Do you want to be a financial planner? I bet you think you need a degree in finance, economics, or maybe accounting. A lot of people think the same way. Yet while I am a financial planner and I do have a degree in accounting, if I had it to do all over again I’d major in something else.
I wouldn’t pick finance or even a financial planning degree, either. Yes, there are a handful of universities throughout the country that have great programs in financial planning. One of them is even in our state, at Utah Valley University. But if you’re asking me what degree to go for, I’ll say Marketing or Communications every time.
Because you don’t need to be the best at timing the market or reading financial statements to be a great financial planner. You do need to be good enough, but real success comes from knowing how to market yourself and how to communicate and connect with your clients.
Don’t believe me? Ask yourself, who is your favorite dentist you’ve ever had? How about doctor? Is it the one who went to the most prestigious medical school? Is it the one who has been published the most in the best medical or dental journals? Sure, you need someone who knows their stuff. But my guess is you picked the person who had an inviting office and great staff. The one who made you feel comfortable and really listened to you and understood your needs.
Planners have to be great at getting people in the door because our products and plans are bought, not sold. How many times have you woken up in the morning and said “I need to purchase more disability insurance today,” or, “wow, I better find somebody who will help diversify my portfolio this week.” That’s where good marketing comes into play. And once they agree to meet, you need excellent communication skills and impeccable follow through or you’re not going to hold onto those clients for very long.
And as we implied in a previous article, as a financial planner, you’re part of a team. Your role is to bring together all the expertise of the other team members and present it to the client in a useful way. To do that, you need to be able to listen to people and build relationships with them. Those are the skills you have to put your time and energy into developing, right from the beginning of your career. And a degree in Marketing or Communications will help you do that.