Becoming a Financial Planner in Rhode Island

Rhode Island’s reputation over the years has been a state deeply involved in gritty manufacturing and industrial work, with famed output in both textile and shipbuilding industries emerging from our shores ever since Revolutionary times.

But as the national economy has shifted, so has that of Rhode Island, and today even many residents would be surprised to learn that the largest industry in the state is now health services. As a fast-growing, highly-lucrative industry, healthcare has been enriching many residents of the Ocean State, and consequently, many of them have been looking to professional financial planners to figure out what to do with their assets.

Rhode Island comes in among the top 20 states in terms of the ratio of millionaire households to total population according to a 2017 report from Phoenix International, so there are plenty of assets that need managing here. Investing and tax-optimization planning weigh heavily on the minds of folks who suddenly find themselves with big bills from the IRS and piles of money that need to be productive.

There’s also some reason to think that Rhode Islanders may be becoming more focused on the long-term outcomes of their finances. The state’s population, as with most states, is increasingly composed of people nearing or entering into retirement. According to U.S. Census numbers from 2019, 17.7 percent of citizens are already over the age of 65, a full percentage point greater than the proportion in the country overall.

As they get closer to those golden years, those folks are taking a look at the economic uncertainty which is gripping the markets and realizing they need professional advice to maximize their returns and minimize their risks in order to live comfortably after they leave the workforce. And that’s a job that is tailor-made for professional and well-educated financial planners.

Those are the kinds of answers you’ll come up with if you build your planning career in the state, along with other matters of financial concern, such as estate and trust planning, setting aside money for higher education, or insuring and guarding against unexpected losses. But before you can give your answers to clients, you’ll need to find them for yourself, by getting the right education to enter the industry.

Getting The Right Education to Become a Financial Planner in Rhode Island

Financial planners today are expected to take the time to formally prepare themselves for the job through a college education. In years past, it was just as common to get into the industry through a sort of apprenticeship, getting a foot in the door at a big advisory firm and working your way up the ladder as you learned on the job.

In the modern environment, finance takes more education to master. The industry expects you to earn a college degree; most of the major professional certifications that you’ll want to earn require college credits, employers look for it on your resume, clients want to see it hanging on your wall. So your first step to becoming a financial planner will be picking the right degree and the right school to get it from.

Bachelor’s Degrees for Financial Planners

That starts off at the four-year bachelor’s degree level. A bachelor’s is the minimum qualification for most employers and for important certifications like the Certified Financial Planner (CFP) awarded by the CFP Board… so long as you earn it from a CFP Board-Registered program, which will include a required 15 credits in 9 specific subjects that are mandated as part of the CFP qualifying process.

Beyond such particulars, however, you’re largely free to pick whatever sort of degree you feel would be most applicable in your career plans. Some of the most popular include:

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

All of them have the requisite combination of financial, economic, business, and accounting education combined with a traditional course of liberal arts classes, subjects like communications, social studies, languages, and history. While those might not seem important, in fact they play a relevant role in giving you the kind of critical thinking skills and judgement that are vital in financial planning.

Master’s Degrees for Financial Planners

Not everyone is content to stop at the bachelor’s level. If your ambition is to aim high, to get the wealthiest clients, to work in the most interesting positions, to make the big judgements in major national firms, then you are probably also looking at earning a two-year master’s degree.

Master’s programs are available in all the same subject areas as bachelor’s, but they eschew the liberal arts elements that you have already picked up as an undergrad and dive instead into the complexities of your professional focus area. They do it with readings and discussion in advanced topics, realistic project assignments, internships at important firms, and through directed or independent research that allows you to break new ground in discussions of complicated financial planning topics.

You’ll get the chance to earn your required CFP qualifications at this level also, if you are transitioning in from a different career field or simply didn’t go with a CFP Board-Registered program the first time around.

Selecting an Accredited Degree Program

At both the bachelor’s and the master’s levels, you’ll have to do a bit of extra work to ensure you are getting a sufficiently business-oriented education. While almost all American colleges possess a general accreditation attesting to their academic credentials, resources, and general qualities as institutions of higher learning, those that offer business degrees often go one level further: earning a specialty accreditation from one of these three agencies:

Unlike general accreditors, those organizations take a closer look at the business and accounting-specific aspects of programs… instructor qualifications, the local business ties the school maintains, the kind of resources and curriculum it has. They ensure that each of those elements match the high expectations of the American business community… which means their graduates, like you, will do so as well.

Enrolling in a FinTech Bootcamp for Financial Planning

No matter what level of education you progress to, you will never stop learning as your career advances in financial planning. The entire field is constantly in motion, and faster now than ever. If you don’t take steps to keep up, you’ll find yourself on the bottom rungs again.

So taking steps like enrolling in a fintech bootcamp will be an important part of your continuing education. Fintech is one of the hottest areas in finance right now, advancing so quickly that college programs can’t keep up. Bootcamps, which are light on their feet and fast-paced, taking only weeks or months to graduate each cohort, can keep their curriculum relevant and focused. Their instructors come straight from the field and have all the latest tips and tricks up their sleeves to pass along.

Bootcamps don’t follow collegiate instructional models, either. You learn by doing, usually through a series of projects that take real-world scenarios and data and ask you to provide solutions, using tools and techniques such as:

  • Advanced Excel analysis
  • Python programming and popular financial libraries
  • Machine learning and AI analysis of financial and economic models
  • Cryptocurrency and blockchain tech

There are a wide variety of organizations offering bootcamps these days and you will find them available in both full and part-time formats, either in-person or online. In the online arena, these three part-time programs are good examples:

Although they are run by colleges, they are just as fast-paced and up-to-date as other bootcamp programs. They enjoy additional advantages, however, in access to resources, professional instructors, and skilled career services teams to help you polish up your resume, make your interview skills shine, and even set up career day events or provide contacts at major hiring firms. Whether you are boosting your current career path or looking to change things up, a bootcamp is a fast and affordable path to keep yourself current and in-demand.

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

Another aspect of establishing your bona fides as a financial planner will involve earning professional certifications in the field. These are third-party, objective assessments that weigh your educational achievement, current knowledge, and experience in order to offer a stamp of approval in certain specific areas of practice, 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

Both employers and clients look to these certifications as an important qualification of your capabilities and ethical conduct, so you will definitely want to pursue one or more of them as you accumulate the requirements.

The CFP is among the more challenging to earn, requiring not only the bachelor’s degree but also specific coursework along the way. If for some reason you got through your college career without earning the required credit hours in subjects like ethics, estate planning, and more, you can find CFP Board-Registered certificate programs that will get you qualified without having to go back to school again.

How to Obtain an Investment Adviser License in Rhode Island

The Rhode Island Department of Business Regulation Securities Division oversees the registering and licensing process for investment adviser (IA) firms and investment adviser representatives (IAR) who work with residents of the state and manage client assets that total less than $100 million. Both state and federal level IAs and their representatives are registered through the Financial Industry Regulatory Authority’s (FINRA’s) IARD (Investment Advisor Registration Depository).

Examinations that must be passed in order to qualify for licensure include the Uniform Investment Adviser Law Examination (Series 65) by itself, or the General Securities Representative Examination (Series 7) along with the Uniform Combined State Law examination (Series 66). You may be eligible for a waiver for those tests if you are combining legal and investment advising and already have a JD, or if you hold one of the following professional certifications:

  • Certified Financial Planner (CFP)
  • Chartered Financial Consultation (ChFC)
  • Certified Financial Specialist (CFS)
  • Chartered Investment Counselor (CIS)

Some of the world’s most recognized investment adviser firms have offices in Rhode Island, such as Edward Jones in Providence, Fidelity in Smithfield and Merrill Lynch & Co., Inc. in Providence, and it’s highly likely you’ll begin your career at one of them to accumulate experience and build up your client list at least initially. After that, you may hope to land a position at a more upscale boutique firm, either regional or local, or perhaps even try your hand at running your own shop.

How to Obtain a Stockbroker License in Rhode Island

Stockbrokers who solicit clients in the state are also licensed by the Securities Division and registered through the FINRA Central Registration Depository (CRD).

Examinations that must be passed include the Series 63 or the Series 66 examinations, and either the Series 2 or the Series 7 exam, or each individual exam administered by FINRA or another self regulatory organization (SRO) that relates to the stockbroker’s proposed activities.

The North American Securities Administrators Association (NASAA) and FINRA expect all securities representatives to fulfill continuing education (CE) mandates. After two years of registered service, agents must take the Regulatory Element of CE. This must be taken every three years subsequently to keep up to date on the industry’s regulation changes. The Firm Element of CE must be provided by the employing broker-dealer firm, and consists of in-house training designed to keep representatives current on changes related to risk factors associated with investments, regulatory requirements, and sales.

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

The Rhode Island Department of Business Regulation’s Insurance Regulation Division licenses life insurance producers in the state who also offer fixed annuities. Licensure is handled through the NIPR (National Insurance Producer Registry), like most states. In order to qualify, you’ll have to pass an exam conducted by Pearson VUE, an independent testing proctor will locations available around the state.

Continuing education requirements in Rhode Island include 24 hours every two years, with at least three of those hours being in ethics courses.

Licensed life insurance producers in Rhode Island may seek FINRA registration if they wish to offer variable life and variable annuity products. This requires passing of the Series 6 or Series 7 examinations. Continuing education requirements of FINRA and of the Insurance Regulation Division apply to these dually registered producers.