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Q. I was reading an interesting MoneySense article entitled, “Should you change careers and become an investment advisor?” and I was wondering where someone can get their qualifications or certifications to become a money coach in Canada. I’ve tried some general web searches but it hasn’t turned up much.
A. Congratulations, Cynthia: You currently have all the education and credentials you need to open a financial planning practice right now, in Ontario. The most important thing for your success is to pick a business name that exudes confidence, experience, and trustworthiness. Something really attractive to unsuspecting clients.
Forgive my sarcastic sense of humour, but the sad truth of it is that while a few organizations, such as The Financial Planning Association of Canada (FPAC) and Money Coaches Canada, uphold specific standards, in Ontario and most other provinces, anybody can call themselves a financial planner, a money coach, or almost any other variation. (Quebec is an exception.)
But I’m getting ahead of myself. You’ve asked about how you can get started in the financial planning industry. And the answer depends on which of the following main pillars of financial planning gets you excited:
- debt management
- wealth management
- insurance and estate planning
- a combination of two or more of the above
Although regulatory requirements in most provinces permit you to provide financial advice or coaching with no education or experience, you’ll need appropriate licensing if you want to provide your clients with financial products such as insurance, mortgages and investments.
My advice is to get both your life insurance license and your securities license. This combination is going to provide you with a good general knowledge of financial planning and set the base from which you can steer your career and education in any direction.
Licensing means taking some investing or personal finance courses, and that comes with some education. You can take the courses on your own or as part of a post-secondary financial planning program.
If you’re interested in investments, I’d recommend taking the Canadian Securities Course, leading to your securities license; that will position you to offer a full range of investment products, not just mutual funds. A larger variety of investment types means:
- more practical learning opportunities for you
- a larger breadth of products to offer your clients
- potentially more business opportunities
Once you have your licenses, it’s time to get experience. You can do that on your own, but for the average person that’ll take some time. Consider applying to a bank, life insurance company or other large financial institution, even if it’s not where you ultimately want to work. You will gain broad experience and have access to their training programs.
Another option is to find work at an independent financial planning firm, which may be a little harder than getting in with a larger institution.
Once you have some experience you will want to earn your CFP—the Certified Financial Planner designation. Although anyone can currently call themselves a financial planner, only someone with the CFP designation can call themselves a Certified Financial Planner.
Here is one other thought, which is dependent on the direction you’re going. If you really want to be a planner or coach, invest in good financial planning software. Using it, and experimenting with it, will accelerate your learning.
Cynthia, I think it’s great that you want to become a financial planner or coach. You will have the option to work for another planner or a company, or you can start your own business. Like most industries, it has its challenges and it’s not an easy start for most—but once you’re established it is a great career.
Allan Norman is a Certified Financial Planner with Atlantis Financial Inc. and can be reached at www.atlantisfinancial.ca or [email protected]
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