Becoming a Financial Planner in Oregon

Oregon is a hidden gem in the Pacific Northwest that won’t make the front pages in stories about skyrocketing home valuations or high-tech millionaires, but manages to have a fair share of both while continuing to be a livable, interesting, mellow place to settle down. The climate is mild and the nature spectacular, and both small-town living and big-city amenities are available to suit all tastes.

That attracts a certain sort of individual, the kind of person who is both laid-back but responsible, someone who likes to enjoy life but isn’t prepared to throw caution to the wind for a few kicks. The kind of person, in other words, who is likely to hire a financial planner.

You can read that particular predilection right in the numbers; the Oregon Employment Department forecasts a nearly 4 percent increase in the number of financial planning positions in the state by 2021.

There are probably a number of major trends driving that number north. Both in Oregon and around the country, the Baby Boom generation is rapidly headed toward retirement, and their thoughts are turning toward their financial readiness for those golden years. According to the U.S. Census Bureau, the percentage of the Oregon population that is over 65 years of age as of 2019 was a little over 18 percent, nearly 2 points higher than that of the population of the United States overall.

The state also beats the national rate for high school graduation, with more than 90 percent of Oregonians graduating with a high school diploma. That means a lot of younger folks who will be planning on heading to college soon, but, according to CollegeCalc.com, the average cost of attendance in Oregon is 36 percent higher than the national average. That means financial planning has to happen in new families, too, ensuring that financing for tuition happens early and substantially enough to overcome cost increases.

It’s all work that well-educated financial planners can take on, and it’s work they are well-rewarded to perform: the average salary in 2019 for personal financial planners was $118,840 in Oregon according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. If you’re interested in collecting six figures for fixing other people’s financial problems, read on.

Getting The Right Education to Become a Financial Planner in Oregon

Oregonians place a high value on education, and that’s especially true when it involves someone to whom they will be turning over their life savings. So you had better plan to get a college degree before you try to launch your financial planning career.

Employers, too, want to see a higher education on your resume. Even more importantly, major professional certifications that employers look for, such as the Certified Financial Planner (CFP), require specific amounts and types of college credits. So your path to a profession in financial planning is going to have to run through a quality university.

Bachelor’s Degrees for Financial Planners

At a minimum, you’ll need to earn a bachelor’s degree to be considered even for entry-level positions in the field.

That’s because the four years that you will spend earning it will include a unique blend of major-specific coursework that will prep you in subjects such as economics, finance, basic accounting, and business, together with traditional liberal arts coursework in English, history, social studies, and languages. It might not sound like it’s all relevant to a career in financial planning, but the fact is, your ability to think critically and broadly, assessing conditions as they exist not only in the cool numerical realities of the markets but also through the broader canvas of society, is key to delivering valuable insights as a planner.

The most common majors that people pursue to become planners include financial planning, financial servicing, accounting, and business. Just about any degree will do, however, so long as either the major or minor is a CFP Board-Registered program. The crucial CFP credential requires 15 specific credits in 9 subject areas, which only Board-Registered programs are guaranteed to have.

Master’s Degrees for Financial Planners

Getting your foot in the door is one thing; getting to the top of the profession is something else. That’s going to take a lot more education, in the form of a master’s degree. A master’s is a two-year program that builds on everything you picked up at the bachelor’s level and adds in a heavy helping of additional theory and advanced practical instruction, backed up by independent research and often internships with some of the most prestigious banks and investing firms in the industry.

With the guidance of expert professors, you’ll come out the other end with the kind of knowledge and critical instincts that will make your judgement the thing that both individual clients and major employers will want on their team. That’s the path to working with high-value clients and rising to the top of regional and national planning firms.

Selecting an Accredited Degree Program

At every level, it’s important that you select the right kind of degree program. And in a specialized area like financial planning, that means looking for a school or program that holds a specialty accreditation from one of these three organizations:

The blessing from one of these agencies is considerably different than the general accreditation that almost all U.S. universities already hold. While those general accreditations already tell you that the university has the kind of resources, standards, and staff to deliver a quality education, it doesn’t tell you anything about the type of education or the expertise in specific subjects.

By choosing a degree or college that holds a specialty accreditation, you know that you are getting the kind of knowledge and training that is right in line with what is practiced by and expected in the larger American business community.

Enrolling in a FinTech Bootcamp for Financial Planning

Even if you go on to earn a master’s degree, don’t imagine that you will instantly know all there is to know about the highly complex field of finance. New tools and techniques are being developed all the time, and the only way you can stay ahead is by continuing to study and improve your base of information.

Today, some of the hottest advances are happening in the field of fintech, or financial technology. With a combination of information technology and financial acumen required, it’s a hard specialty to break into. But you can take a shortcut by enrolling yourself in a fintech bootcamp.

Bootcamps are exactly as tough and demanding as they sound. You won’t have to make any ruck marches at dawn, but you had better be up and in class on time, and you’d better be awake and paying attention as experienced instructors drill down into subjects such as:

  • Advanced Excel analysis
  • Financial programming libraries for Python
  • AI and machine learning techniques for financial processing
  • Cryptocurrency and blockchain technologies
  • Solidity smart contracts

You learn it all not by listening to droning lectures and reading through boring textbooks, but instead in a series of actual development and analysis projects, often using real-world data and pursuing realistic goals. It’s all done in cooperation with your cohort of fellow students, all of whom are as driven and thirsty as you are—which means you’ll push each other harder and faster than learning on your own.

While bootcamps used to be offered only by private companies and only on a full-time, on-site basis, today you can find more and more options that are offered by prestigious universities and are available part-time and online to more easily fit your schedule. Two that are available to Oregon students are:

University-driven bootcamps have a deep well of resources and professional instructors to draw on, and they can tap experienced career services teams to help build your interviewing skills, your resume, and your project portfolio to make potential employers swoon. Whether you are angling for a new position or promotions with your current employer, a fintech bootcamp can make it happen.

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

After a couple years in the industry, you’ll note that people will start looking for a series of extra letters after your name on business cards, resumes, and office doors. Letters like:

  • ChFC (Chartered Financial Consultant) – Requires 27 semester credit hours in specified courses, although not a completed degree, plus 3 years experience
  • CIC (Chartered Investment Counselor) Not required; however, must hold a CFA, plus 5 years experience
  • CFA (Chartered Financial Analyst) Hold 4 years combined professional and/or university experience
  • CFP (Certified Financial Planner) – Hold a bachelor’s degree, plus 3 years experience
  • PFS (Personal Financial Specialist) Have 75 hours personal financial planning education; also, hold a CPA, which requires a degree, plus 2 years experience

Those are the indicators that you hold some of the most important professional certifications in the business, and you’ll notice that all of them require some combination of experience and education, along with an exam to prove your knowledge, and stringent ethical and professional standards to fill. When you’re angling to be responsible for managing other people’s money, you need to demonstrate you are both trustworthy and capable, and that’s what these certifications accomplish.

The CFP is among the most stringent, requiring not only a bachelor’s degree, but also the specific study of 15 credits of mandatory coursework. If you didn’t get that through a Board-Registered program in your bachelor’s or a master’s program, you can still pick them up to qualify through a Board-Registered certificate program.

How to Obtain an Investment Adviser License in Oregon

The Oregon Division of Financial Regulation is charged with the task of registering and licensing investment adviser (IA) firms and representatives (IAR) who work in the state. Prospective firm principals and IARs of both state and federal-level firm registrants process registration through the Financial Industry Regulatory Authority’s (FINRA’s) IARD (Investment Advisor Registration Depository) system.

Exam requirements for becoming an investment adviser in Oregon include passing the Series 65 exam, or the Series 66 exam along with the Series 7. Exemptions from taking these examinations may be granted to those who have been licensed as IARs in any other state within the past two years, or for those who hold one of these professional designations:

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

Investment adviser firms that are internationally, nationally, and regionally recognized have a presence in Oregon. You’ll probably end up working for one of these, like U.S. Bank, or Umpqua, at least initially, but it’s perfectly possible to license your own IAR firm in the state and go into business for yourself once you have amassed the experience and the client list to make a go of it.

How to Obtain a Stockbroker License in Oregon

Stockbrokers, otherwise known as securities salespersons, must register with the Oregon Division of Finance and Corporate Securities through FINRA’s Central Registration Depository (CRD). Prospective stockbrokers must obtain passing scores on the Series 7 product exam as well as on either the Series 63 or Series 66 state law exam. Employment with an Oregon-licensed broker-dealer firm is also required.

All securities salespersons must fulfill NASAA and FINRA continuing education requirements. The Regulatory Element portion of CE acts as a regulatory refresher for salespersons. It is taken at the first two-year mark of a registered rep’s original licensing date, then every three years thereafter so as to keep reps current on the evolving regulatory environment of the financial industry. The firm provided, Firm Element portion of CE, is offered as in-house training to keep salespersons abreast of regulatory developments in the context of product knowledge and sales strategies.

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

The Division of Financial Services also licenses life insurance/annuity producers in the state. These producers often work as financial planners since fixed annuities and life insurance are among the most common financial planning products sold in America. Twenty hours of pre-licensing training is required before sitting for the state exam. You’ll then schedule and pass an examination specific to the life insurance line of authority through the third-party proctoring service PSI, and, if you pass, be granted licensure as an Oregon life insurance producer.

Candidates who hold the CLU-Chartered Life Underwriter professional designation or who have been licensed in another state in the same line of authority may be exempt from Oregon’s pre-licensing training and examination requirements. Twenty-four hours of continuing education, with three hours in ethics, must be taken every two years to maintain this license in Oregon.

Selling variable products, which include a stock market component, requires securities dealer registration, which involves passing either the Series 6 or 7 exams, along with the Series 63.

Continuing education requirements of both FINRA and the Oregon Insurance Division apply to variable life and variable annuity producers.