Becoming a Financial Planner in Washington

The U.S. Bureau of Economic Analysis reported in 2010 that Washington’s average per capita personal income ranked 13th when compared with all other states. In 2007, Forbes magazine reported that Washington was home to ten of the richest individuals in the United States, including the person holding the top spot on the list: Microsoft founder, Bill Gates, who has an estimated net worth of $56 billion. According to the U.S. Census Bureau’s 2010 American Community Survey, one of the wealthiest areas in Washington state is the Clyde Hill neighborhood on Seattle’s east side, where over 62 percent of households had yearly incomes of $150,000 or more. In nearby Yarrow Point, nearly 57 percent of households had incomes of $150,000 or more. Financial planners in the many affluent upper middle class areas of Western Washington find no shortage of clients among the wealthy families and individuals who turn to professionals for portfolio management and investment advisory services.

Washington State’s Office of Financial Management predicts that by 2015, 13.86 percent of the state’s total population will be age 65 and over. By 2030, 19.5 percent of Washington’s population is expected to fall within this age range. The growth of Washington’s retirement-age population highlights the growing demand for financial planners who specialize in helping people resolve the unique challenges associated with retirement planning and retirement savings management. Counties within the state that are expected to see the most growth in the 65-and-over segment, and that are expected to drive much of the demand for retirement planning services, are not necessarily the most affluent areas of the state: Asotin, Clallam, Columbia, Ferry, Garfield, Island, Jefferson, Mason, San Juan, Pacific, and Pend Oreille counties.

The College Board notes that in 2005-06, nearly half of all high school graduates in Washington immediately enrolled in college. The higher education advocacy group, Lumina Foundation for Education, reported that 42 percent of Washingtons’s adults hold an associate’s degree or higher. This data suggests that Washington offers a strong market for college planning services, as many middle-income families in the state are looking to the future by setting aside money to pay for the increasing cost of a college education.

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How to Obtain an Investment Adviser License in Washington

Investment adviser (IA) firms and their representatives (IARs) who advise Washington residents must register with the Washington State Department of Financial Institutions Division of Securities, or the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC), dependent on the amount of client assets they have under management. Firms that manage in excess of $100 million qualify for federal SEC registration, while those that manage less than this would register with the state. In both instances, the Financial Industry Regulatory Authority’s (FINRA’s) IARD (Investment Advisor Registration Depository) system is used.

Those interested in becoming financial planners in Washington licensed as Investment adviser firm principals or representatives must pass the Series 65 Uniform Combined State Law Exam by itself, or a combination of both the Series 7 General Securities Representative and Series 66 Uniform Securities Agent State Law exams.
Applicants that hold one of the following designations or who were registered as an IAR in another state within the past two years, are exempt from taking these exams:

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

Investment adviser firms located in Washington include MetLife in Bellevue; CUSO Financial Services, LP in Tacoma; Country Financial in Tacoma, Wenatchee and Spokane; as well as Russell Investment Group, Towers Watson, and Brokerage Consultants, Inc., all with offices in Seattle.

How to Obtain a Stockbroker License in Washington

Stockbrokers must register with the Washington State Department of Financial Institutions Division of Securities through the FINRA-operated Central Registration Depository (CRD). These securities sales agents must pass the Uniform Securities Agent State Law Exam (Series 63) or the Uniform Combined State Law Examination (Series 66), in addition to the proper product-specific examination for the products they’ll be selling. For general securities agents, this would be the Series 7 Exam.

FINRA requires continuing education that includes two components:

  • The Regulatory Element consisting of a course taken after 24 months of licensure and every 36 months thereafter for the remainder of the registered rep’s career.
  • The Firm Element, provided in-house by the securities firm, keeps reps abreast of regulatory changes in the context of products and sales strategies.

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

The Washington State Office of the Insurance Commissioner licenses life insurance producers, who also sell fixed annuities. Before taking an examination, pre-licensing education (PLE) of 20 hours per line of authority is required. Washington-approved PLE providers may be found here. Aspiring producers may then take the Washington licensing exam given by Pearson VUE.

Once licensed, 24 hours of continuing education, including three hours of ethics, must be taken biannually to keep these licenses current.

If a life insurance producer would like to sell variable life products or variable annuities in Washington, additional licensure and registration as a securities dealer is required. This means passing either the Series 6 or the Series 7 securities exams would be compulsory.

Since a variable contracts license combines insurance licensure and securities registration, continuing education mandates of both the Office of the Insurance Commissioner and the governing self regulatory organization (SRO) must be met during respective renewal cycles.