entry level in the financial field. But there’s not just one single option; you can get into financial planning with a whole array of different degree types under your belt, including:
- Bachelor in Financial Planning
- Bachelor in Financial Services
- Bachelor in Accounting
- Bachelor in Business
- Bachelor in Trust and Wealth Management
All of them come with a certain set of domain-specific knowledge that you will put to good use professionally, along with a lot of softer skills that are just as important but which you probably haven’t considered as much: critical-thinking, problem-solving, communications, social skills, and the kind of general knowledge that can help you evaluate both clients and potential investments quickly and accurately.
One thing to ensure is that you attend a CFP Board-Registered program, however. The CFP, or Certified Financial Planner, is one of the most important professional certifications available in the field today. It’s only awarded to individuals who have covered a specific nine subjects in the course of their studies, with a particular amount of credit-hours of study. CFP Board-Registered programs are guaranteed to include that requirement.
Master’s Degrees for Financial Planners
If you are really interested in following in Warren Buffett’s footsteps, you’ll start looking at master’s degree programs not long after you complete your bachelor’s. Buffett earned a Master of Science in Economics from Columbia when he was only 21. It’s not the only key to his success, but it’s an important one, and a similar degree can help you, too.
That’s because master’s degrees offer the opportunity to drill down deep into the core theory and practices of your chosen subject. Whether it’s in economics, finance, business, or financial planning, a master’s program takes on the hardest problems of the field and helps you break them down for an innate understanding of how things work. You study with some of the finest minds in the field and have the opportunity to engage in original research of your own, investigating new topics and breaking ground in a way that is sure to impress potential employers and high-net-worth clients.
CFP Board-Registered programs are available at this level also, so you have the opportunity to get qualified if you are switching in from a different career path or otherwise didn’t cover those subjects at the undergrad level.
Selecting an Accredited Degree Program
A speciality accreditation from one of these three organizations is considered important for most types of business and accounting degrees, including most finance degrees:
- Accreditation Council for Business Schools and Programs (ACBSP)
- International Assembly for Collegiate Business Education (IACBE)
- Association to Advance Collegiate Schools of Business (AACSB)
Although pretty much any reputable American university is regionally accredited for its capabilities at offering an effective general education, these particular organizations offer specialized accreditations that focus exclusively on business and accounting topics. They each have close ties with the American business community, which allows them to assess programs for their fitness to produce graduates with the kind of knowledge and skills that businesses are demanding today.
Enrolling in a FinTech Bootcamp for Financial Planning
A college education is critical in your path to becoming a financial planner, but it’s not the end of that journey. Many new developments are happening in the finance industry almost daily, and if you don’t keep up with current innovations, you’ll find yourself being left behind.
Many of those developments today are centered in financial technology, or fintech, and that’s why a fintech bootcamp can make a lot of sense to help get you up to speed in this exciting but demanding area.
Bootcamps aren’t quite as brutal as the name implies, but they are incredibly intellectually demanding. You’ll be learning a lot of new tools and techniques in a very short period of time—weeks or months—without a lot of the build-up and theoretical base that a conventional college education comes with. You learn on the fly, through a series of realistic projects that use live financial data, and teach concepts such as:
- Advanced Excel analysis
- Financial programming in Python
- Machine learning and artificial intelligence analytical techniques
- Blockchain applications like Ethereum and Solidity
It’s all hands-on, completed with other students in your cohort, and with the guidance of instructors who are fresh from the industry themselves and well-versed in the latest developments.
You can find fintech bootcamps that are offered in person or online, and in full or part-time formats. While once bootcamps were primarily the province of private companies, you can increasingly find major colleges offering them, such as the Northwestern FinTech Boot Camp and the Rice University FinTech Boot Camp, both available to Nebraska residents.
Going with a college program offers you some advantages:
- Considerable resources backed by a big-name, well-funded school
- Professional instructors
- Experienced career services teams
And the part-time, online format delivers a lot of flexibility for students who are still holding down a job or personal obligations at home. It’s a good way to give your career a boost or make a big switch, putting you right in the heat of the action in financial planning today.
Adding a Professional Certification to Boost Your Qualifications as a Financial Planner
A professional certification is something you will almost certainly be expected to pick up not long after you get into financial planning as a career. Certifications are available in all kinds of different specialty areas in the field, such as:
- 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
You’ll notice that each of them includes at least some college education as a requirement. For the CFP, that’s even more stringent—you have to cover the required 9 subjects in no less than 15 credits before you will qualify to take the certification exam. But there are certificate programs available to let you catch up on those studies even if you have already finished your regular college education.
All of these certifications will build your reputation and trust with both employers and potential clients, unlocking the doors to higher levels of practice in the industry.
How to Obtain an Investment Adviser License in Nebraska
The State of Nebraska Department of Banking and Finance regulates investment adviser (IA) firms and investment adviser representatives (IAR) working with residents of the state. Prospective IAs and their representatives process registration through the Financial Industry Regulatory Authority’s (FINRA’s) IARD (Investment Advisor Registration Depository) or CRD (Central Registration Depository) systems.Under the Nebraska Administrative Code, IA firm principals and representatives must pass the North American Securities Administrators Association’s (NASAA’s) Series 65 (Uniform Investment Adviser Licensing) examination, or a combination of the Series 7 (General Securities Representative) examination and the Series 66 (Uniform Combined State Law) examination.
Almost all the nationally recognized investment adviser firms have offices in Nebraska, as do some regional IAs. Among these is Waddell & Reed, Ameriprise Financial, John Hancock Financial Network, and American First Investment Advisors, all with offices in Omaha. You’re more likely than not to start off at one of these big retail firms to get your foot in the door. However, Nebraska is a fine place to strike out on your own as an advisor once you get established in the field, or you can look to become an advisor at one of the more elite, smaller, boutique firms in the state.
How to Obtain a Stockbroker License in Nebraska
Agents of broker-dealers are regulated by the State of Nebraska Department of Banking and Finance, and must be registered through the FINRA Central Registration Depository (CRD). Passing the Uniform Securities Agent State Law Examination (Series 63) or the Uniform Combined State Law Examination (Series 66) is required, in addition to one of the following product-specific exams: General Securities Representative Exam (Series 7), Investment Company/Variable Contracts Limited Representative Exam (Series 6), or the Direct Participation Programs Limited Representative Exam (Series 22).
There are two components to continuing education (CE) for securities agents. FINRA and NASAA specify that all agents must take a computer-based course, called the Regulatory Element, after being registered for two years, then again every three years thereafter, as it is frequently updated. Firms must offer all agents the Firm Element component of CE, which consists of yearly in-house training that focus on industry changes that influence products and related sales practices.
How to Obtain a License to Sell Life Insurance and Fixed Annuities in Nebraska
The Nebraska Department of Insurance regulates life and annuities insurance producers in the state. The state’s insurance licensing exam for the life and annuities line, given by Prometric testing centers, must be passed upon completion of the education module. Study materials and other information regarding scheduling and test procedures can be found on the Prometric website.
Agents who are interested in offering more financial planning products often choose to sell variable contracts. This requires a securities license that may be pursued either after obtaining a life and annuities license or in tandem when applying for a life and annuities license. Variable contracts applicants are expected to pass the Series 6 and 63 examinations or the Series 7 and 66 examinations.
Continuing education requirements of both the Nebraska Department of Insurance and FINRA apply to licensed variable contracts producers. You’ll need a total of 24 hours for each renewal period, which must include 3 hours of ethics training, and all of it from state-approved programs.