Becoming a Financial Planner in New York

Shocked by two financial crises in barely more than a decade, anyone with two dimes to rub together is looking for ways to protect what they have. And that’s maybe truer here in the financial center of the universe than anywhere else, a place that’s so expensive it sometimes feels like it costs money just to breathe. It takes a lot of planning here for the average person to live above subsistence level. And with the massive amount of personal wealth that’s concentrated here, there’s also a lot of planning to do for the millionaire set with lifestyles on that next level.

The New York Department of Labor expects strong growth in the personal financial planning industry during the current ten-year period leading up to 2026. The Department projects job growth of 15.5% for personal financial advisors, and expects the job market to remain steady for brokers as well.

There is demand for their services everywhere, but the affluent areas where high net worth families turn to professionals for help with estate planning, investment advice, and wealth management services are where fortunes are made. Whether you’re in the city or outside of it, you don’t have to look hard to find those areas.

With a median household income of $111,240, Nassau county has a lot of wealth that needs managing… and, maybe not coincidentally, has a population where around ten percent of the labor force work in finance, insurance, and real estate. But in financial planning, it’s all about who you know – and who the people you know, know – so a little competition isn’t something to shy away from, especially if you have a personal connection of some kind to that world. There are also plenty of other markets that aren’t overrun with competitors; in Putnam County, north of New York City, the median personal income is $102,186, leaving plenty of work on the table for skilled planners.

Financial planners often consider the age and education demographics of an area to be nearly as important as household income. Age-specific wealth management services related to college tuition planning, as well as retirement and estate planning, are the bread and butter of most independent financial planning businesses.

According to the New York State Office of the Aging, the state’s senior citizen population is expected to grow considerably in the coming years. In 2019, the number of New Yorkers over 65 was 3.2 million… a number that, by itself, is more than the entire populations found in about half the states in the country.

More than 35% of New Yorkers held at least a bachelor’s degree in 2018, according to information provided by the U.S. Census Bureau, beating out the national average and highlighting a trend among middle class households. People that go to college are a lot more likely to send their kids to college too, and it’s creating a real demand for professionals familiar with the tax-advantaged college tuition savings plans available in New York.

The bottom line is that between the up-and-coming and the already-arrived, New York has plenty of lucrative work for financial planners.

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

It takes a lot of character and people skills to get to a place where you have clients opening up the books and letting you into their financial lives. But all the firm handshakes, eye contact and salesmanship in the world won’t do anything to preserve and grow assets for your clients. That’s where your degree comes in.

You don’t necessarily need a degree to become a financial planner – there are no SEC or FINRA mandated minimums to qualify for an investment advisor or securities sales agent license. But that’s not to say you don’t need an education—fact is, you’ll need to get your hands on a lot of information and know it cold to do well in this field. And a college degree is the only way to get there.

Bachelors Degrees for Financial Planners

A bachelor’s degree is the key ingredient to earning the CFP (Certified Financial Planner) credential, so most would-be financial planners start out with a four-year education plan. Apart from certain mandatory coursework required by the CFP Board, you have quite a bit of freedom when it comes to what you can major in, with options including:

  • Finance
  • Financial Planning
  • Trust and Wealth Management
  • Accounting
  • Business

Even a completely different major with the appropriate minor in financial planning would do the trick. The CFP Board requires that you cover 15 credit hours in nine specified subject areas, and provides a list of pre-vetted CFP Board-Registered programs.

Masters Degrees in Finance and Financial Planning

A big step up from a bachelors is required for some of the highest-paying positions in the financial services industry. A master’s degree builds on that core four-year education with highly-specialized studies that drive even greater expertise.

Majors at the master’s level run the gamut, from financial analytics that teach you how to take the massive streams of financial data being gobbled-up and processed by investment banks every second and spin it into gold; to CFP Board-Registered programs specifically designed to provide client-facing planners with the 15 credit-hours of specialty instruction required to take the certification exam.

Master’s programs generally accept students with any undergraduate major, though a background in business, finance, and accounting is the most natural fit and typically gets the prerequisites out of the way.

With even general MSF (Master’s in Finance) degrees covering core financial knowledge in risk analysis, financial markets, corporate finance, and statement analysis; adding to it with courses in advanced financial modeling and big data analytics to get you up to speed on the latest tools of the trade, you can expect to come out of a master’s program with the kind of expert knowledge you need for work ranging from back office analytics with the data science squad to private wealth management meetings with high net worth individuals and families.

Selecting an Accredited Degree Program

Although everyone will immediately want to get into a prestigious, big-name school for a finance degree, the reality is that far more people apply than get in. Which means you are likely to end up elsewhere… and there is nothing wrong with that.

But to make sure you are getting the kind of education that will properly equip you for your career as well as earn you the kind of respect and attention that you want from bosses and clients, you need to make sure the degree you choose has the right kind of specialty accreditation.

Each organization has close industry ties that keep their fingers on the pulse of modern American business. That means that when they look at things like curriculum contents, instructor qualifications, and school resources and partnerships, they’re in the best position to understand if those meet the high standards of the financial world. And without meeting those standards, those programs don’t get accredited.

By picking a program that has that stamp of approval, you know you’re getting the right information from well-qualified instructors, and that you’ll be surrounded by other serious students who you can build a life-long network from.

Enrolling in a FinTech Bootcamp for Financial Planning

Attending a fintech bootcamp won’t earn you a degree, but it does offer unparalleled, practical expertise in one of the hottest areas in financial services today.

Bootcamps are non-credit, high-intensity, short-term programs that deliver a practical course of education working with real-world technologies, and data sets so true to life you’d think they were pulled straight from Goldman’s data stores.

Ranging from a few days to several months in length, they leave theory entirely out of the curriculum in favor of applied practice, and usually result in a portfolio of work that you can show off to potential employers.

Even after covering quantitative analysis, financial programming and cutting-edge tools like blockchain and cryptocurrency, you’ll go on to dive all the way in to machine learning applications like algorithmic trading in the Columbia Engineering FinTech Boot Camp. Lasting six months and offered part-time both online and in NYC, you get hands-on experience in subjects like:

  • Time-Series Analysis
  • Blockchain applications like smart contracts and distributed ledgers
  • Using and trading in cyptocurrency
  • Machine learning applications in trading and modeling
  • Financial programming (Python, Pandas, Matplotlib, API Interactions, AWS, SQL)

A full-blown career services department is on tap to help you translate that expertise into job offers through resume writing assistance, interview prep, and portfolio-building. It all combines to make a bootcamp a valuable adjunct to your current college degree, a good place to start your training even if you haven’t earned a degree yet, or even a way to get prepared for a master’s program.

Education Requirements for The Industry’s Most Recognized Credentials

If client-facing wealth management and planning is the life for you, a degree is the way to go. That’s at least partly because some of the most important standard certifications in the industry require a degree, or at least some college courses:

  • Chartered Financial Consultant (ChFC) issued by the American College – 27 semester credit hours in specific courses, plus 3 years experience
  • Chartered Financial Analyst (CFA) issued by the CFA Institute – 4 years combined professional and/or university experience
  • Chartered Investment Counselor (CIC) issued by the Investment Advisor Association Must hold a CFA and have 5 years experience
  • Certified Financial Planner (CFP) issued by the CFP Board – Bachelor’s degree, plus 3 years experience
  • Personal Financial Specialist (PFS) issued by the AICPA – CPA license (which requires college credit hours equivalent to a master’s degree, plus 2 years experience), plus 75 hours personal financial planning education

How to Obtain an Investment Adviser License in New York

New Yorkers interested in becoming financial planners usually register as independent investment advisers (IAs) through the New York Office of the Attorney General’s Investor Protection Bureau after getting some experience in the industry, but typically start out by going to work as investment adviser representatives (IARs) for one of the firms.

While New York does not require IARs to register with the state, both state-registered investment adviser firm principals and IARs who work for those firms must still pass the standard FINRA exams required of anybody providing investment advice as a fiduciary: The Series 65 Exam by itself, or both the Series 66 and Series 7 exams in combination.

Exam waivers may be granted to applicants that already hold one of these designations:

  • Chartered Financial Consultant (ChFC) awarded by the American College
  • Certified Financial Planner (CFP) awarded by the Certified Financial Planner Board of Standards, Inc.
  • Personal Financial Specialist (PFS) awarded by the American Institute of Certified Public Accountants
  • Chartered Investment Counselor (CIC) awarded by the Investment Counsel Association of America, Inc.
  • Chartered Financial Analyst (CFA) awarded by the Association for Investment Management Research

As the financial capital of the world, every investment firm and brokerage with a regional, national or international presence has offices in NYC, and sometimes elsewhere in the state – UBS, Deutsche Bank, and Reid & Rudiger in New York City; Towers Watson in Astoria-Long Island; T. Rowe Price Investment Services in Garden City; and Gilford Securities, which has offices in both Albany and New York City… the list is endless.

How to Obtain a Stockbroker License in New York

The Investor Protection Bureau is charged with licensing and registering financial services professionals, from the traders duking it out on the floor at the NYSE to fiduciaries meeting with clients behind closed doors to discuss multi-generational plans for preserving family wealth. No matter what the role or job title, as long as it involves selling securities or advising clients, finance industry professionals are all required to take some combination of the FINRA exam series to qualify for the privilege.

Dealing in the full, general line of securities traded on the NYSE requires the Series 7 General Securities Registered Representative exam. Stockbrokers who plan to sell commodity futures must pass the Series 3 exam and register with the National Futures Association (NFA) as an Associated Person. Stockbrokers selling specific types of securities may take the Series 6 exam (for mutual funds), the Series 22 exam (for direct participation programs) or the Series 62 exam (to sell corporate securities).

Some registered reps sit for the Series 6 or Series 62 exam to get into production faster, and then take the Series 7 later on.

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

The New York State Department of Financial Services regulates life insurance agents/brokers, who are also qualified to sell fixed annuities. Prospective life insurance producers must first take a 40-hour pre-licensing education course approved by the Department. Next, they would need to pass the New York licensing examination administered by PSI Exams.

Applicants already designated as Chartered Financial Consultants, Chartered Life Underwriters, or those who hold a Master of Science in Financial Services, are exempt from pre-licensing education and Part 1 of the life insurance examination, but are still required to take Part 2 of the exam.

Licensed producers are required to take 15 hours of continuing education approved by the Department every two years as a condition of license renewal.

Those interested in expanding their offerings as financial planners by selling variable annuities must complete the life line of authority licensing process outlined above, and also qualify as security brokers by taking the FINRA Series 6 or Series 7 Exam and the 63 Exam.

Holding an insurance license and a securities license means meeting both FINRA and New York State Insurance Department continuing education requirements during each renewal period.