Too often we find ourselves in a certain track, not realizing there are other paths out there also worth exploring. Accounting students are prone to this mentality with so many thinking that a CPA is the only certification worth pursuing. While this may undeniably be the Holy Grail for accounting, there are other worthwhile careers like a Certified Financial Planner or CFP that is also worth looking into. My fellow MPA student Brooks Butler has written some on this topic but I’d like to delve deeper into this particular certification, especially since we just had a speaker talk about that in our most recent MPAC General Assembly Meeting.
CFP is a certification for those who are looking to help clients, mostly individuals and families secure their financial future. Mr. Alan Pilgrim, coordinator for the UT Professional Development Center, visited with MPAC this week and likened the profession to that of a doctor-patient relationship. A CFP is someone who helps clients in planning their finances for life events, such as having kids, paying for school, saving for retirement, etc. With the recent financial crisis in 2008 and the marketing push initiated by the CFP Board, this role has never been more important. Mr. Pilgrim asserted that this profession would be in the top five in demand careers in the next decade, especially when you consider the retiring baby boomers needing help with their finances.
There are a few caveats to a CFP, however. First, as eager as MPA students may be to jump in this opportunity, the profession and the clientele mostly reward seasoned folks. Those with significant work experience will succeed and our young age right now, according to Mr. Pilgrim, is not going to be an advantage. This is understandable because I wouldn’t trust a 21-year old with my retirement nest egg, assuming that I have one. Nonetheless, I think it is important to be aware of this, because the demand for CFP is only going to get higher and this would be an excellent opportunity 10 or 15 years down the road.
Second, with more women handling the family’s finances, Mr. Pilgrim also observed that women CFPs have become even more in demand. Given the highly personal nature of the profession, it is not far-fetched to expect clients to be able to relate to their advisors, especially the ones helping with their finances. There’s a lot of client interaction in this profession, so solid relationship building skills are absolutely imperative.
All in all, I think a CFP is a rewarding career because at the end of the day it is about helping people. It is about creating a financial security for clients and lending one’s expertise so that they may live the life they envision for themselves. The good news for us accountants is that this is a path we can take and it’s not about collecting an alphabet soup of letters just because. One has to really examine whether a certification is suitable for one’s goals and ambitions. Because in the final analysis whether it is a CPA or a CFP or something else, it is about the value we derive from it.