In late 2015, I enrolled in the Financial Planning Certificate Program at Farleigh Dickinson University. My ultimate goal is to become a CFP professional, and fulfilling the education requirement is the first step. Farleigh Dickinson University offers a six course, 270-hour program. It’s the largest and oldest New Jersey based program registered with the CFP Board. It was a very intentional decision to choose a live classroom setting over the many, reputable online courses offered. I’m a hands-on learner and felt that I’d benefit from having personal support, as well as a weekly class to attend.

A few weeks ago, I finished the program’s first course, which concentrated on the financial planning process and insurance. We learned the official steps of the CFP Board’s financial planning process, as identified in their Practice Standards. We also covered some regulatory and ethical considerations, many of which were tested on the Series 65 Exam.

Much of what I learned about insurance was relatively new information for me because we do not sell it here at Mullooly Asset Management. We are fee-only investment advisors, so insurance is an area where we refer clients to trustworthy sources when a need is identified. I had a basic understanding of the different types of insurance clients might have needs for, but this course expanded upon that greatly. We not only covered life insurance, but also property and liability insurance, health insurance, disability income insurance, and long term care insurance. Additionally, the course framework included sections on annuities and the time value of money.

I took in a lot of information over the course of 12 weeks, however I felt that the financial planning process was the most important topic we covered. The CFP Board’s official financial planning process clearly outlines six, logical steps that should generally be taken when meeting a prospective client:

Step One: Establish and Define the Client-Planner Relationship
Step Two: Gather Client Data/Goals
Step Three: Analyze and Evaluate the Client’s Financial Status
Step Four: Develop and Present Financial Planning Recommendations
Step Five: Implement the Financial Planning Recommendations
Step Six: Monitor the Financial Planning Recommendations

These steps were not anything new for me or my fellow students, but information doesn’t necessarily have to be new to be important. I believe the steps are something every professional giving investment advice should strive to follow. We already utilize a process at Mullooly Asset Management that jives with the CFP Board’s official financial planning process, however I’m not so sure everybody else in our line of work does.

There are a lot of opportunities within the six step process to really get to know your client, figure out what their aspirations are, and come up with some great recommendations to get them there. The process also provides ample time for expectation setting. Setting appropriate expectations is one of the most important aspects of a  strong advisor-client relationship.

I wanted to share my experience with the first course in Farleigh Dickinson’s Financial Planning Certificate Program. Writing a synopsis allowed me to review what I learned, and also identify the most important piece of information I took away from it. It wasn’t easy to identify just one because all of the information was highly relevant. I kept returning to the financial planning process, which convinced me this was my biggest takeaway.

I think the best way to find out what you believe about something is to write. Writing about some of my experiences as I progress through the CFP Board’s education requirement will help me learn more efficiently and really maximize its value. I hope to share future experiences from the program’s second course, Investment Planning.

Sources:

College for Financial Planning, CFPE501 – Introduction to the Financial Planning Process

http://www.cfp.net/for-cfp-professionals/professional-standards-enforcement/standards-of-professional-conduct/financial-planning-practice-standards

Now Go Talk About It!