The Career Path—Financial Planner

Were you the kid who loved math in kindergarten?  But you also had bundles of friends and could think of new ways of doing things in the future?  And you loved to study?  Then you’re made for a career in financial planning.

AU offers an eight-course program to help you become a financial planner: FPSC Level 1 – Becoming a Certified Financial Planner.  These courses enable you to write the FPSC Level 1 Financial Planning Exam.  But to become a Certified Financial Planner, you’ll need further education for the CFP Examination.

Here’s the rundown on the financial planner career for AU students.  The two interviewees include, first, Wilf Roesler (AU Academic Coordinator of Finance) and Dr. Zengxiang (Eric) Wang (Associate Professor, Finance and Associate Dean, Student Experience).

What do financial planners do?

Roesler:  Financial planners will work with individuals and families to help with all of their personal finance matters.  These may include budgets, investments, insurance, credit facilities, estate planning, etc.  Beyond specific advice and planning, financial planners help people achieve their financial goals.   With good planning Financial planners are able to help people reduce stress levels and live happier lives.

Dr. Wang: Financial planners help clients develop personal financial plans.  This includes such aspects as education planning for kids, home purchase plan, retirement plan, estate planning, etc.  The Financial Planners work with clients to build plans that put according to their education, family, employment prospects.  With this in mind, a financial plan with a portfolio of investment securities is created and implemented.  Financial planners use their acquired experience and access to research in the financial planning industry to help clients make plans to meet their needs.

What are working conditions like for financial planners?

Roesler:  Dedicated and hardworking financial planners will typically find their working conditions very demanding but rewarding.   The profession is attractive to those individuals who want to help others by showing their knowledge and providing advice.   Relationship building is a requirement.   Many financial planners enjoy a flexible work environment often working from home with flexible work hours.

Dr. Wang: Working conditions are similar to those found in a bank branch.  Financial planners do need to move from one branch office to another at various times of the day to meet clients at their convenience.   The work of financial planners is less stressful than, say, an investment fund manager although each year for the first sixty days of the calendar year financial planners are quite tightly booked.   The first two months of the year is the last time window for registered retirement saving plan contributions for the previous year.

What credentials do you need to become a financial planner?

Roesler:  Currently, there is no credential legislated in order to work as a financial planner, except for the in province of Quebec.  The Ontario government has indicated it may introduce legislation very soon based on an Expert Committee recommendation.  Other provincial governments are watching Ontario’s actions closely to determine the merits of such legislation.  Aside from legislation, many planners a Certified Financial Planner (CFP®) designation in order to gain capabilities and consumer confidence.

Dr. Wang: A financial planner requires a good command of basic accounting and financial knowledge as provided by the eight courses listed here  In addition, a financial planner needs to develop a very strong work ethic and to be professional savvy in helping clients to realize their financial goals.

How can a Bachelor of Commerce help someone get a career as a financial planner?

Roesler:  The Bachelor of Commerce degree will provide a solid foundation for professionals to gain consumer confidence and progress in a financial planning career.  Those that complete the CFP® stream of courses within the AU Bachelor of Commerce will master all of the concepts needed to help clients with a vast variety of financial planning needs such as retirement planning, investing, credit decision making, risk management, and estate planning.

Dr. Wang:  The Bachelor of Commerce degree provides the foundational knowledge required of a financial planner: For example, basic financial accounting skill will enable a financial planner to advise his/her clients to develop net worth statements, which usually is the starting point for personal financial planning.  The financial knowledge gained will help clients to understand the importance of making financial investments through a modern portfolio approach.

What kind of wages do financial planner earn?

Roesler:  There is a wide range of income that can be earned by a financial planner.  Some may work on a salary basis, especially in the early years of their career.  Many work in a ‘base-salary plus unlimited variable-pay’ arrangement.  Yet others work solely on a commission or self-employment basis.  There is no limit to the income level possible and certainly many financial planners earn 6-digit salaries.

Dr. Wang:  A financial planner works more or less like a sales person of financial products.  Therefore, salary can vary and also depends on performance.  At the entry level, a financial planner typically earns an annual salary of approximately $70,000 and an experienced advisor $140,000 in Canada.

Is the financial industry contracting or expanding? Is it due to automation or something else?

Roesler: The financial planning industry has experienced very substantial growth over the past couple of decades – this is expected to continue into the foreseeable future.  The importance and benefits of financial literacy and planning are becoming more recognized by average Canadians and this is creating significant industry expansion.  The complexity of personal financial management is also growing, which is creating more need for financial planning professionals.

Dr. Wang: I think that financial industry will move along with the overall economy.  Employment opportunities in financial industry will be more diversified than ever before as technology advances.  Automation will enhance efficiency and accuracy of financial transactions, as well as provide opportunities for those meetings and transactions to occur in various locations or space via technology tools.  Among the many possibilities, the financial planning industry will actually create employment opportunities: for example, financial planning for retirement may take place over coffee at Tim Hortons or online over Skype.  The options are limitless.

Where do financial planners work?

Roesler:   Financial planners work for bank branches and wealth management centers.  Also, they commonly work in brokerage firms, insurance companies, credit unions, mutual fund sales offices, and fee-only planning firms.  Some financial planners may work as entrepreneurs and build their own businesses.

Dr. Wang:  Financial planners usually work at a financial institution such as a bank, trust company or credit union.

Financial Planning can be highly a highly rewarding career choice.  You are able to help others learn through knowledge and advice.  You can help your clients plan for a more prosperous future for themselves and their families.

If you feel this might be the right career for you, please call Athabasca University’s Faculty of Business at 1-800-468-6531 or email us at  For more information, please visit our website.

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