Becoming a Financial Planner in New Jersey

If you’re not from New Jersey, you might not realize it, but there is a lot of money bubbling up around the Garden State. In a 2017 survey by Phoenix International, the state ranks second in the U.S. for the ratio of households worth more than 1 million dollars to overall population.

Located right on the doorstep of the major financial capital of the globe, maybe it’s no big surprise that a lot of professionals who make their money on Wall Street and in the big city look for more relaxing areas to live in. New Jersey definitely fits the bill, and the distribution of financial planners in the state seems to reflect that reality as well… according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the New York/Newark/Jersey City metropolitan area has the highest employment level for financial planners of any metro in the country… more than 26,000 planners are employed in the area, with an annual mean wage of $165,830. That’s the fifth highest paying region in the country.

As befits the center of modern finance, you’ll find a wide array of both lucrative and interesting jobs in financial planning both in Northern New Jersey and around the state. Professionals here work on retirement planning, building out trust structures and maximizing wealth transfer in estates, or in education funding, structuring investments and specialized instruments to carry forward the funds for a college education. Or they work in lucrative investment service, planning out portfolios to minimize risk and maximize returns, and offering all sorts of wealth management services to those millionaire clients… and some of them, the most elite, working for some of the seven billionaires who Forbes says call New Jersey home as of 2020.

You can climb the ladder to those heights yourself, with the right measure of ambition and education.

Getting The Right Education to Become a Financial Planner in New Jersey

You can bet that no billionaire is going to let someone without a college education within a hundred miles of their investments. And even folks who have a lot less net worth to protect are generally going to prefer a financial planner with some kind of college credit to their name.

So your first stop on the path to a career in financial planning needs to be a reputable and fully accredited university. Not only will you pick up the important knowledge and skills you will use throughout your career there, but you’ll also find that you will qualify yourself for some of the all-important professional certifications that are common in the field of finance.

Bachelor’s Degrees for Financial Planners

You’ll start out with four years of study for a bachelor’s degree. Some of the most common degree titles that financial planners pursue include:

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

There are really no requirements, however. You’re free to put together whatever kind of degree plan you think will work best for you, combining electives and minors to get the breadth of knowledge that you think offers you the best chances for success.

Every bachelor’s program will include a helping of liberal arts courses, studies in history, literature, psychology, and other general subjects that will help you get a well-rounded education and equip you to rub shoulders with the rich and powerful. But it’s also important to look for a degree that is CFP Board-Registered.

That’s because Board-Registered programs are guaranteed to include 15 credits of study in 9 specific subjects, ranging from ethics to trusts, that the CFP Board requires you take before it will award you a Certified Financial Planner (CFP) credential… one of the most highly respected certifications in the industry, and one you will certainly want to acquire.

Master’s Degrees for Financial Planners

A bachelor’s is just entry-level stuff, however. If it’s the top tier of financial planning that you are shooting for, then you’re going to need to go on to acquire a two-year master’s degree in one of those finance-related subjects.

Master’s degrees take the foundation of your bachelor’s programs and put a glittering high-rise edifice of knowledge on it. You study the most advanced theories of the financial world, often exploring them through original research, and in concert with highly respected professors and researchers in the field. You’ll typically take on an internship that allows you to observe experts at work first hand, and to learn from the masters.

And if you missed out on getting your required credits for the CFP, you’ll be pleased to learn that CFP Board-Registered programs exist at this level as well, allowing you to catch up and qualify whether you are advancing your career or switching into financial planning from another field entirely.

Selecting an Accredited Degree Program

Making sure you are getting a first-rate education is the job of accrediting organizations. The basics of college accreditation are conducted by one of six regional accrediting bodies, designated by the Department of Education and the Council for Higher Education Accreditation (CHEA) to evaluate the academic and administrative quality of American universities. Just about every college you will ever have heard of has achieved that level of accreditation.

But for finance and business programs, you need to look a little deeper. Those types of degrees or schools that offer them should also hold an additional specialty accreditation from one of these three accreditors:

Through close ties to the business community, they look at programs through a different lens: they want to ensure that programs are turning out graduates who are well-versed in the latest business and accounting principles, and can drop right in and hit the ground running for any employer. Ensuring you attend a program with their stamp of approval will improve your chances of getting hired right out of school.

Enrolling in a FinTech Bootcamp for Financial Planning

Getting a job in financial planning is just the first step. Keeping up with the latest developments is another story. Today, many of those developments are coming in one specific field: fintech. Financial technology is revolutionizing both business and financial planning, and anyone who is ahead of the curve in this critical area can command some of the highest salaries and most important positions in the industry today.

Attending a fintech bootcamp can turn you into one of those individuals. Bootcamps are every bit as intensive as they sound. It’s a strenuous program lasting for a few weeks or a couple months, but they pack in a ton of information, on subjects such as:

  • Advanced Excel analysis
  • Python programming and financial library use
  • Advanced cryptocurrency applications
  • Blockchain tech like Ethereum
  • Smart contracts in Solidity
  • Machine learning and artificial intelligence in financial analysis applications

All of this comes at you fast and furious from experienced instructors who are drawn straight from the industry. You learn it not in traditional classroom experiences, but rather through a series of active projects that take real-world data and use it to develop solutions similar to what you will be doing on the job. It’s an intensely practical approach to learning, but it’s essential in a fast-paced field where best-practices can change overnight.

You can find a wide variety of private organizations that offer bootcamps, but some of the most interesting choices today in New Jersey come through these part-time, online, university-backed bootcamps:

They offer the same advanced education but with a evening and weekend schedule that is much friendlier to anyone who currently holds a professional position. They also come with all the resources that a well-funded college can deliver, include career services teams who can help you build your interview skills, put together professional portfolios, or even showcase yourself at a career day to potential employers.

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

Another inevitable feature of your career progression in financial planning will be acquiring the right professional certifications to attract employers and high-value clients. More than most industries, finance relies on these third-party assessments of your qualifications to weigh your knowledge, ethics, and capabilities on the job. There are as many certifications as there are specialties in the field, including:

  • 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 all of them require at least some level of college education, along with some real-world experience in the field, and passing a demanding knowledge exam.

The CFP, of course, requires not just the bachelor’s degree, but the necessary coursework in nine subject areas. If you didn’t already take care of that at the bachelor’s or master’s level, you have the option of taking a Board-Registered certificate program that will get you entirely up-to-speed and qualified.

How to Obtain an Investment Adviser Representative License in New Jersey

The New Jersey Division of Consumer Affairs Bureau of Securities is responsible for registering and licensing investment adviser representatives (IAR) serving New Jersey state residents. All aspiring IARs must take either the North American Securities Administrators Association’s (NASAA’s) Uniform Investment Adviser Examination (Series 65 examination), or the FINRA General Securities Representative Examination (Series 7 examination) in combination with the NASAA Series 66 Uniform Combined State Law Examination. Exemptions may be granted on the basis of education, experience and training, or for applicants that hold certain professional designations:

  • CFP (Certified Financial Planner)
  • ChFC (Chartered Financial Consultant
  • PFS (Personal Financial Specialist)
  • CFA (Chartered Financial Analyst)
  • CIC (Chartered Investment Counselor)

Considering the concentration of wealth in the state, it’s no surprise that advisory firms are located across New Jersey. These companies may be global, national or local in reach and include big names like T. Rowe Price Investment Service in Paramus and UBS Financial Services in Jersey City and Weehawken, but also smaller local outfits like Harding Loevner LP in Somerville and Gilford Securities in Morristown. You’re likely to start your career out at one of these larger firms, but IARs with an entrepreneurial spirit often establish and license IA firms of their own through the New Jersey Bureau of Securities after they’ve built up enough experience and a client list to match.

How to Obtain a Stockbroker License in New Jersey

Registered representatives must satisfy exam requirements to be licensed by the New Jersey Bureau of Securities. This involves passing the Series 7 examination. Exam waivers are granted to registered representatives that have at least two years of securities experience and no history of regulatory problems.

Registered reps must also meet the continuing education requirements of the Financial Industry Regulatory Authority (FINRA). After holding a license in New Jersey for two years, registered reps must take the Regulatory Element computerized training program. Once every three years after that, registered reps will take the current version of the program, as it updates regulatory to reflect regulatory changes and market trends. Firms are also obligated to provide annual Firm Element training to their agents based on the assessed needs of the firm. This typically involves training related to sales skills and product knowledge.

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

The New Jersey Department of Banking and Insurance is responsible for licensing life insurance producers who often offer financial planning services by selling annuities. Twenty hours of pre-licensing education must be completed, with courses chosen from New Jersey’s approved education providers. You may get a waiver from pre-licensing requirements if you already hold one of the following certifications, however:

  • Certified Employee Benefits Specialist (CEBS)
  • Chartered Financial Consultant (ChFC)
  • Certified Insurance Counselor (CIC)
  • Certified Financial Planner (CFP)
  • Chartered Life Underwriter (CLU)
  • Fellow, Life Management Institute (FLMI)
  • LUTC Fellow (LUTCF)

After getting your waiver or completing the pre-licensing study, you’ll take the New Jersey insurance examination, which is administered through the third-party exam administration firm, PSI Online.

New Jersey’s insurance licensing period is two years, and renewal requires that you have acquired 24 credits of continuing education during that period, also tracked through PSI. Three credits of that must be in an approved ethics course.

Insurance producers involved in the sale of variable annuities must become licensed through both the New Jersey Department of Banking & Insurance, and the Bureau of Securities. This involves taking the insurance exam as well as NASAA’s Series 6 Investment Company Products/Variable Contracts Limited Representative Exam or the Series 7 General Securities Representative Exam. Continuing education requirements of both FINRA and the Department of Banking and Insurance must be met in order to keep these licenses valid.