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The Most Common Finance Interview Questions and How to Prepare for Them

If you’re in your final year of college, or you’ve recently graduated, chances are you’re dedicating a good portion of your life to searching for jobs, polishing and distributing your resume, and preparing for the ultimate nerve-test: the job interview. Interviews come with inherent pressure, stress, and mystery. Unfortunately, they’re a necessary part of the job hunting process. The good news is you don’t need to love job interviews to be successful in them. You just need to know how to prepare.

We talked with Clay Skurdal, COO of Advisors Ahead, about the most critical and commonly asked finance job interview questions. Advisors Ahead provides a bridge between finance students and the financial services industry, ensuring recent graduates come into the business with the training and background it takes to be productive on day one. Clay has sat across the desk from thousands of job seekers, and he knows what it takes for an applicant to stand out from the pack.

Here are Clay’s top four finance interview questions you should be prepared to be answer.

1. Why do you want to start a career in the financial services industry?

The worst thing you can do when you’re asked this question is to deliver a safe, meaningless answer. The interviewer is trying to figure out what makes you “you.” Telling the interviewer that you want to help people won’t make you stand out. If you say you want to help people, the interviewer might ask you why, and might continue to ask you why until they get to the core of your motivation.

The best way to prepare for this question is to write a “passion essay” on why you want to get into the business. Write your real story. Did your family go through a tough financial period that inspired you to learn about money management? That’s the kind of honesty the interviewer is looking for. There are as many answers to this question as there are applicants for the position you’re interviewing for, so the only wrong answer is a non-answer.

2. What are you most proud of in the last 12 months, and why?

This question is intended to get a better idea of who you are as a person, and find out what you’re passionate about. It could be an exam or paper that you worked hard for and did exceptionally well on. It could be a problem you solved in your internship or your night job. It could also be an example from your personal life. This question helps the interviewer understand who you are and what you value. It also shows them that you have the ability to set and accomplish goals.

Download the free eBook, Getting There from Here: Career Path Stories from Finance Professionals, to get firsthand accounts of what it's like to have a rewarding career in finance.

3. Tell me about a time someone asked you to bend the rules or do something unethical. How did you handle that situation?

In a finance career, there are unlimited opportunities to go astray and abandon your moral compass. This question helps the interviewer better understand your capacity to do the right thing, even in the face of extreme pressure. They want to know if you have a strong ethical center, or if you can be led down a bad path by poor judgement or outside influence. Again, have an example ready before the interview. Be prepared to tell a story that demonstrates your strong moral character.

4. Tell me about your extracurricular activities, and why you’re passionate about them?

This shouldn’t come as a surprise, but companies aren’t interested in hiring robots. Interviewers who ask this question are trying to see if you’re passionate about something other than work. What are your hobbies? When you’re not at work, how do you choose to spend your time? They want to get past the front that you’re putting up and learn more about you as a person. Situations that demonstrate your ability to lead or be an active member of your community are great examples to cite.

According to Clay, it’s more valuable to prepare your story than prepare for specific finance interview questions. Listen intently to the interviewer and find a way to tell your personal story within the questions that are asked. Finance is a “people” business. Who you are as a person is what tells the interviewer if you’re the kind of employee who can add value to the organization. When you walk into the interview, you are Jane Doe, a name on a resume. You’re not that different from the other resumes in the stack. To set yourself apart from the group, prepare for the interview and ensure your name, face, and story make a lasting impression.

 

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Posted by Kaplan Financial Education - February 7, 2022
Woman waiting for her finance job interview in a chair

What Is a Paraplanner? A Tale of Two Career Paths

The College for Financial Planning—a Kaplan Company offers the Financial Paraplanner Qualified ProfessionalSM (FPQP®) designation. That is certainly a verbose description, but what does it actually mean? What do paraplanners actually do? In this article, I answer that question and explain the two paraplanner career paths.

What is a Paraplanner?

In the simplest terms, the FPQP® credential is an introductory professional designation. A candidate for this program is a person who is serious about starting a financial services career but may not yet have the experience necessary to run their own practice. Paraplanners are team players. The role of the paraplanner is to help make their chosen financial services team successful.

What Does a Paraplanner Do?

The prefix para actually comes from the Greek word that means beside. Paraplanners work beside financial planners. In their role, they are immediately immersed in the labyrinth of financial services. Para is also related to the latin word parare, which means to defend or shield. Paraplanners are usually on the front lines of client interactions. In many ways, paraplanners are the first line of defense in the client relationship. For the right person, the FPQP® designation can be the gateway to a prosperous and satisfying financial planning career.

Generally speaking, there are two career paths that a paraplanner might choose. Type A is a transitional paraplanner. Type B is a career paraplanner.

Paraplanner Career Path #1: Transition to CFP® Professional

Transitional paraplanners have every intention of becoming CFP® professionals themselves, but they do not yet have the years of experience necessary to earn the marks. They simply need to acquire some industry experience first. In other words, they need a way to earn their stripes.

or example, many years ago, a friend, I will call her Sue, called to invite me for lunch. “Sure,” I said. I knew her well. I assumed this was just another social call. Sue was between jobs. She was very talented, but the labor market was tight at that time. She had a master’s degree in marketing but no financial planning experience. She knew I was a financial advisor.

Over sushi, she announced, “Mike, I want to be a financial advisor like you!” A rush of emotions came to me. I was flattered and worried for her all at the same time. It often takes most people one to three years to get established in the field, and there are many, many sacrifices along the way. I also knew she could not go another year without a steady paycheck. “Okay,” I said, “let’s talk this over for a minute and look at your options.”

I went on to explain that her proposed course of action was fraught with risk. If she failed, and a high percentage of new advisors do, she might lose her house. “Why don’t you find an established planner first? Go work for them for a year. He or she can show you the ropes. If, after one year, you still want to be a financial advisor, go for it! You will have my full support. In the meantime, you can immediately start gaining valuable experience, learning about the industry, and, most importantly, earning a paycheck.”

My advice struck a chord with her. I think somewhere in the back of her mind she thought she could just go out, pass the Series 7, and instantly get rich quick. To be fair, that could happen, but for the vast majority of people, it is not that easy. I would describe Sue as a transitional paraplanner. She had the full intention of becoming a financial advisor herself someday, but she needed a way to break into the industry in a meaningful way. To her, the paraplanner role would have been a stepping stone.

Paraplanner Career Path #2: Financial Planning Support

Career paraplanners have no intention of owning their own practice. They are content to spend their career as “best supporting actors.”

I have another friend who I will call Michelle. Michelle had a well-established track record as an administrative professional. Before long, it would be time for her children to go off to college. She knew in her heart that she needed to prepare. She was looking for a way to set herself apart, increase her skills, and get a higher paying job. I recommended the FPQP™ program to her.

Independent planners often need administrative support. In fact, the larger their practice becomes, the more complex their administrative needs become. A planner will reach a point in their practice where they need someone who knows what they are doing. The planner is so busy meeting with clients that they need to be able to hand a client file off to their associate and say, “Take care of this for me.” These are tasks the planner would normally do themselves if they had time, but they do not. In much the same way that successful attorneys need a paralegal to run their practice, successful CFP® professionals need paraplanners who understand the business at a higher level.

Go Further on Your Career Path with the FPQP® Mark

No matter which career path they take, professionals who earn the FPQP® designation are worth more to their employers because of their specialized skill sets. Paraplanners with the FPQP® mark are trained in the fundamentals of the financial planning process. They are taught the language of financial planning: business ownership, cash management, debt, time-value-of-money, and the basics of insurance. Paraplanners are also expected to comprehend investment basics, retirement planning, and the rudiments of taxation and estate planning.

The FPQP® program communicates these complex concepts to candidates on an introductory level that is easy to understand. Make no mistake, the FPQP® is an arduous program. This is not a weekend seminar. The program includes 100 - 125 hours of required education and, like many professional designations, has a continuing education requirement.

If you are fresh out of college and looking for your first position in the financial services industry, the FPQP® program may be right for you. Likewise, if you are a career administrative pro looking for a way to distinguish yourself and acquire additional skills, you may also be a good fit for the FPQP® program.

Ready to Get Started?

If you’d like to learn more about the FPQP® designation, this article has all the details. You can also sign up for FPQP® education courses.

About the Author

Michael Angell, CFP®, EA, is an associate professor at the College for Financial Planning—a Kaplan Company, where he serves primarily as the in-house income tax planning subject matter expert. Michael began his financial services career in banking over 20 years ago and eventually migrated into investment management and insurance planning. He has served clients in various capacities with independent, boutique-style firms and learned directly from seasoned CFP® practitioners in the field. Michael has also been an income tax professional for several years.

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Posted by Michael Angell, MSF, CFP®, EA - June 28, 2021
What a Paraplanner Does

How to Become a CFP® Professional

With financial advising projected to be one of the top 10 fastest growing occupations, getting your CFP® mark can help set you apart in the industry. Let’s take a look what a CFP® professional is and what it takes to earn financial planning certification.

What is a CFP® Professional?

A CFP® professional works with clients to create comprehensive plans for meeting their long-term financial goals, such as retirement, college tuition, business start-up, a home, and so on. The U.S. Department of Labor Occupational Outlook Handbook predicts 5 percent job growth in the financial advising field through 2030, making it an excellent career option for young financial professionals. Many CFP® professionals work in large financial or insurance firms, although some choose to have their own businesses. To become one, you have to meet certain requirements. 

 

CFP® Professional Requirements

To becoming a CFP®  professional, you must:

  • Complete a CFP Board-registered education program. You can choose from several options for your education. CFP Board must be notified when you’ve completed it. Many of the coursework providers can do that for you.
  • Sit for the CFP® exam. You can do this once CFP Board has been notified of your education completion. The CFP® exam is offered three times a year in March, July, and November. You must take the exam within the 8-day window at one of the approved locations provided by CFP Board. You are permitted to register for the exam before you complete your program, but CFP Board must receive verification of your education completion by the education verification deadline, or you’ll be charged a $100 withdrawal fee.
  • Hold or earn a bachelor’s degree from an accredited university or college within five years of passing the CFP® exam. You can sit for the exam beforehand, but you need to make sure you complete your degree in that 5-year window.
  • Demonstrate financial planning experience. This can be professional experience (6,000 hours) in relevant personal financial planning activities, or apprenticeship experience (4,000 hours) that meets additional requirements.
  • Pass CFP Board’s Candidate Fitness Standards. To do this, you must agree to adhere to their ethical standards. You also must disclose any criminal or employment termination history and pass a background check. For more information about the ethics requirement, you can visit CFP Board website here.

Candidates are most concerned about the CFP® exam. Here’s what you need to know.With financial advising projected to be one of the top 10 fastest growing occupations, getting your CFP® mark can help set you apart in the financial advising industry.

Is CFP® certification right for you? Get a preview of our required education materials in this free download.

CFP® Exam Cost

The standard registration fee for the CFP® exam is $925, but there’s an early bird rate of $825, which is available until six weeks before the registration deadline. There’s a late registration fee of $1,025 for the two weeks before the registration deadline. You can register for the CFP® exam with CFP Board online or by phone before or after you complete the education program coursework and become eligible for the exam. If you register before you finish the coursework, you must send CFP Board proof of your completed coursework. CFP Board will notify you when your eligibility is confirmed.

How to Prepare for the CFP® Exam

The exam is given in a computer-based format and consists of 170 multiple-choice questions that test your financial planning knowledge in client situations. You are given the exam in two 3-hour sessions with a 40-minute scheduled break between the two sessions. Each session includes two subsections and you may take an optional, unscheduled break between the exam subsections. Preparing for the CFP® exam requires a significant time commitment. CFP Board recommends you spend at least 250 hours studying for the exam. While that sounds overwhelming, the time goes pretty quickly between pre-study, the Candidate Handbook, required education courses, question bank time, a review class, practice exams, and your own review preparations.

A great way to approach preparing for the CFP® exam is to think of it like training for a marathon. It’s not a situation where you can sprint (or cram). There’s just too much to learn, and you’ll need to be able to apply it to case studies. So, you make sure you have the space in your life to dedicate the necessary hours to study. Then, create a strategic study plan. A great way to structure your plan is to mirror the exam weighting, which the CFP Board updates based on regular job task analysis. At the same time, you shouldn’t start off by studying the most heavily weighted topics in depth. Instead, learn the basics of each category first. Then, work deeper into the categories based on weight and your familiarity with them, so you can absorb more detail.

How to Pass the CFP® Exam

Here are few tips that can help you pass the exam:

  • Focus on learning when you study. The CFP® exam is all about applying knowledge to real situations you could encounter on the job. Twenty percent of the exam’s scoring rests on two case studies that expect you to analyze a hypothetical client situation and determine the best next steps. Therefore, rather than spending all your time on memorizing, you need to work on mastering the material and applying it.

  • Practice exam questions. The more you practice, the more familiar you will become with how to apply your knowledge. Work with questions that have the same difficulty level as the actual exam to determine if you have truly mastered a particular domain and where you might be making mistakes. You can find practice questions at the end of prep provider chapters, in prep provider bank quizzes, and in practice exams from CFP Board and prep providers.

  • Don’t cram the day and night before. Feverishly going over lists or taking full practice exams can be mentally draining, so avoid them on the day before the exam. Instead, reread some of the wordier areas of the curriculum like ethics. Think about what it could be like to be advising clients in the future and practice answers to the questions they might ask. Then, stop about dinner time, just as if you were already in the office, relax, and have a good meal.

  • Picture yourself passing. Before a big exam like this, it’s natural to panic and worry about failing. Instead try to visualize yourself answering questions competently and getting a great score. Positive affirmation can go a long way to calm your nerves and put you in the right mindset.

After You Receive Your CFP® Certification

Once you have your CFP® certification, as a CFP® professional each year you will be required to pay an annual certification fee and submit a renewal application, where you will confirm that you are adhering to CFP Board's Code of Ethics and Standards of Conduct to maintain CFP® certification. In addition, every two years, you will be required to complete continuing education (CE).  

If you do your continuing education credits through Kaplan, we’ll submit your completions for you! To view our continuing education offerings for CFP® certification, please visit our CFP® certification CE page. You can also learn more about all our CFP offerings on our CFP® Education page.

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Are you ready to get started on the path toward financial planning certification with your CFP® certification education? Enroll with College for Financial Planning®—a Kaplan Company by visiting our website browsing our CFP certification offerings or calling a designation specialist at 800.237.9990 Option 2.

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Posted by Kaplan Financial Education - April 1, 2021
Financial planning professionals discussing a client's portfolio performance

Frequently Asked Questions About the CFP® Exam

The questions most frequently asked about the CFP® exam and certification are answered in this article, equipping you with the information you need to plan for this next step in your career.

What is CFP® certification?

CFP® certification is a professional designation for financial planners. Also known as the CERTIFIED FINANCIAL PLANNER™ or CFP® mark, its governing body, CFP Board, administers the credential. With financial advising and planning estimated to be one of the top 10 fastest growing occupations, getting your CFP® mark can help set you apart in the industry.

What is the difference between the CFP® certification and the CFA® charter?

The CFP® mark and CFA® charter are both the most prestigious designations in their respective fields, and each is administered by a governing body. To earn CFP® certification, you must sit for and pass one exam; the CFA Program exam has three levels. CFA charterholders commonly help individuals and institutions invest and allocate assets. A CFP® professional is likely to be a financial planner, wealth manager, or financial advisor. Our article about the CFP® mark vs the CFA charter has more details.

What is the difference between the CFP® certification and a master’s in personal financial planning?

Both the CFP® certification and a master’s degree in personal financial planning lead to unique professional opportunities for those with a bachelor’s degree who want a career in personal finance and planning. But their requirements, topics of study, and their benefits are slightly different. To make a decision, you need to think about what you want to do long-term. This article compares the two options in greater detail.

What jobs can I get with the CFP® certification?

CFP® professionals usually become financial planners or advisers, helping clients with investment decisions, taxes, and selecting insurance policies and retirement plans. While no two days will ever be the same, much of the work involves meeting with clients, analyzing financial information, and researching new opportunities.

How do I earn the CFP® certification?

Earning the CFP® certification involves the following steps:

  1. Complete a CFP Board-registered education program and make sure CFP Board is notified.
  2. Sit for the CFP® exam.
  3. Hold or earn a bachelor’s degree from an accredited university or college within five years of passing the CFP® exam.
  4. Demonstrate financial planning experience. This can be professional experience (6,000 hours) in relevant personal financial planning activities, or apprenticeship experience (4,000 hours) that meets additional requirements.
  5. Pass CFP Board’s Candidate Fitness Standards.

What is the CFP® exam? Why should I take it?

The CFP® exam is a multiple-choice, computer-based exam. It consists of two 3-hour sessions that are divided into distinct subsections (two subsections within each session). The sessions are separated by a 40-minute scheduled break. You may also take an optional break between the subsections. It is offered three times a year in March, July, and November at almost 50 locations nationwide.

Recruiters and prospective employers recognize CFP® certification as the most desired designation in the growing financial planning and advisor field. If your objective is a career as a financial planner or financial adviser, you should consider earning the CFP® mark, which means taking and passing the exam.

Did you know you can get a sneak peak at the CFP® exam to determine if it's right for you? It's all in our free eBook. Download it today!

What are the requirements to sit for the CFP® exam?

To sit for the CFP® exam, you will need to complete a CFP Board-registered education program first. After you complete it, CFP Board must be notified. Usually, your coursework provider will do that for you. There are no degree requirements to sit for the CFP® exam, but you will have to earn a bachelor’s degree within five years of passing the exam. You don’t need a sponsor to take the exam. Also, candidates often use a CFP® exam study package before they take the exam, but it’s not required.

Should I earn the CFP® mark if I already have a different certification or charter?

It depends. If you have a securities or insurance license, the CFP® certification can be helpful if you would like to add planning to your repertoire. On the other hand, if you are a CFA charterholder, a CFP® mark might not be necessary. Interestingly, however, CFP Board allows CFA charterholders to sit for the exam without having to complete the education requirements. So, if you hold other financial designations, your best option is to consult with your firm about whether you should take the CFP® exam or not.

Is the CFP® exam paper or computer-based?

The CFP® exam is computer-based and administered at a Prometric testing center.

What topics are covered on the CFP® exam?

The topics covered on the CFP® exam include general financial planning principles, investment planning, retirement savings and income planning, risk management and insurance planning, tax planning, estate planning, professional conduct and regulation, and education planning.

How many questions are on the CFP® exam?

The CFP® exam consists of 170 multiple-choice questions that test your ability to apply your financial planning knowledge to client situations. The topic weights break down as follows:

Topics% of Exam# of Exam Questions
General financial planning principles15%26
Investment planning17%29
Retirement savings and income planning18%30
Risk management and insurance planning11%19
Tax planning14%24
Estate planning10%17
Professional conduct and regulation8%14
Psychology of Financial Planning7%11
Total100%170

How much time does it take to study for the CFP® exam?

Most candidates spend between 250 and 300 hours studying for the CFP® exam, although there are reports that it took some candidates much more than that. The entire CFP® certification program, including CFP Board-required education, takes about a year.

How hard is the CFP® exam?

The CFP® exam is not easy, which is one reason the mark is among the most respected certifications in the financial services industry. It includes two case studies, multiple mini-case problem sets, and standalone questions designed to assess your knowledge of financial planning concepts and how to apply them to specific situations. It requires a significant investment of time to be successful. But most of the time, failing the exam is the result of not preparing properly. If you put together a stellar study plan and are willing to invest in your exam preparation, you can increase your odds of passing.

How much does it cost to sit for the CFP® exam?

There are three levels of pricing for the CFP® exam:

  • Early: $825 (prior to 6 weeks before the registration deadline)
  • Standard: $925 (between 6 and 2 weeks before the deadline)
  • Late: $1,025 (inside of 2 weeks before the deadline)

What are the pass rates and passing scores for the CFP® exam?

The most CFP Board says on the passing score for the exam is that it is based on a minimal competency level required to pass the exam, which is determined by CFP® professionals. In 2021, the overall pass rate was 60 percent, and the pass rate for first-time exam takers was approximately 62 percent.

If I fail the CFP® exam, what is the wait time before I can retake it?

Candidates who do not pass the exam on their first try can take it two more times in a 24-month period. You then have to wait a year before retaking it. If you don’t pass the exam after five attempts, you cannot take it again.

Ready to earn your CFP® mark?

We hope this article answers your pressing questions about the CFP® exam and certification. If you’re interested in taking the exam, we have CFP® exam study packages. Or if you’re just starting out and need to complete the required education, explore our CFP Board-registered education program.

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Posted by Kaplan Financial Education - March 31, 2021
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What to Expect on CFP® Exam Day

If CFP® exam day is approaching for you, congrats! Make sure all your hard work studying pays off by understanding what to expect on the day of the exam. You will need to register for the exam using your CFP Board account. You will then be instructed about how to schedule the exam with Prometric. Scheduling is done on a first-come, first-serve basis, so be sure to register early.

What is the CFP® exam check-in process like?

On the day of the exam, you will be asked to present a valid government ID. Proper government identification includes:

  • Valid driver’s license
  • Valid government issued ID card
  • Valid passport
  • Valid military ID

The first and last name on your government ID must match the first and last name on your CFP Board account. Ensure you double check this on your CFP Board account prior to registering for the exam.

Your fingerprints will be captured along with a photo for security purposes at the exam. You should also expect to go through a brief body scan. A locker and key will be assigned to you at check-in. All of your personal belongings will have to be put into your locker before you go into the exam room. This includes items like purses, cell phones, jewelry, watches, food, water, electronic devices (except approved calculators), personal headphones, exam notes, or study materials. You will not be able to access these items at all during the exam. It is best if you leave any valuables you will be concerned about at home.

Preparing for the CFP® exam? Download this free eBook to learn how to create a CFP® exam study plan that works for you.

What items can I bring into the CFP® exam?

There are a number of items you can bring into the testing room, including CFP Board-approved calculators and scratch paper. Prometric will supply up to four pieces of scratch paper for your use. If you need more, you will need to turn in all four sheets to get four new sheets. The scratch paper you use in the first session of the exam will need to be turned in after you are done with the session.

CFP Board-approved calculators include:

  • HP 10B
  • HP 10BII
  • HP 10BII+
  • HP 12C and HP 12C Platinum
  • HP 17BII+
  • Sharp Business/Financial Calculator EL-733
  • Sharp Business/Financial Calculator EL-733a
  • Sharp Business/Financial Calculator EL-738
  • TI BAII Plus
  • TI BAII Plus Professional & TI BAII Plus (Business Analyst)

If you are worried about your batteries dying during the test, you are able to bring in loose batteries. You must remove them from the packaging, however. If your calculator has any visible formulas on the reverse side, you must cover them with black electrical tape or blank paper. The testing center may check this.

You are welcome to bring a sweater or sweatshirt to the test if you are worried about getting cold. Expect the testing center to check them before you go into the exam room.

What do I have permission to do during the exam?

You are able to mark questions for review at a later time, and you do not need to answer questions in a specific order. You may also highlight desired text and strikethrough answer choices you have deemed incorrect. In addition, you will be able to review the Tax Tables and Sample Formulas at any time during the exam. Simply click on the icon at the bottom of your screen to pull them up.

How much time do I have to complete the CFP® exam?

The CFP® exam is presented in two 3-hour sessions separated by a 40-minute scheduled break. Each session contains 85 multiple-choice questions, divided into two subsections, for a total of 170 questions. You can take an optional break between each subsection (in addition to the 40-minute scheduled break between sessions).Prior to submitting your answers for each subsection, you can go back to questions you’ve marked for review or have not answered yet. 

What if I need special accommodations for the CFP® exam?

You are able to get testing accommodations for the CFP® exam. CFP Board will provide reasonable and appropriate accommodations to individuals with documented disabilities who demonstrate a need for them. Accommodations are considered on a case-by-case basis. To request accommodations, you must register for the exam and submit the required documentation by the Education Verification Deadline for your desired exam appointment. For more information, visit CFP Board.

How will I receive my CFP® exam results?

As soon as you complete the second session of the CFP® exam, you will receive a preliminary pass/fail result. Four weeks after the exam window closes, Prometric will review all candidate scores to ensure there were no irregularities or issues related to the exam. Candidates will then receive their official results on CFP.net.

Those who fail the exam will also receive a diagnostic report indicating their exam performance across the Principal Topics, with indications of strengths and weaknesses to help candidates prepare for a retake. (For more information, here's an article detailing the reasons people fail the CFP® exam.)

Have other questions? Check out CFP Board’s Exam Day Experience webinar for more information.

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Ensure you are prepared for exam day with Kaplan’s CFP® exam prep review. Choose from our live online or traditional classroom settings and get the expert instruction and education you need to pass the exam with confidence!

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Posted by Kaplan Financial Education - March 31, 2021
A circled day on the calendar representing CFP exam day

CFP® Certification vs. MS in Personal Financial Planning: Everything You Need to Decide

If you are considering a career in financial planning, a special designation can help you set yourself apart from the competition and boost your career. But, which career path makes more sense for you: CFP® certification or an MS in Personal Financial Planning? Both lead to unique professional opportunities for those with a bachelor’s degree who want a career in personal finance and planning. But how they cover the topics of personal financial planning, their requirements, and their benefits are slightly different. To make a decision, you need to think about what you want to do long-term. In this article, we break both options down for you.

CFP® Certification Overview

The CERTIFIED FINANCIAL PLANNER™ (CFP®) mark enables finance professionals to help individual clients create comprehensive plans for meeting their long-term financial goals, such as retirement, college tuition, business start-up, a home, and so on. Its governing body, CFP Board, administers the credential. In 2017, CNN Money reported that CERTIFIED FINANCIAL PLANNER™ jobs are expected to grow 30 percent over the next 10 years, making it an excellent career option for young financial professionals. To earn the CFP® certification, you need to complete a CFP® certification program to be eligible to sit for the exam.

Get a sneak peak at the beginning of the Kaplan education program to get a feel for whether CFP® certification is right for you by downloading our free eBook. 

CFP® Exam

Offered three times a year in March, July, and November, the CFP® exam is:

  • A computer-based examination that takes six hours to complete and consists of 170 multiple-choice questions. The six hours are divided into two 3-hour sessions. Each session has two distinct subsections. There is a 40-minute scheduled break in between the sessions and you can take an optional break between the subsections.
  • Focused on testing your financial planning knowledge in client situations. The topics covered include professional conduct and regulation, general financial planning principles, education planning, risk management and insurance planning, investment planning, tax planning, retirement savings and income planning, and estate planning.
  • A significant time commitment. CFP Board recommends you spend at least 250 hours studying for the exam. You’ll need to pace yourself and avoid cramming because the exam asks you to apply knowledge to case studies. So make sure you have the space in your life to dedicate the necessary hours to study. Then, create a strategic study plan that includes a review program.

Requirements for Earning CFP® Certification

The other requirements for earning CFP® certification are:

  • A CFP Board-registered education program: CFP Board must be notified when you’ve completed it. You can’t take the exam without it.
  • A bachelor’s degree from an accredited university or college: You can hold the degree before you complete the education program and pass the exam or earn it afterwards. (You have up to five years after passing to get your degree.)
  • Financial planning experience: This can be professional experience (6,000 hours) in relevant personal financial planning activities, or apprenticeship experience (4,000 hours) that meets additional requirements.
  • Candidate fitness: CFP Board requires you to pass its Candidate Fitness Standards. To do this, you must agree to adhere to their ethical standards, disclose any criminal or employment termination history, and pass a background check.

CFP® Certification Benefits

The benefits of earning the CFP® mark include a rewarding career that involves a relatively low investment (anywhere from $900 to $7,000 plus exam fees) compared to the tuition for a master’s degree program. The most common careers include financial planner, wealth advisor, estate planning specialist, trading and research associate, financial consultant, financial representative, or financial analyst. If you want to become a branch manager at a financial firm, CFP® certification can help you achieve that level in your organization as well.

MS in Personal Financial Planning Overview

Offered by colleges and universities (such as the College for Financial Planning), master’s degree programs go deeper into personal financial planning subject matter. These programs cater to those interested in expanding their knowledge beyond typical financial licensing and credentials. Also, for those interested in becoming financial planning educators, the MS is the next step on that career path.

Compared to CFP® certificants, master’s degree students are exposed to the greater impact that finance has on an organization. Participants often gain a deeper grasp of the processes used by firms to maximize shareholder wealth, analyze financial statements, and hold management or C-level positions in financial institutions.

MS in Personal Financial Planning Requirements

For an MS in Personal Financial Planning, the college or university is the governing board, although many are registered with CFP Board. Like any degree program, and unlike CFP® certification, it does not all hinge on one exam. You will take individual classes and be expected to pass the exams for each. The common curriculum will include some required and some elective courses in international finance, corporate finance, financial institutions, money and markets, risk management, and investment theory. You can also earn the CRPC®, APMA®, and AWMA® professional designations, among others.

You will also be expected to meet all the degree requirements of the college or university. Generally, this includes:

  • Having a bachelor’s degree.
  • Having professional work experience (varies by school).
  • Completing additional program prerequisites (varies by school).

Some colleges and universities also require that you complete the GRE or GMAT with a satisfactory score.

Benefits of an MS in Personal Financial Planning

Although a graduate program is more expensive than CFP® certification, it still costs less than many other graduate programs (as low as $15,000). Other benefits of earning the MS can include:

  • An increase in earnings after completing the program.
  • More exposure to real-world scenarios and case studies.
  • Real-world critical thinking skills that you can immediately apply in your day-to-day occupation.
  • Depending on the institution, the choice of taking your classes online or in a classroom, as well as the option to attend full time or part time. 

Which is Right for You?

Choosing between CFP® certification or a master’s degree program isn’t always easy, especially for financial planning. The roles you are eligible for are similar, as are the types of companies that are likely to hire you: financial services firms, mutual fund companies, brokerage firms, insurance companies, banks, and so on. There are some differences, however.

The CFP® mark is definitely respected as an achievement milestone. If you aspire to a financial planning career right after you earn your degree (or even before), you can use your CFP® certification to gain experience at a large financial firm or insurance company. These firms know that CFP® professionals are preferred by clients. In fact, a recent CFP Board study revealed that 69% of surveyed consumers said they would insist that their financial planner have the CFP® certification. This is a main reason why many companies will offer financial assistance to anyone interested in earning the CFP® mark. In addition, CFP® certification often tips the scales in your favor if you are up against an equally qualified candidate who is not credentialed.

An MS in Personal Financial Planning tends to take you farther in your career. Graduate degrees impress—they demonstrate a desire to specialize in a topic and become an expert in a field. Therefore, companies perceive those with an MS in Personal Financial Planning as having deeper knowledge of financial analysis and theory. They are likely to climb the ladder in a company faster or even start out with a better position because they have completed an in-depth curriculum and, in many cases, may have held a financial planning role as an intern while earning their MS. There are a few companies that forego offering tuition assistance for CFP® certification in favor of an MS because they perceive that it’s a better long-term investment.

As you ponder the benefits of each, ask yourself what your long-term goals are. If you’re anxious to start your financial planning career, or you don’t have the time or resources for graduate school, earning CFP® certification is a good option. If you are seeking a position where you can apply investment theory and analytics to planning, or you would like to educate others in the field, the MS might be right for you.

Who Says You Have to Choose?

There is a third option: earning both the CFP® mark and an MS in Personal Financial Planning. A CFP® professional with an MS in Personal Financial Planning will have the competitive edge in any career opportunity. Customers will trust someone with CFP® certification, and financial firms will be more likely to view them as management or executive material. Therefore, colleges and universities who offer an MS in Personal Financial Planning often offer CFP® certification education as part of the degree. In addition, if you are already a CFP® certificant, there are a few select colleges and universities, such as the College for Financial Planning and Kansas State, that will credit that education toward your MS degree.

Ready to Get Started?

Get your financial planning career on the right track. Learn more about our CFP® certification offerings, or visit the College for Financial Planning website to explore MS degree opportunities.

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Posted by Kaplan Financial Education - March 31, 2021
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All about CFP Board: The Organization behind the CFP® Exam

CFP Board is the accepted short name for Certified Financial Planner Board of Standards, Inc., a non-profit organization that administers the CERTIFIED FINANCIAL PLANNER™ (CFP®) designation. Along with granting the CFP® mark, the mission of CFP Board is to advance and ensure that the certification is the recognized standard of excellence for personal financial planning. In this article, you’ll learn about the history of CFP Board, its structure and activities, and its role in developing the CFP® exam.

CFP Board History

In 1969, 13 men met in Chicago to formalize personal financial planning as a profession. Before that time, personal financial planning required searching numerous areas of the financial services industry for ways to help individuals plan for their financial futures. At that meeting, they created the International Association for Financial Planners (IAFP) and the College for Financial Planning, which introduced an education program for what would later become CFP® certification.

Sixteen years later, in 1985, the College for Financial Planning agreed to the establishment of an independent, non-profit certifying and standards-setting organization. It transferred ownership of the CFP® mark and responsibility for continuing the CFP® certification program to the new organization, now known as CFP Board. In November 1991, 81 people received the CFP® mark after passing the very first CFP® exam, which tested their ability to integrate and apply the knowledge gained from the financial planning curriculum.

Get a sneak peak at the beginning of the Kaplan education program to get a feel for whether CFP® certification is right for you by downloading our free eBook. 

CFP Board Today

Today, CFP Board is headquartered in Washington, D.C., and its CEO is Kevin Keller, CAE. Among its responsibilities is maintaining current, and developing new, financial planning standards as the industry changes. It accepts volunteers for its various councils and research projects, and it counts all CFP® professionals in good standing (those who have earned the certification and keep it active through continuing education) as its members. As of August 31, 2019, there are 85,434 CFP® certificants, and they are located all over the U.S.

CFP Board has a board of directors, which oversees CFP Board and sets policy. The current chair is Susan John, CFP®, of Financial Focus, Inc., Wolfeboro, NH. CFP Board has a number of research initiatives on topics such as racial and ethnic diversity, women in financial planning, and consumer surveys. It has councils for business models, public policy, and education, and a standards commission. It also operates CFP Board Center for Financial Planning, which is dedicated to making sure every American has access to financial planning advice that is competent and ethical through greater diversity and sustainability.

CFP Board Education and Ethics

CFP Board sets the standards for the financial planning education required to earn the CFP® certification. In other words, before you can become a CFP® professional, you must complete a comprehensive course of study at a college or university that offers a financial planning curriculum approved by CFP Board. After CFP Board is notified that you’ve successfully finished that education, you can take the exam. Once you pass the CFP® exam, gain the requisite years of experience, and earn the certification, it’s good for two years. After that, you must renew it every two years by taking continuing education courses approved by CFP Board.

CFP Board is also the keeper of “The Rules of Conduct.” These rules require that CFP® professionals put client interests ahead of their own at all times and that their financial planning services are “fiduciary,” which means they are acting in the best interest of their clients. CFP Board can, if it chooses, sanction CFP® professionals who violate these standards.

CFP Board and the CFP® Exam

CFP Board develops the CFP® Certification Exam, which tests how well candidates can apply financial planning knowledge to real-life situations. Volunteer CFP® professionals guide all aspects of the exam, which include setting the criteria for scoring and passing. Some of these volunteers are subject matter experts (SMEs) who determine what the content will cover, write the questions, and review them. Others are volunteers on the CFP Board Council of Examinations (COE), which reviews and approves the questions. Testing experts assure the exam is current, reliable, valid, and legal.

Before you take the exam, you must meet the education requirement by completing the CFP® curriculum at a CFP Board-approved educational institution. The topics covered on the CFP® exam include general financial planning principles, investment planning, retirement savings and income planning, risk management and insurance planning, tax planning, estate planning, professional conduct and regulation, and education planning. It consists of 170 multiple-choice questions, and candidates take it over the course of six hours with a 40-minute scheduled break after the first 3 hours. Each session is divided into two subsections. Optional breaks are available between each subsection. The exam is offered in eight-day windows, three times a year. (This CFP® Exam FAQ has more details.)

Ready to be Recognized by CFP Board as a CFP® Professional?

If you’re interested in taking the exam, we have CFP® exam study packages. Or, if you’re just starting out and need to complete the required education, explore our CFP Board-registered education program.

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Posted by Kaplan Financial Education - March 31, 2021
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How to Pass the CFP® Exam

How to pass the CFP® exam is a big concern for candidates who are planning to earn the CFP® mark. The exam is definitely a challenge and is different from many other financial exams. In July 2021, the overall pass rate was 62 percent, and the pass rate for first-timers was 65 percent. In this article, you’ll learn about the exam and the steps you can take to pass. At the end, you’ll find additional tips you can apply throughout your preparation and on exam day.

About the CFP® Exam

The CFP® exam is a multiple-choice, computer-based exam. It is offered three times a year in March, July, and November at almost 50 locations nationwide, and it costs between $825–$1,025 USD (depending on when you register). The exam is given in a computer-based format and consists of 170 multiple-choice questions that test your financial planning knowledge in client situations. Each session is divided into two subsections. There is a 40-minute scheduled break between each session, and you may take an optional break between each subsection.

Follow these 5 steps to pass the CFP® exam.

1. Start studying early.

Getting CFP® exam-ready requires a major time commitment. CFP Board recommends you spend at least 250 hours studying for the exam. While that sounds overwhelming, the time goes pretty quickly between pre-study, the Candidate Handbook, required education courses, question bank time, review, practice exams, and your own preparations.

It’s important to think of preparing for the CFP® exam like training for a marathon. It’s not a situation where you can sprint (or cram). There’s just too much to learn, and you’ll need to be able to apply it to case studies. To be properly prepared for the exam, you need to have the space in your life to dedicate the necessary hours to study.

Preparing for the CFP® exam? Download this free eBook to learn how to create a CFP® exam study plan that works for you.

2. Create a strategic and efficient study plan.

Given the hours and the amount of material to master, you should create a strategic study plan. Spending too much or too little time on any one activity can be detrimental to your preparation. Therefore, devising a study plan based on how CFP Board weights the exam topics is a good plan of action. The topics and their weights are:

  • Professional conduct and regulation—8%
  • General principles of financial planning—15%
  • Risk management and insurance planning—11%
  • Investment planning—17%
  • Tax planning—14%
  • Retirement savings and income planning—18%
  • Estate planning—10%
  • Psychology of Financial Planning—7%

You should learn the basics of each category first and then work deeper into the categories based on weight and your familiarity. This will enable you to absorb more detail and application.

3. Focus on learning how to apply what you know.

The CFP® exam is all about applying knowledge to real situations you could encounter on the job. There are two important case studies worth 20 percent of the exam. You must analyze a hypothetical client situation and determine the best next steps. Memorization alone won’t cut it in this section. Mastery of the material is important. But to do well, you must apply your knowledge to the given client information.

4. Practice, practice, practice.

Because the CFP® exam tests how you apply what you’ve learned in readings and classes, it is vital that you practice what you learn. You should answer the questions at the end of the chapters you read and take question bank quizzes and practice exams. The more you practice, the more familiar you will become with how to apply your knowledge. Exam prep providers and CFP Board offer practice exams you can take before your exam day.

5. Stay calm as exam day approaches.

Try to be at your mental peak for the exam. Use the day before the exam to reread some of the more wordy areas of the curriculum, like Ethics. Studying too hard or taking full practice exams the day before can mentally drain you. Few people sleep well the night before the exam, so make sure you get into a good sleep pattern leading up to it. A week of 7–8 hours of sleep each night, along with some exercise and relaxation, will help you get through exam day in good form.

Additional Tips on How to Pass the CFP® Exam

Here are a few tips and tricks that can also help you pass the exam:

  • Focus on learning, not memorizing. The CFP® exam is all about how you handle real situations you could encounter on the job.
  • Work with practice questions that have the same difficulty level as the actual exam. This can help you determine if you have truly mastered a particular domain and where you might be making mistakes.
  • Don’t feverishly go over lists or answer tons of practice questions on the day before the exam. Instead, think about answering financial planning questions clients might ask. Then, stop about dinner time, just as if you were already in the office, relax, and have a good meal.
  • Picture yourself doing well on the exam. Before a big exam like this, it’s natural to panic and worry about failing. Instead, visualize yourself answering questions competently and getting a great score. Positive affirmation can calm your nerves and put you in the right mindset.

Taking the CFP® Exam?

Increase your chances of passing. Choose a CFP® exam prep package that suits your study needs today.

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Posted by Kaplan Financial Education - March 31, 2021
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5 Reasons Why People Fail the CFP® Exam

The CFP® exam is challenging...the overall pass rate in 2019 was just 62 percent. If you failed the exam, there are several things you can do to increase your chances of passing the next time. One helpful CFP® exam retake strategy that is often overlooked is taking time to reflect on why you were not successful.

Understanding the reasons you failed the CFP® exam will help you avoid the same pitfalls and manage your time more efficiently during your next attempt. Here are five reasons we commonly see for why people fail the CFP® exam.

1. Failed to study enough hours

Without a doubt, the most common reason we encounter is simply not studying enough. Getting CFP® exam-ready requires a large time commitment. CFP Board recommends you spend at least 250 hours studying for the exam. While that sounds overwhelming, the time goes pretty quickly between pre-study, the Candidate Handbook, required education courses, question bank time, review, practice exams, and your own preparations.

It’s important to think of preparing for the CFP® exam like training for a marathon. It’s not a situation where you can sprint (or cram). There’s just too much to learn, and you’ll need to be able to apply it to case studies. To be properly prepared for the exam, you need to have the space in your life to dedicate the necessary hours to study. You can find more information about how to make time here

2. Inefficient study plan

Not only is dedicating enough hours crucial to your success on the CFP® exam, but you also should create a strategic study plan. Spending too much or too little time on any one activity can be detrimental to your preparations.

We recommend you create your study plan based off the exam weighting. CFP Board updates the weighting based on regular job task analyses, so it’s good to verify what the weighting is for the exam you are taking. While it is tempting to start off by studying the most heavily weighted topics in depth, we recommend you learn the basics of each category first. Then work deeper into the categories based on weight and your familiarity, so you can absorb more detail and application.

Preparing for the CFP® exam? Download this free eBook to learn how to create a CFP® exam study plan that works for you.

3.  Focused on memorization and not learning

Many individuals who take the CFP® exam have already gone through a few rounds of exams for insurance and securities licensing. Sometimes this sets false expectations of what the CFP® exam is really going to be like. While insurance and securities licensing exams both heavily focus on memorization, the CFP® exam is all about applying knowledge to real situations you could encounter on the job.

The CFP® exam includes two important case studies worth 20% of the exam’s total questions. They require you to analyze a hypothetical client situation and determine the best next steps. Memorization alone won’t cut it in this section. You need mastery of the material and the ability to apply your knowledge to the given client information and scenarios to do well.

4. Too much cramming right before the exam

Studying too hard the day before the exam can really hinder exam-day performance. A grueling day before the exam and a poor night’s sleep will leave you mentally tired walking into the exam hall. Tired candidates are more likely to make mistakes.

Try to be at your mental peak for the exam. We recommend you use the day before the exam to reread some of the more wordy areas of the curriculum, like Ethics. Do not take full practice exams the day before, which can mentally drain you. Few people get a particularly great night’s sleep before an exam, so make sure you get into a good sleep pattern the week leading up to the exam. That rest, along with some exercise and relaxation, will help you get through exam day in good form.

5. Not enough practice

Even with good technical knowledge, you can still fail the CFP® exam if you struggle to apply the knowledge to the exam questions. The more you practice, the more familiar you will become with how to apply your knowledge. In addition, using questions at the same difficulty level as the actual exam will help you identify whether you have truly mastered a particular domain.

You should attempt and review the solutions of the following questions before taking the real CFP® exam:

  • Prep provider end-of-chapter questions
  • Prep provider question bank quizzes
  • Prep provider practice exams
  • CFP Board practice exams

The more you practice questions before the exam, the more opportunity you have to identify mistakes you made and why you made them. This will prevent you from making similar mistakes in the real exam.

If you are a retake candidate, we recommend you concentrate heavily on practice questions in your next attempt. We strongly suggest attending a review course as well, so you can better identify where key gaps in your knowledge remain. Once you identify your gaps, you can get some additional help from experienced instructors on how to break down the questions and apply proven exam techniques to your exam strategy.
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Now that you know the most common reasons people fail the CFP® exam, ensure that you pass with Kaplan Financial Education. Choose a CFP® exam prep package that suits your study needs now.

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Posted by Kaplan Financial Education - March 30, 2021
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How Hard is the CFP® Exam?

In 2020, just over 7,000 individuals sat for the CFP® exam in the March, July/September, and November exam windows combined. If you are planning to sit for the CFP® certification exam in the near future, you’re probably wondering how big of a challenge you’re about to face. We’ve put together this resource as an all-inclusive answer source for your questions about the difficulty of the CFP® exam...and how to improve your odds of success.

 

CFP® Exam Pass Rate

The overall pass rate for the CFP® exam in 2020 was 63%. That pass rate has remained relatively consistent since CFP Board introduced a new exam blueprint prior to the March 2016 CFP® exam. The new blueprint was based on the 8 Principal Knowledge Topics that were defined in CFP Board’s 2015 Job Task Analysis Study.

CFP® Exam Topics

The topics tested on the CFP® exam are essentially CFP Board’s 8 Principal Knowledge Topic Categories. Every question you face will directly tie back to one of these eight topics. According to CFP Board, the topic categories, and their weight on the exam, can be broken down as follows:

Professional Conduct and Regulation7%
General Principles of Financial Planning17%
Education Planning6%
Risk Management and Insurance Planning12%
Investment Planning17%
Tax Planning12%
Retirement Savings and Income Planning17%
Estate Planning12%


As you can see, there’s no single topic that dominates the CFP® exam curriculum. The test is truly designed to assess your understanding across all of the Principle Knowledge Topic Categories. But with three of the topics, at 17% each, collectively making up over 50% of the exam, it is essential you have a firm grasp on those three topics to be successful. In addition, the exam contains two case studies that comprise 20% of the 170 multiple-choice questions.

Want more help with your CFP® exam study plan? Download our free CFP® Exam Study Plan: How to Make the Most of Your Time eBook

CFP® Exam Study Tips—How to Increase Your Odds of Success

The CFP® exam is not easy. It requires a significant investment of time to be successful. But most of the time, failure on the exam is the result of poor preparation. Investing in exam preparation is a way to avoid that. In addition, these tips will help you develop the knowledge and confidence necessary to pass the CFP ® exam.

  • Put in the study time: CFP Board says candidates should spend at least 250 hours preparing studying. Don’t take this suggestion lightly. You have a lot of material to cover. Starting early will help ensure you leave yourself enough time to master it.
  • Don’t rely on cramming: Candidates who do not manage to dedicate enough time to prepare for the exam might be tempted to resort to cramming. Time and time again, it’s been proven that the best last minute exam prep activities are light review and a good night’s sleep. Cramming is not in the recipe for CFP® exam success.
  • Develop and follow a study plan: To ensure you dedicate yourself to proper preparation for the exam, we recommend developing and following a study plan. This will help you spread the curriculum over the time you have available to study and game plan to ensure you are giving the right amount of focus to the right topics.
  • Learn how to apply your knowledge to real life scenarios: If you are relying on memorization of vocabulary to get through the CFP® exam with a passing score, you’re going to be in for an unpleasant surprise. It’s not enough to be able to recall definitions. The CFP® exam tests your ability to perform the tasks expected of someone who holds the credential. So you need to know how to apply what you know to scenarios you will actually encounter when serving clients.
  • Practice, practice, practice: There is no better way to build your confidence ahead of the CFP® exam than by doing practice questions. This type of practice helps you truly assess your comprehension of critical concepts, identify and address weaknesses, and get comfortable answering the kinds of questions you’ll face on exam day.

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Ensure you are prepared for exam day with the College for Financial Planning®—a Kaplan Company's CFP® exam prep review. Get the expert instruction and education you need to pass the exam with confidence. 

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Posted by Kaplan Financial Education - March 26, 2021
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What Is the Financial Paraplanner Qualified Professional™ (FPQP™) Designation?

The Financial Paraplanner Qualified Professional (FPQP) designation introduces financial planning to professionals with no prior experience. It is offered exclusively by the College for Financial Planning®—a Kaplan Company (CFFP). This article explains the designation, how it differs from the CFP® mark, and the curriculum to help you decide if it's a good fit for your career.

About the FPQP Designation

The foundation of financial planning is developing strong relationships with new and current clients, so you can help them achieve their financial goals. The FPQP designation is for those who have no financial planning experience and want to start building that foundation. The program covers the main facets in personal financial planning with a focus on practical application, such as estate, tax, retirement, insurance, and investments. Holding the FPQP designation demonstrates to clients that you can gather, review, and analyze their financial information and offer a comprehensive picture of their financial well-being.

 

How Does the FPQP Designation Differ from the CFP Mark?

CFP® certification is a professional designation for financial planners. Also known as the CERTIFIED FINANCIAL PLANNER mark, its governing body, CFP Board, administers the credential. CFP® professionals are experienced personal financial advisors who take the lead in helping clients create comprehensive plans for meeting their long-term personal financial goals, such as retirement, college tuition, business startup, a home, and so on. It is considered to be one of the most prestigious designations in personal finance or personal financial planning.

Professionals who have earned the FPQP designation are part of a financial planning team and often do most tasks associated with financial planning services. Although FPQP designees can advise clients, they do not usually take the lead in client relationships.

The FPQP Curriculum

The FPQP™ curriculum consists of these 10 modules:

  • The Financial Planning Process
  • Business Ownership, Cash Management, and the Use of Debt
  • The Time Value of Money
  • Insurance Basics and Property Insurance
  • Life and Health Insurance
  • Investment Basics and Strategies
  • Retirement Planning
  • Tax Implications of Financial Decisions
  • Estate Planning Basics
  • Case Study and Master Index

You can complete the FPQP program in 144 hours, and there is a final exam. This exam has 75 questions, and the passing score is 70 percent or better. Students have 120 days from the date they are provided online access to complete a designation program (including testing and passing the Final Exam). 

The Benefits of the FPQP Designation

The FPQP mark can set you apart from other paraplanners because it demonstrates you have the knowledge and expertise to provide advice to clients as part of an effective financial planning team. You are better able to assist financial planners and their clients while advancing your own financial career.

Earning the designation is also a sound financial decision. FPQP graduates can generally expect a pay increase after earning the FPQP® designation. Plus, it can help with your future education plans. By earning the FPQP designation, you can receive credit for the completion of FP511 in the CFFP CFP® certification education program. This allows you to save both time and money while pursuing multiple credentials.

Considering the FPQP Designation?

The FPQP designation is well-suited for:

  • New finance professionals who want financial planning credentials to advance their career
  • Support personnel who work with financial planners and advisors
  • Individuals interested in a broad base of financial knowledge to assist with their personal finances

To learn more about how to earn a financial planning designation endorsed by top financial firms, visit the FPQP web page.

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Posted by Kaplan Financial Education - January 25, 2021
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Careers in Financial Planning

Careers in the financial planning field involve helping clients with investment decisions, taxes, insurance policy selection, and retirement plans. The most recent data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics in the U.S. estimates that the employment of financial planners could grow 7 percent from 2018 to 2028, faster than the average for all occupations. However, financial planning is an umbrella term for a number of different occupations. This article looks at some of the most common ones.

Paraplanner

Paraplanners are the junior members of a financial planning team, and they usually work in financial management firms. They provide financial planning support by investigating investments, making preliminary financial planning recommendations, and coordinating marketing events. They also research financial databases and products for specific solutions that match client needs and prepare charts, graphs, and tables to be used in meetings.

Financial Planning Analyst

The primary role of a financial planning analyst is to analyze the current financial situation of businesses, organizations, and individuals. To achieve this, financial planning analysts use a wide range of quantitative formulas and techniques. They sift through a large amount of data and use their mathematical skills to help clients decide how best to invest their money. Using data gleaned from economic trends, relevant laws, and other factors, they create a viable financial model for a client.

Financial Planner

Financial planners help individuals, couples, and businesses make investment decisions. Much of the job involves meeting with clients, analyzing financial information, researching new opportunities, and explaining the kinds of financial services and investments they provide to clients. Typically, they help clients understand and set financial and investment goals, in addition to assessing their financial health by examining assets, liabilities, income, taxes, investment, and estate plans. They also monitor accounts and research new investment opportunities to recommend or select for their clients.

Download the free eBook, Getting There from Here: Career Path Stories from Finance Professionals, to get firsthand accounts of what it's like to have a rewarding career in finance.

Personal Financial Planner

A personal financial planner specializes in helping individuals organize their finances and meet long-term financial goals, advising and assisting with budgeting, cash flow planning, and saving for college and retirement. They create comprehensive plans for their clients after assessing their current financial situations and researching what they can do to improve them. Personal financial planners can also have certain areas of expertise, such as retirement planning or education funding planning.

Financial Advisor

Financial advisors help clients manage their money. They create short-term and long-term financial goals for their clients and then devise financial plans for achieving them. Financial advisors often specialize in investment management, estate planning, retirement planning, insurance, debt repayment, tax planning, or any other aspect of the finance industry. They can be stockbrokers, insurance agents, money managers, estate planners, bankers, and more.

Financial Consultant

A financial consultant focuses on the accountability aspects of financial planning. Designing action plans and a financial strategy, financial consultants help clients run their financial systems. They collaborate with other professionals, such as attorneys, accountants, and investment managers to ensure their clients' financial needs are met. They also stay up-to-date on financial news and economic events that might affect the plans they’ve designed for their clients.

Wealth Manager

Wealth managers provide services to high-net-worth individuals and ultra-high-net-worth individuals, and they are usually more hands-on than other financial planners. The solutions they offer are usually more customized because of the special needs of their high-net-worth clients. Examples of their services include investment management, personal financial planning, tax services and planning, retirement planning, legal planning, philanthropic planning, and estate planning, among others.

Interested in a Career in Financial Planning?

If any of these financial planning roles appeal to you, the College for Financial Planning®—a Kaplan Company can help. From designations for paraplanners, wealth management advisors, and more to the CFP® mark and MS in Personal Financial Planning, we provide the education and exam preparation needed for success in this rewarding field.

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Posted by Kaplan Financial Education - August 25, 2020
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VIDEO: Insurance Exam Study Tips

Join Kaplan Financial Education experts Julie Ramsey and Mary Orn as they discuss some key insurance license exam study tips. Mary and Julie have helped thousands of students pass their insurance licensing exams and they have put together these exam study tips to help you succeed too. By following their eight tips, you will be able to put together an efficient study plan to pass the exam the first time.

 

Mary: Hello, my name is Mary Orn.

Julie: Hi, I'm Julie Ramsey. And welcome to our studio. We want to give you the inside track, so welcome. Mary and I are here today, and we wanted to show you the studio. What we've done here is lots of insurance videos, and these are to help people who are going through the licensing process, because a lot of times, insurance seems like a different language, doesn't it? And so, these are just to break down the concepts and make it simple. So welcome.

Mary: As instructors, we've helped thousands of students pass their exam, and we've put together some study tips to help you as you prepare for your state exam. Our number one recommendation is that you print the state exam outline. You can get it from one of two spots...either the website of your department of insurance or from the testing provider.

Julie: That's really good information, Mary, because one of the biggest mistakes that students make is they treat all of the information the same. This is just as important as this, and it's not when you're studying for your exam. You want to prioritize the most heavily tested, down to the least heavily tested. Prioritize those...so the state the exam outline does that. So study those first five sections really well. Know them inside and out, and then you can just go down by priority.

Mary: Yes, it's important because there's a weighting to the exam. Certain topics are questioned more than others. Another tip is to utilize the practice exams. This is a good chance to practice reading the full question.

Julie: Absolutely, that's really important. And when you're taking these practice exams, your goal is to score an 80% or better, and consistently. Don't just take one exam, do well on it, and say, "Okay, good, I'm done studying." Because if I'm scoring consistently in every session, if I'm scoring 80% or better, I should pass the first time.

Mary: And take notes when you're going through the practice exams. Jot down what it is you got wrong. Don't rewrite the whole question, but just make sure you understand why you got a particular question wrong.

Julie: That's a really good point. It also helps you find efficiencies. "Gosh, I'm really having a hard time understanding annuities," or "I'm really having a hard time understanding this." So you're right...I could learn where I need to hone in on. Mary, I've got another test taking tip.

Mary: Let me hear it.

Julie: Okay. It is time management. How should I best utilize my time, so that I'm prepared and can pass the test the first time?

Mary: So what you're saying is, don't cram the night before?

Julie: Pretty much.

Mary: No all-nighters. Here's what you need to do. After you complete your prelicensing course, spend two to three days studying for your exam. As Julie mentioned, there's a priority that you want to put into place. There's a weighting to the exam. Study the most difficult items first, study the areas where you're weaker first. Get a good night's sleep, and then the morning of the exam, give yourself a little mental vacation, a little break.

Julie: You deserve it. Another test taking tip is scratch paper. When you go take that exam, they're going to give you a piece of scratch paper. And you want to best utilize that scratch paper. Mary, do you have any thoughts for that?

Mary: I do. I love this one because this allows you to do a memory dump. You walk into the test with your piece of paper before you do anything related to the exam. Put everything from your brain down onto the paper. Formulas, acronyms, charts, anything you want to make sure you remember, and then you set it aside. When you come to that question, you can quickly take a peek at the notes that you've written.

Julie: Now that's a really good idea, and it also helps with problem areas. We see a lot of folks that have problems with homeowners. And in one of our taping sessions, we have an instructor who goes through the different areas of homeowners, and we have this homeowners chart. And if I know I'm having problems in that area, then I can memorize that chart. I can write that down on the scratch paper when I go take my test and be successful.

Mary: Perfect. Read the full question. That is really important when you are taking your exam. There will be a lot of information in there, and chances are, what the question is really getting at is that last sentence.

Julie: That's a really good point. A lot of times when people take the test, it's not what you know, but it's can you take a test? So you really want to break down that question and know what it's asking. So here's our recommendation. The first time, read the question. The second time...yes, you do have to look at twice...read the question and then answer it, and then look over it a third time. So you're going to read the question, you see your answer, and then you say, "Yeah, you know what? I got this right." And you want to do that with every question, not just one, but all of them. So, each question you're looking at three times. You're confident, and you're ready to move on.

Mary: It's important to weed out extra information. As I mentioned, there's going to be a lot of stuff in that question. Use the answers to help tip you off. Many times, some of the answers, two or three, might be similar. They might contain some of the same information, so you can read through those and go, "Oh yeah, that's what they're talking about." Now, I'm going to go back into the question and read it again as part of that three-step process. Caution…after you’ve read through everything and answered your question, move on. Don't sit and think about it, don't go back and change your answer. Chances are the first one you put down is the correct one.

Julie: That's a very good point. I've got another one.

Mary: Let's hear it.

Julie: Pace yourself. You know, it's not a race. You don't get an award at the end if you're the first one done.

Mary: Don't spend too long on one question. Get yourself into a nice, steady rhythm so that you're reading the question and the answers. You go through your three-step process, you answer, you move on. If you're not sure, mark it. If you have time at the end of your test, you can come back and do a quick little review.

Julie: That's a really good idea. And, you know, I have a hard time sitting down when I'm taking an exam for that long of a period of time. It's not like when I was studying, where I can get up and go make popcorn or get a candy bar. And so I have a hard time sometimes focusing, and a lot of students find that too. So what we recommend is taking a break. How do you take a break? I'm there, I have to take the test. Every 30 questions, maybe just put your head down. Just rest, kind of clear your mind, so then you're fresh and you're ready to go. Just do that every 30 questions and pace yourself.

Mary: And it can be very stressful to take this test, so you want to make sure you stay relaxed and give yourself that mental break.

Julie: Absolutely.

Mary: Watch out for the “except” questions...questions that end in the word "except."

Julie: That's a really good point. The words "except," "never," "always," a lot of times throw students off. So we want to talk about turning that “except” question into a direct question. Now we're not asking you to rewrite the question...that would be way too hard. But what you can do is take the word "except" and just put it up on a shelf. Just ignore it for a minute.

Mary: Perfect. So the question may be, "All of the following are agent responsibilities except…." And as Julie mentioned, you're going to take that word out and put it on the shelf. And now what you're looking at is a question that says, "All of the following are agent responsibilities." You've just turned that into a true-false question. Now, you can read through the four answers, decide which are true, which are false, and you get to your one exception.

Julie: So you're saying the eeny, meeny, miny, moe game doesn't work with this?

Mary: No more eeny, meeny, miny, moe.

Julie: Okay, all right. Well, I've got one more.

Mary: Go.

Julie: The testing site. Now you're going to schedule your test ahead of time. But the day of the test, know where you're going. Leave early. There could be construction, there could be traffic, and you're sitting there, and you're freaking out for your test. Additionally, schedule the exam in the morning if you can. I mean, it doesn't have to be at 7 am, by no means, but schedule it in the first part of the day. That way, you're confident, you're ready to go, you're fresh, and ready to take the test.

Mary: The last thing you want to do is go through an entire day of work, or family life, or things that are taking your mind away from the exam, and then have to go in to take the test.

Julie: Absolutely.

Mary: Now, it's okay to be nervous. It's good to be nervous, but also have confidence in yourself. You have prepared for this exam!

 
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Need more help getting ready for the insurance licensing exam? Check out Kaplan's Insurance Licensing exam prep programs , which are available in all 50 states.

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Posted by Kaplan Financial Education - August 14, 2020
woman studying for her insurance licensing exam

How to Get a Securities License

So, you’ve earned—or are about earn—a bachelor’s or master’s degree in finance or a related field, and you’ve decided to sell securities. Or, you’ve decided to add securities to your financial services or insurance repertoire. Now that you have charted your path, the next step is earning the licenses you need to practice your profession. Let’s look at what that entails.

Step 1: Get to Know FINRA and NASAA—If You Haven’t Already

Financial Industry Regulatory Authority (FINRA) is the organization in charge of securities licensing and requirements, and it also administers most of the exams you’ll need to pass to get your license. FINRA also keeps all securities licensing records, writes and enforces rules governing the activities of broker-dealers, audits firms for compliance with those rules, fosters market transparency, and educates investors.

North American Securities Administrators Association (NASAA) is the association of state securities administrators who are charged with the responsibility of protecting consumers who purchase securities or investment advice. Its members participate in enforcement actions and share information, and it also coordinates training and education for state, district, provincial, and territorial securities agency staff. NASAA oversees the licensing requirements for three of the required securities license types.

Thinking about a career in securities? Download our free eBook, Launching Your Securities Career, to get tips and advice from 100+ securities professionals.

It’s important to get to know these organizations and keep up with their activities. For example, effective October 1, 2018, a new exam and licensing structure from FINRA will go into effect. The updated structure adds a new exam—the Securities Industry Essentials (SIE) exam—which anyone who wants to earn their first license after that date will have to pass. After passing that exam, the individual licensing exams will be considered “top-offs” and apply directly to the securities license you want to hold. The good news is that you don’t have to be registered or sponsored by a brokerage firm to take the SIE exam.

Step 2: Determine Whether You Should Take the SIE Exam

If you plan to earn a Series 6, Series 7, Series 79, and Series 99, you will also have to pass the SIE. These individual licensing exams are considered “top-offs” and apply directly to the securities license you want to hold. The good news is that you don’t have to be registered or sponsored by a brokerage firm to take the SIE exam. You may also take it while still in school. The other good news is that if you prefer, you can take your "top-off" exam first, if you wish, and the SIE afterwards.

 

Step 3: Determine Which Securities License or Licenses You’ll Need

You can’t sell securities at a brokerage firm without being licensed. The types of licenses you’ll need depend on the brokerage that’s hiring or sponsoring you. Most of those who hire or train new advisors will have a mandatory licensing program included in their training package, and almost all firms mandate which securities licenses must be obtained to sell the company's products and services. If you intend to be a Registered Investment Advisor or an independent broker-dealer, you’ll also need to be licensed.

Here’s a rundown of the most common FINRA and NASAA securities licenses:

  • Series 6: If you want to sell mutual funds, variable annuities, and other investment packages, you’ll need this license. Administered by FINRA and known as the limited-investment securities license, the Series 6 license enables you to sell what are known as packaged investment products. If you’re an insurance agent who wants to sell variable products, you’ll also need this license.
  • Series 7: If you’d like to be a stockbroker, this is the license for you. Administered by FINRA and known as the general securities representative license, the Series 7 license authorizes you to sell virtually any type of individual security, such as preferred stocks, options, bonds, and other individual fixed income investments—plus all forms of packaged products. Basically, this license enables you to sell everything except commodities futures, real estate, and life insurance.
  • Series 3: If you want to sell commodity futures contracts, you need the Series 3 license, also administered by FINRA.
  • Series 31: If you want to sell managed futures, which are pooled groups of commodities futures, you’ll need the Series 31 license, an offshoot of the Series 3 license.
  • Series 63: If you have a Series 6 license or a Series 7 license, and you want to do business as a stockbroker or sell mutual funds in any state, you need this license. Administered by NASAA, Series 63 is known as the Uniform Securities Agent license.
  • Series 65: If you want to be a financial planner or advisor who works for an hourly fee rather than a commission, or you want to be a stockbroker or other financial representative who deals with managed-money accounts, you’ll need this license. It’s also administered by NASAA.
  • Series 66: If you have a Series 7 license, you have already answered a good portion of the Series 65 exam, so instead of earning Series 63 and Series 65 separately, you can choose to hold this license instead.
  • Series 79: If you want to offer advice or facilitate debt or equity offerings (public or private), mergers or acquisitions, tender offers, final restructuring, asset sales, and divestitures or corporate reorganizations, you’ll need this license.
  • Series 99: If you plan to be a senior manager or a supervisor in operations or will have the authority to materially commit capital in various back office functions, you need this license.

These are the most common securities licenses. You can find a more comprehensive list at the FINRA and NASAA websites. Keep in mind that to earn some of these licenses, like the Series 6 and Series 7, you will need to be sponsored by or work for a broker-dealer.

Step 4: Check Your State Requirements

There might be additional requirements for selling securities in your state or the state where you want to be licensed. You should check with the respective office of the Secretary of State to learn about anything else you need to do to earn your securities license.

Step 5: Study for and Take the Exams—and Pass

To earn your Series 6, 7, 22, 57, 79, 82, and 99 license, you’ll need to pass the SIE exam and take the FINRA “top-off” exam for each license type. FINRA says that the exams are "corequisites," but that does not mean you have to take both at the same time. Instead, they mean that you can't earn your license without taking both, and you can take them in any order.

The licensing exams are not exactly a walk in the park. You need to study with purpose and planning. To help you out, many retail brokerage firms have an in-house training program or, in some cases, they have an agreement with an external training provider. Exam preparation and review courses go a long way toward helping you pass your exams the first time.

FINRA makes it easy to enroll for your exams, because they also administer the exams for your NASAA licenses. Simply visit this page

When you have completed an exam, the computer screen will indicate whether you’ve passed or failed the exam. It also presents a score profile that shows your performance based on the job responsibilities covered by the exam. The percentage required for passing varies. To pass the Series 7, 63, and 65 exams, you need a score of 72%. To pass the Series 66, you need a 73%. You should research your particular exam to find out what the passing score is, because it can change.

What’s Next?

After you pass your licensing exams, you’ll have to register your licenses with FINRA and an approved broker-dealer, who will hold your securities licenses and oversee your business for a portion of the commission income. If you intend to be a Registered Investment Advisor, you don’t have to be associated with a broker-dealer. However, you must register with the state you are doing business in if you’re managing assets that are less than $100 million or with the SEC if they are more than $100 million.

Ready to Go?

If you’ve already decided which licenses you’ll need, visit our resources page for information on how to pass each type of licensing exam. You can also view our education and exam preparation packages here.

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Posted by Kaplan Financial Education - August 14, 2020
How2Securities_10

How to Get Your Series 7 License

What is a Series 7 license? Known as the General Securities Registered Representative license, this license allows you to sell a broad range of securities. A holder is allowed to sell corporate stocks and bonds, municipal bonds, mutual funds, variable annuities, options, direct participation program (DPP) partnerships, and packaged securities (i.e., collateralized mortgage obligations).

The Series 7 is generally preferred by banks and broker dealers for new recruits coming directly into the financial services industry. Those who get this license are officially listed as registered representatives by FINRA, but are more commonly referred to as stockbrokers.

Here are the steps to follow to earn your license.

Step 1: Take and Pass the SIE Exam

The SIE exam tests common topics such as fundamentals, regulatory agencies and their functions, product knowledge, and acceptable and unacceptable practices. You can take the SIE exam before being sponsored by a firm and even while you are still in school. You have a four-year window in which to take and pass any of the representative level top-off exams, like Series 7, after passing the SIE exam. Note that FINRA says that the SIE and Series 7 exams are "corequisites," which does not mean you have to take them at the same time. What FINRA means is that you have to pass both to get your license, but you can take them in any order.

Download "A Candidate's Guide to the SIE Exam" to take your first step toward SIE Exam success.

Step 2: Secure a Sponsorship

To take the Series 7 exam, you must be sponsored by a FINRA member firm or a self-regulatory organization (SRO). Firms apply for candidates to take the exam by filing a Uniform Application for Security Industry Registration or Transfer (Form U4). There is also an exam fee that is commonly covered by the sponsoring firm. 

Step 3: Study for the Series 7 Exam

Once you secure your sponsorship, you can take the top-off exam for the Series 7 license. Most candidates also choose to take the SIE before they take the Series 7, but you can take it first if you prefer and the SIE afterwards.

The licensing exam is not exactly a walk in the park. You need to study with purpose and planning. To help you out, many retail brokerage firms have an in-house training program or, in some cases, they have an agreement with an external training provider. Series 7 study materials go a long way toward helping you pass your Series 7 exam the first time.

The exam consists of 125 multiple-choice questions, and you have 3 hours and 45 minutes to complete it.

The following table shows the major job functions covered by the exam  (1 through 4) with the associated number of questions:

Function Description% of Exam# of Questions
1 - Seeks Business for the Broker Dealer from Customers and Potential Customers7%9
2 - Opens Accounts after Obtaining and Evaluating Customers' Financial Profile and Investment Objectives9%11
3 - Provides Customers with Information About
Investments, Makes Suitable Recommendations,
Transfers Assets and Maintains Appropriate Records
73%91
4 - Obtains and Verifies Customers’ Purchase and Sales
Instructions and Agreements; Processes, Completes
and Confirms Transactions
11%14
TOTAL100%125

 

Step 4: Pass the Series 7 Exam

FINRA makes it easy to enroll for your exams, because they also administer the exams for your NASAA licenses. Simply visit this page

The passing score for the exam is 72%. For more in-depth coverage of these functions and how the exam is set up, check out this article. Once you pass the exam, you have your license.

Series 7 licensing exam prep can really give you the edge you need to pass. Learn more about our live and online study options, and how to purchase a Series 7 exam prep on our website.

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Posted by Kaplan Financial Education - August 14, 2020
Series 7 license holder analyzing investment performance on 6 computer monitors

Test-Taking Strategies for NASAA and FINRA Exams

Passing securities (FINRA) exams is necessary for aspiring advisers and financial services professionals looking to advance their careers. While each exam has its own topics of focus and format, there are some general test-taking strategies that can help you succeed in all securities (FINRA) exams.

1. Read the Full Question

You cannot expect to answer a question correctly if you do not know what it is asking. Be sure to read the full question before you answer it. Questions are often written in a way to trap people who make assumptions.

2. Avoid Jumping to Conclusions and Watch for Hedge Clauses

Hedge clauses are included in the exam to throw you off. Hedge clauses include terms like if, not, all, none, or except. When you encounter an if statement, the question can be answered correctly only if you take the qualifier into account. If you ignore the qualifier, you will most likely answer the question incorrectly.

3. Look for Key Words and Phrases

Keep your eyes out for words that reveal the situation presented. For example, if you see the word prospectus in a question, you know the question is about a new issue. Take time to identify key terms to answer this type of question correctly.

4. Interpret the Unfamiliar Question

Some questions on the exam will seem unfamiliar at first. If you have studied the materials, you will know the information to answer all of the questions correctly. Often, questions present information indirectly or differently than you are used to seeing it. You may have to interpret the meaning of some elements before you can answer the question. Know that the exam will approach a concept from multiple angles. Text anxiety can trip you up in these situations, so here is some valuable information for overcoming that.

5. Memorize Key Points

Although reasoning and logic will help you answer some questions, others will require you to memorize information. Include memorization of key points in your 90-120 hours of recommended studying.

Taking the SIE exam? Download the free eBook, A Candidate's Complete Guide to the SIE Exam, for valuable information about the test contents and the securities licensing process.

6. Use Information from Prior Questions

Sometimes, information found in one question will help you answer another question. Pay attention to all of the questions as you are going through the exam! You never know when one will help you with another.

7. Define What is Being Asked

Many questions supply so much information that you can lose track of what is being asked. This happens especially with story problems. Take the time to separate the story from the question and identify what is actually being asked.

8. Use a Calculator

Most questions that require calculations are written so that any math needed is simple in nature and function. It is still recommended, however, that you use a calculator so that you do not make easy math errors that lead you to select incorrect answers.

9. Beware of Changing Your Answers

If you are not confident in an answer, your first hunch is the one most likely to be correct. Do not change answers on the exam without a good reason. In general, only change answers if you discover that you did not read the question right or if you find additional helpful information in another question.

10. Pace Yourself

Watch the time carefully when taking the exam. Your time remaining will be displayed on your computer screen, so you will always know how much time you have left. Some people will finish early and others will run out of time. Make sure you pace yourself throughout the exam.

11. Make Sure You Know the Exam Format

Be sure you know what the exam will be like before you go into it. This will help alleviate any external stress on the day of the test. T

If you are looking for more information about what to expect at the testing center, visit our What to Expect on the Day of Your Securities Exam article. 

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If you are looking for an exam prep provider to help you prepare for an upcoming securities (FINRA) license exam, check out Kaplan's securities licensing study solutions. We have study programs to match all learning styles. 

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Posted by Kaplan Financial Education - July 31, 2020
5 professionals who passed their FINRA securities licensing exam

How Hard is the Life and Health Insurance Exam?

If you've learned what a life insurance agent does and are now considering a career in the life and health insurance field, you are probably wondering, “Is the life and health insurance exam hard?” Each state has their own insurance exams, so the tests and requirements vary, making this question more complicated to answer. However, the overarching topics covered on the exam, as well as the passing scores, are similar for all states. If you have a good understanding of the topics and how the exam works, you are well on your way to passing the life and health insurance exam.

For life and health insurance exams, you will be tested on the following general topics:

  • Life insurance general knowledge
  • Life insurance policies
  • Policy riders and options in life insurance coverage
  • Life insurance tax issues
  • Annuities
  • Annuity policy tax issues
  • Health insurance general knowledge
  • Dental, individual, and group policies
  • Medical plans
  • Disability income
  • Special needs individual insurance
  • Health Maintenance Organizations (HMOs)
  • Health insurance tax issues

You will want to print out the State Exam Outline so you understand what material will be covered under each of these topics and how it will be weighted on the exam. The State Exam Outline tells you how many questions are included in each section of the test. We advise you to focus more of your study time on sections that have more exam questions.

Thinking about a career in insurance? Download this free Launching Your Insurance Career eBook.

Pass Rates and Recommended Study Time

From what we know, insurance exam pass rates fluctuate considerably by state. Some states publish their pass rates while others do not, making it impossible to offer an accurate national pass rate for any exam. Nevertheless, the passing score for all exams is 70%, and utilizing exam study tools can help you gauge whether or not you are on target to pass on the first try.

The average exam-taker should expect to spend about 35 to 40 hours studying to pass the life and health insurance exam. It is recommended that you do your studying over the course of a few weeks (an insurance certification study package can help with this), rather than trying to cram the week of or night before the exam. We recommend spending 2 to 3 days studying after your licensing course to keep the information fresh in your mind.

Study Tips

When studying, try to remove distractions around you. It can be easy to get distracted by your phone, TV, or the Internet. For your brain to absorb new information, it is important that you do your best to avoid multitasking and stay focused on what you’re studying. You may find that setting a study schedule over a period of a few weeks will help you carve out time where you can solely focus on preparing for the exam.

Once you have a good handle on the material, be sure to utilize practice exams. These will help you gauge how well you have absorbed the information in your studies and what areas you still need to work on. It is a good idea to take at least one practice exam while mimicking testing conditions. This will help you determine whether your pacing is right to get through the exam in the allotted time.

The life and health insurance exam can be challenging; however, you can pass with flying colors on your first try by following our recommendations. Now that you have a better understanding of the life and health insurance exam and how you can successfully prepare for it, check out this video from Kaplan’s Julie Ramsey and Mary Orn with more insurance exam study tips.

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Ensure you are prepared for the life and health insurance licensing exam with Kaplan's insurance license exam prep solutions. We have study options to suit all learning styles. Get started today.

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Posted by Kaplan Financial Education - July 31, 2020
Woman preparing for the life and health insurance exam

5 Reasons Insurance Sales is a Good Career

If you are thinking of a career change or you recently graduated college, there are a lot of good reasons to to pursue a career in insurance. Read on to learn 5 reasons why many of our insurance students choose insurance sales.

1. Unlimited Earning Potential

Many people are drawn to the insurance industry because of the unlimited potential it offers to those in sales. Agents with limited experience can achieve financial success relatively quickly. While it can take time to build a book of clients, and we tell agents to count on the first few years not being lucrative, there is endless potential to make money in the long term. If you can start a good referral program, your current clients can help you continue to build your book of business.

Independent agents are paid solely on commission, while captive agents will often get a combination of salary and commission. Either way, you’ve got plenty of opportunity to grow your income.

2. Great Flexibility

If the 9 to 5 lifestyle isn’t for you, you will like the flexibility that a career in insurance sales offers. Whether you become an independent agent or a captive agent, you can often vary your appointment times with some evenings and weekends, not only to accommodate clients but your own life as well. You can have a free weekday to schedule personal appointments, enjoy activities, and run errands.

If you go the independent agent route, you also have the flexibility to sell a larger variety of products. This will allow you to better match your clients’ needs with the best fitting products and gradually earn their trust.

Thinking about a career in insurance? Download our free ebook, Launching Your Insurance Career with Confidence, for advice and tips from 100+ insurance professionals.

3. Make a Difference

Insurance policies protect people from financial loss because of unexpected events and circumstances. As an insurance agent, you get to guide your clients’ decisions on what insurance policy plans best suit their needs. The research you do and recommendations you provide have a real impact on a client’s financial well-being down the road.

Insurance agents help people prepare for the future. From helping clients save for retirement and college for their kids to financing a large purchase like a house or car, insurance agents have the potential to help people achieve their financial and personal goals. They also prepare clients for unfortunate events and provide a measure of comfort to clients during such events.

4. Few Barriers to Entry

Due to the low barriers of entry, insurance sales is a good career choice for people who are transitioning into a new career following a major life change. It only takes a few weeks or months to study for the state licensing exam, pass the exam, and start selling insurance.

A college degree is preferred but is not required in many insurance firms. Unlike many other finance-related positions, prior experience is also not required.

5. Variety of Work

If the monotony of doing the same work over and over is unappealing, a career in insurance sales is definitely a good option for you. Many insurance agents agree they love the variety of work insurance sales provides. There are some tasks that need to be done on a regular basis, but for the most part, agents are constantly meeting new people and helping them achieve their financial goals.

Insurance agents often have to do a lot more besides sell insurance. They have to grow their business, do marketing, respond to inquiries via email or phone, and be proficient in social media platforms. They also maintain records and research prospects. In addition, it is important that insurance agents keep up with industry news, trends, and government regulations. For this reason, continuing education is required for insurance agents in all states (education requirements vary by state). Having these 10 traits can help, as well.

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Think a career in insurance sales is the right one for you? Learn the process for becoming an insurance agent now. If you are ready to start insurance licensing exam prep , choose your state to get started with Kaplan’s exam prep packages.

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Posted by Kaplan Financial Education - July 31, 2020
Female insurance agent explaining policy to clients

How to Pass the Property and Casualty Exam

To sell property and casualty insurance, you need a Property and Casualty license. But first, you must first pass the licensing exam in the state in which you want to sell insurance. The licensing process varies by state, as does the passing score and pass rate. However, the exam structure and content topics are generally the same across states. We recommend you follow these best practices for studying in order to pass your Property and Casualty exam.  

Start Studying Early/Set a Study Calendar

The average insurance exam-taker should expect to spend about 35 to 40 hours studying to pass the Property and Casualty exam. It is recommended that you study for the exam over the course of a few weeks, rather than trying to cram the week of the exam. The best way to avoid cramming is to set a study plan and stick to it. If you take a course with Kaplan, you can simply plug in your exam date into our study calendar tool, and we’ll set a study plan to keep you on track.

Thinking about a career in insurance? Download our free ebook, Launching Your Insurance Career with Confidence, for advice and tips from 100+ insurance professionals.

Focus on the State Exam Outline

You will want to print out the State Exam Outline for General Lines Property and Casualty Agent so you understand what material will be covered under each of these topics, as well as how it will be weighted on the exam. The State Exam Outline explains how many questions are included in each section of the test. We recommend that you concentrate on the sections with the most questions so you can attain mastery of the key topics.

Remove Distractions

For your brain to absorb new information, it is important that you do your best to avoid multitasking and stay focused on what you’re studying. This can be much easier said than done. You may find that setting a study schedule over a period of a few weeks will help you carve out time where you can solely focus on preparing for the exam. Try to remove distractions around you, such as your phone, TV, or the Internet whenever possible. Some people find the Pomodoro technique helps them focus better—this is where you set a timer for a 25-minute interval to focus on one specific task, followed by a 5-minute break. 

Utilize Practice Exams

Be sure to utilize Property and Casualty practice exams in your studies. These will help you gauge how well you have absorbed the information you’ve read and figure out which areas still need your attention. It is a good idea to take at least one practice exam while mimicking testing conditions. This will help you determine whether your pacing is right to get through the exam in the allotted time.

Take an Exam Prep Course

While not all states require it, it is a good idea to take an insurance certification course for your Property and Casualty licensing exam. Not only will it help you make sense of the material, but it will help you prioritize and stay on track with your study calendar. With Kaplan, you can choose from live online classes, OnDemand courses, or printed books for self-study. No matter which study option you choose, you’ll receive the License Exam Manual (LEM), State Law Supplement, a QBank containing hundreds of practice questions, and access to an expert instructor.

The Property and Casualty insurance licensing exam is challenging. It requires hard work and effort to prepare, but by following these study tips, you should be well on your way to passing the exam on the first try. It's also helpful to learn what to expect on exam day.

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If you are interested in Property and Casualty exam prep from Kaplan, you can choose from our exam prep options here. We have a study package for every type of learner!

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Posted by Kaplan Financial Education - July 31, 2020
Umbrella protecting a home

How to Sell Insurance

How to sell insurance is top of mind for anyone who is considering this rewarding career. Insurance sales requires hard work, determination, networking, marketing, followup, and a genuine interest in people’s lives, plans, and future. It means working on commission (in most cases) and having at least one insurance license. This article describes the steps to follow for selling insurance.

1. Decide what type of insurance to sell and earn your license.

Insurance sales is a broad category, and one insurance license doesn’t cover all the different types. So, you should choose what kind of insurance you’d like to sell. The common options are life, health, property, and casualty insurance. Two other types that are fairly common are surplus line insurance, which covers unusual situations with risks not addressed by standard insurance, and variable products insurance, which have an investment element.

To earn an insurance license for everything except variable products insurance (you need a FINRA Series 6 license for that), you need to be at least 18 years old. You will have to pass an exam administered by the state where you want to sell insurance. Many states require you to complete prelicensing education before taking the exam. You must also pass a background check that can include fingerprinting.

2. Choose how you want to sell insurance.

There are two ways you can sell insurance after you earn your license. You can be a “captive” or an independent agent. Captive agents work for a specific insurance carrier and can only sell its insurance products to prospects and clients. Typically, their office expenses are paid for, and they receive benefits and continuing education training.

Independent agents work for themselves and sell the products of different insurers. They use their own resources to start and market their business, but they typically earn larger commissions than captive agents. By offering products from different carriers, they can tailor solutions specifically for their prospects and clients.

Thinking about a career in insurance? Download this free Launching Your Insurance Career eBook.

3. Generate leads.

After earning your license and choosing how you want to sell insurance, you’re ready to start selling. You know you need to help clients understand differences in insurance policies so they can choose the plan that’s right for them, but first you need to get those clients. So, how do you do that? You will have to generate leads.

If you’re working as a captive agent, your employer may provide you with leads, usually by selling them to you. If you’re working independently, you will need to generate leads in other ways. Many independent agents purchase lists and some even engage insurance marketing organizations or field marketing organizations to help them with marketing and lead generation.

Even with help from another party, it’s always a good policy to make sure you also get leads the old-fashioned way—by networking and using referrals. Encourage family and friends to refer you. Participate in insurance and other community events to get the word out that you’re an insurance agent. Remember to create a website and profiles on Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter, Instagram, and Snapchat and keep up with them regularly, engaging as much as you can.

4. Make your pitch.

Selling insurance to your leads is all about the pitch. You need to present yourself well, speak in the language your prospects understand (no slang or jargon), and demonstrate empathy with their situations. When you put yourself in their shoes, you can better explain how your insurance products will benefit them.

Potential clients are looking for a solution and benefits, not a list of features. Therefore, you should examine and understand how the features you offer solve problems so you can make appropriate solution recommendations. This is called solution selling, and it is more effective than just listing features like a 24x7 helpline or a one-click accounting report.

Many leads might think they don’t need insurance or are reluctant to commit to the best policy, fearing the cost. Or, they might be required by a bank or law to purchase insurance and want the lowest-price option. In those cases, you should ask questions that will get them to focus on what could happen without the proper amount or type of insurance:

  • What’s the most valuable thing in your house?
  • What happens if it is stolen?
  • What kind of serious weather events—such as floods, hurricanes, blizzards, or storms—have happened near your house?
  • If you passed away, how long would your family be able to live on your savings?
  • How much do you think a funeral costs?
  • What would happen to your job if you were permanently injured?
  • If you’re injured or hospitalized for a long period of time, how would you and your family be supported?

After you get answers to those questions, you can explain how the insurance solutions you provide can help them safeguard for those situations.

Step 5. Follow these tips.

Here are some additional tips that can help you get new clients and keep them:

  • Create sales goals to keep you on track throughout the year.
  • Find something in common with prospects and clients to put them (and yourself) at ease.
  • Find opportunities to learn from experienced coworkers or, if you’re independent, from other independent agents.
  • Keep up with the markets and insurance trends so you can introduce new solutions to prospects and existing clients.
  • Listen to your prospects and clients more than you talk to them.
  • Never miss an opportunity to network.
  • Partner with other professionals, like lawyers and accountants, who can answer client questions that you can’t. Then, offer to answer insurance questions that they can’t as a way to get referrals.

Think Selling Insurance Is Right for You?

If you’re excited about helping people plan for the future with the right insurance products, your first step is earning your license. Exam preparation packages can help increase your chances of passing, so you can start your exciting new career.

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Posted by Kaplan Financial Education - July 31, 2020
Selling insurance - conceptual image

How to Get Your Series 6 License

The Series 6 license, known as the Investment Company/Variable Contracts Products Limited Representative License, allows you to register as a limited representative with FINRA. With a Series 6 license, you are able to sell mutual funds, variable annuities, variable life insurance, unit investment trusts (UITs), and municipal fund securities.

The Series 6 is often seen as the ideal companion license for those in the insurance industry. Holders are able to expand the financial products and services they offer, as well as increase their level of expertise.

You can get your Series 6 license by following these steps.

Step 1: Take and Pass the SIE Exam

The SIE exam tests common topics such as fundamentals, regulatory agencies and their functions, product knowledge, and acceptable and unacceptable practices. You can take the SIE exam before being sponsored by a firm and even while you are still in school. You have a four-year window in which to take and pass any of the representative level top-off exams, like Series 6, after passing the SIE exam. Note that FINRA calls the SIE and Series 6 exams "corequisites," but they do not mean you have to take both at the same time. Instead, they mean you have to take both to earn your license, and you can take them in any order.  

Download "A Candidate's Guide to the SIE Exam" to take your first step toward SIE Exam success.

Step 2: Secure a Sponsorship

To take the Series 6 exam, you must be sponsored by a FINRA member firm or a self-regulatory organization (SRO). Firms apply for candidates to take the exam by filing a Uniform Application for Security Industry Registration or Transfer (Form U4). There is also an exam fee that is commonly covered by the sponsoring firm.

Step 3: Take and Pass the Series 6 Exam

Once you secure your sponsorship, you can then take the top-off exam for the Series 6 license. Most candidates will choose to take the SIE before the Series 6, but it is also possible to take it after. The exam has 50 questions broken down into four functions:

  • Function 1: Seeks Business for the Broker-Dealer from Customers and Potential Customers, 12 questions, 24% of exam items
  • Function 2: Opens Accounts after Obtaining and Evaluating Customers’ Financial Profile and Investment Objectives, 8 questions, 16% of exam items
  • Function 3: Provides Customers with Information About Investments, Makes Suitable Recommendations, Transfers Assets and Maintains Appropriate Records, 25 questions, 50% of exam items
  • Function 4: Obtains and Verifies Customers’ Purchase and Sales Instructions; Processes, Completes and Confirms Transactions, 5 questions, 10% of exam items

The test time is 1 hour and 30 minutes and the passing score is 70 percent and above.

Step 4: Register Your License

After you pass your licensing exam, you’ll have to register your Series 6 license with FINRA and an approved broker-dealer, who will hold your license and oversee your business for a portion of the commission income.

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Series 6 licensing exam prep can really give you the edge you need to pass. Learn more about our live and online study options to purchase a Series 6 exam prep package in the Securities product section of our website.

 


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Posted by Kaplan Financial Education - July 31, 2020
Series 6 license holder looking at investment performance

Is Selling Life Insurance a Good Career Opportunity?

Is selling life insurance a good career opportunity? For those who like helping people and don’t mind hard work, the answer is yes. Life insurance agents sell policies and annuities. They work with all kinds of clients and beneficiaries, and most agree that it is a rewarding career. So, if you are interested in financial planning, or you have a sales background and are pondering a career change, life insurance sales is definitely worth considering. This article lists the main reasons why.

Life Insurance Sales Offers Excellent Earning Potential

A career in life insurance sales has unlimited earning potential. Life insurance agents do a lot of selling, and life insurance policy commission percentages are high compared to those of other types of insurance. In addition, life insurance agents get paid commission renewals for as long as a sold policy is in force.

You should not expect financial success right away, however. It takes a few years of hard work and networking to acquire clients. You also must be interested in marketing and have a knack for it. Once you have a solid list of policyholders and put effort into a referral program, you can continue building your book of business and grow your income.

Want advice on getting started in insurance from successful agents? Download this free Launching Your Insurance Career eBook.

Life Insurance Agents Have Flexible Hours

Life insurance agents have the option of following a schedule that is not a traditional 9-to-5 workday. A career in life insurance sales offers you the opportunity to vary your appointment times with some evenings and weekends. This schedule can not only accommodate client availability but yours as well. You can have a free weekday to schedule personal appointments, enjoy activities, and run errands. More importantly, your clients will get the attention they need at times that are convenient for them.

Life Insurance Agents Help People

Life insurance policies let people make sure their loved ones are provided for after they’re gone. As a life insurance agent, you get to help people make decisions on what insurance policy plans will work best for their beneficiaries. Your research and recommendations can make a big difference for a client’s family down the road while offering them peace of mind. And, should an unfortunate event occur, you can provide a measure of comfort to those dealing with loss.

Getting Started in Life Insurance Sales Is Easy

Life insurance sales jobs are abundant and easy to find. It’s a good choice for people who want to change careers or for anyone who wants to get started in a career quickly after high school or college. It only takes a few weeks or months to study for the state licensing exam, pass the exam, and start selling life insurance. A college degree is preferred but is not required in many insurance firms. Unlike many other finance-related positions, no prior experience is needed.

Selling Life Insurance Is Interesting

If the monotony of doing the same work over and over is unappealing, a career in life insurance sales is definitely a good option for you. Many life insurance agents agree they love the variety of work. There are some tasks that need to be done regularly, but, for the most part, agents are constantly meeting new people and helping them take care of their families and loved ones.

Life insurance agents also do a lot more than just sell insurance. They are often educators, explaining the ins and outs of all the products they sell in a way that is easy to understand. They must grow their businesses, market themselves, respond to inquiries via email or phone, and be proficient in social media platforms. They also maintain records and research prospects while keeping up with industry news, trends, and government regulations.

Ready to Pursue a Career Selling Life Insurance?

If life insurance sales appeals to you, this article explains more about what your work will be like. To get started, you must have a life insurance license. To earn an insurance certification, you might need to complete prelicensing education for the state where you plan to work (26 states require prelicensing education). In addition, you must pass either a life insurance or a life and health insurance exam.

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Posted by Kaplan Financial Education - July 30, 2020
Woman successful selling life insurance

How to Pass the Life Insurance Exam

To sell life insurance, there are several paths you can take, but all of them include passing at least one exam. You can earn a life insurance license, which, depending on the state you want to work, can be either be held separately from a health insurance license or together. If you want to sell certain forms of life insurance as part of selling securities, you’ll need to pass exams from FINRA and NASAA that include other types of investments.

This article shows you the steps to passing the life insurance exam and earning your license.

Thinking about a career in insurance? Download our free eBook, Launching Your Insurance Career with Confidence, for advice and tips from 100+ insurance professionals.

Step 1: Learn Your State’s Requirements and Get the Exam Outline

Each state has different requirements and different types of exams. So, the first thing you should do is check with the department of insurance in your state (or the state where you’ll be working) for the requirements. For example, some states require their licensing candidates to complete prelicensing education before they take the exam. So, before you sign up for the exam, you’ll want to make sure you’ve fulfilled that requirement. You should also verify whether you need a sponsor to take an exam—some states won’t let you take the exam without one. And, finally, be sure to print the exam outline for your state.

Step 2: Schedule Your Exam

You can choose the date and time of your exam in most states. Scheduling options are usually on the respective state’s department of insurance website. To give yourself time to study, schedule your exam at least two weeks in advance. The cost to take the exam varies from state to state, but expect it to range from $40 to $150.

Step 3: Have a Study Plan to Pass the Life Insurance Exam

You’ll need to devote about 35 to 40 hours of studying if you expect to pass. Cramming is not recommended. Instead, plan to study for the exam over the course of several weeks. Have a realistic plan that’s easy for you to stick to, dividing your study time into study sessions that give you plenty of time to absorb material. Setting up a study calendar can help you follow your plan. A insurance certification study package can help you stay on track so you don't cram at the last minute.

Step 4: Follow the State Exam Outline

The state outline for the exam has a list of the topics that will be covered and how they are weighted. These are the life insurance topics you are most likely to be tested on:

  • Life insurance general knowledge
  • Life insurance policies
  • Policy riders and options in life insurance coverage
  • Life insurance tax issues
  • Annuities
  • Annuity policy tax issues

If you are taking a combined exam, there will be health insurance topics as well. The exam outline also tells you the number of questions included in each section of the exam. You should concentrate on the sections with the most questions and the topics with the most weights so that you master what’s most important first. You have a better chance of success if you follow that plan.

Step 5: Prepare and Practice

Taking an exam preparation review course can increase your chances of passing. You can choose between live classes, online courses, or printed books for self-study. You should also take practice exams. These will help you determine how well you have absorbed the material and what still needs your attention. A mock or practice exam that mimics test conditions enables you to judge whether your pacing is right for finishing the exam in the allotted time.

Step 6: Know the Exam Center Process

Often what trips students up is not knowing what to expect on exam day, even if they are otherwise prepared. Try visiting the test center before the exam—see how long it takes to get there and get a feel for the testing area. Find out what forms of identification are needed to take the exam so you can have them ready on exam day; each state has its own requirements. On the day of the exam, try to arrive at least 30 minutes early. You should expect to put all of your belongings in a locker before you get assigned to a testing cubicle. When you get to your assigned test spot, an employee will explain the expected conduct to you.

Step 7: Stay Calm and Take the Exam

Here are some tips for how to handle questions on the exam:

  • Read each question carefully and thoroughly before answering it. Most questions will have a lot of detail and qualifying information in them. Try to focus only on the information in the question and avoid making assumptions just to fill in the blanks.
  • Find the questions you know the answer to and answer them first. If you find yourself stuck, move on and come back to it later.
  • Don’t leave any questions blank. Guessing the answer still gives you a 25% chance of getting it right. And, If you can eliminate any of the multiple-choice options that you know to be incorrect, you will have any even better chance at guessing the correct answer.

Once you complete the exam, you will get the results. If you pass, you will receive instructions on how to apply for your license with the state. You may have to wait a few days for the testing center to report that you passed before you can apply for your license. If you fail, you will get a diagnostic report so you know what areas to focus on the next time.

Ready to Pass to Your Life Insurance Exam?

Although pass rates are about 70% in most states, the life insurance licensing exam is still no walk in the park. You can Increase your odds of passing the life insurance exam by following these steps. And to give you even more of an advantage, try an insurance licensing exam prep package.

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Posted by Kaplan Financial Education - July 9, 2020
Woman preparing for the life insurance exam

Changing Careers? Consider Financial Planning

If you are thinking about a career change, consider financial planning. Based on a composite of responses in the 2020 Survey of Trends in the Financial Planning Industry, which was recently published by the College for Financial Planning®—a Kaplan Company, a sizable majority of respondents are satisfied with their careers. This article explains what financial planning is, why it might be a good career change, and how you can make the change.

About Financial Planning

Professionals in the financial planning field help clients with investment decisions, taxes, and selecting insurance policies and retirement plans. They work with their clients to create comprehensive plans for meeting their long-term personal financial goals, such as retirement, college tuition, business startup, a home, and so on. While no two days will ever be the same, much of the job involves meeting with clients, analyzing financial information, and researching new opportunities. The most recent data from The Bureau of Labor Statistics in the U.S. estimates that the employment of financial planners could grow 7 percent from 2018 to 2028, faster than the average for all occupations.

Career Changers

Answers to the questions about why respondents became financial planners indicate that about one-third wanted a career change. Twelve percent say they started in some other aspect of finance or banking and moved into their current role or decided it was a smart career move. One respondent said, “I worked in banking for 28 years, and it led me to where I am today as a Financial Paraplanner. I enjoy what I do, and I couldn’t imagine doing anything else.”

Another 6 percent of respondents say that they were looking for a major career change. One respondent told us this: “I wanted a career that had meaning behind it. I was in the music industry and so thankful I found my way to this industry.”

An additional 5 percent of survey participants say they were job hunting or “desperate to find a job.” One said, “Luck; I needed a job and was knocking on business doors with my resume. I knocked on the door of a financial advisor." Another said, “Hunger. Needed a job, 40 years ago." As you can see, financial planning has staying power as a career. According to survey responses, the average time in the profession is 14 years. Also, 28 percent of the participants were 55 years old or older.

Before You Commit to Financial Planning as a Career Change

Before you jump into financial planning, we advise you to work your way through these five steps for a smooth and successful transition:

  1. Ask yourself why: Create a list of reasons why you want to change careers and why financial planning appeals to you, along with what motivates you. According to the survey, a passion for helping people and an interest in finance or financial planning are two necessary qualities.
  2. Research financial planning: Personal financial planners, financial advisors, wealth managers, asset managers, and other similar roles are all part of financial planning. Learn as much as you can about each to get a sense of which role appeals to you.
  3. Informally interview people in financial planning: Learn from others in the field. Use contacts, LinkedIn, and online research to find people who may be willing to talk with you about whether this is an industry you would like to enter.
  4. Build relationships with financial planning contacts: Look for networking and Meetup groups and attend their events. Join LinkedIn groups and participate in discussions. These activities will help you build a solid list of contacts.
  5. Inventory your current skills: Before you decide that your experience does not relate to financial planning, remember the person who was in the music industry and switched. If you have experience working with customers, have made your own financial plan, or have a deep interest in finance topics, you have enough to get started. There is education to help you fill the other gaps.

How to Become a Financial Planner

Because financial planning is such a broad field, the steps for landing a job in a given role can differ. However, these three basic tips can apply to many different roles:

  • Earn a bachelor’s degree: Many practicing financial planners majored in some type of business or finance program.
  • Find an entry-level finance job: Consider looking on job websites, and make sure you are prepared if you are asked for an interview.
  • Earn the necessary licenses and consider certification: Earning the CFP® mark can help you specialize or differentiate yourself from your competition. If the role you want involves selling securities or insurance, you’ll need a license.

Ready to Make the Switch?

If a job in financial planning seems like a good fit for your career change, the College for Financial Planning®—a Kaplan Company can help you learn more and get started.

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Posted by Kaplan Financial Education - June 30, 2020
Career Change to Financial Planning

What Does a Financial Advisor Do?

What does a financial advisor do? People who are exploring a career in finance often ask this question. The short answer is that a financial advisor works with clients to assess their current financial status and future plans, economic conditions and forecasts, and regulations so that they can give them financial advice. This article offers more detail on the financial advisor role and shares the steps to follow to become a financial advisor.

What Is a Financial Advisor?

A financial advisor helps clients by giving them financial advice that takes their current financial situation, long-term and short-term goals, and requirements into account. Generally, financial advisors fall into one of these categories:

  • Personal financial advisor: A personal financial advisor helps individuals manage their finances and provide advice on investments, insurance, mortgages, college savings, taxes, estate planning, and retirement.
  • Investment advisor: An investment advisor provides investment-related advice for a fee. Their focus is strictly on investing, so their work is more limited in scope than that of a personal financial advisor.
  • Registered representative: A registered representative can recommend and purchase investment products such as stocks, bonds, and mutual funds for a client based on income, portfolio, risk tolerance, investment objectives, and overall financial situation.
  • Wealth management advisor: A wealth management advisor recommends ways that high-net-worth clients can achieve their goals related to wealth accumulation, protection, and distribution.
  • Financial planner: A financial planner helps clients with long-term investment decisions, taxes, and selecting insurance policies and retirement plans.

Regardless of their specific job title, all financial advisors design investment portfolios based on a range of information, including economic trends, regulatory changes, and risk. They are expected to establish trust with their clients and balance their market and investment knowledge with an understanding of what will work best for each client.

Typical Duties of a Financial Advisor

What does the job of a financial advisor look like? Here is a list of things that are typical of the role:

  • Contacting prospective clients to explain their offerings
  • Responding to prospect queries about financial services
  • Providing financial advice on investments, including securities, insurance, annuities, and retirement
  • Monitoring financial markets and legislation Updating clients on market changes Checking with clients after life event changes
  • Reporting performance of investments to clients
  • Preparing financial plans and checking their accuracy
  • Sharing subject matter expertise with prospects, clients, and other advisors

These are just the highlights. Also, they may differ slightly, depending on the type of financial advisor you are.

How to Become a Financial Advisor

There are five main steps to become a financial advisor:

  1. Earn a bachelor’s degree: Most practicing financial advisors majored in some type of business or finance program.
  2. Complete an internship: An internship can help get a sense of what a financial advisor does every day while offering the opportunity to learn from financial advisors. If your internship was mutually successful and satisfying, consider exploring the possibility of an entry-level position after you graduate.
  3. Find a finance job: As you prepare to enter the workforce as a financial advisor, consider looking on job websites for positions in large firms and make sure you are prepared if you are asked for an interview. You can learn a lot about how to make cold calls and build a book of business at a large company.
  4. Earn the necessary licenses and consider certification: Earning the CFP® mark or the CFA® charter can help you specialize or differentiate yourself from your competition. If you sell securities or insurance, you’ll need a license.
  5. Pursue additional education: Your job relies on your ability to provide valuable financial advice to clients. Returning to school to earn a graduate degree or doctorate can help you progress in your career as a financial advisor.

Ready to Get Started?

If a career as a financial advisor appeals to you, get more information about get more information about how to become a financial advisor. You can also read this article to find out how much financial advisors earn.

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Posted by Kaplan Financial Education - June 22, 2020
Financial Advisor at Work

Live Online vs. On-Demand vs. Self-Study CFP® Exam Preparation

The CFP® exam is computer-based and consists of 170 multiple-choice questions that test your financial planning knowledge in client situations. Preparing for the exam requires a significant investment of time and financial resources. As part of deciding your exam education and preparation provider, you will also have to choose between live online education, on-demand classes, or self-study. So, let’s explore the main differences.

CFP® Exam Preparation: Live Online Classes

Of the three choices, live online exam preparation adds the most structure to your studies and provides a mentor who can encourage you and keep you on track when you need it. You get regular, expert feedback on your weak areas, suggestions for how to improve, and guidance on where to get more practice. You also have someone to ask for help with challenging material.

Live online exam preparation classes provide focus to your study efforts and enable you to use your 250 hours of study time efficiently and effectively. You receive advice on test-taking strategies to make the task of tackling 170 questions in six hours a bit less daunting. If you choose the right package, you also get a mock exam to help you simulate the real thing. Note that of all the options, live online classes require the biggest cash outlay, but considering the expert attention and guidance, many candidates have said it's worth it.

Preparing for the CFP® exam? Download this free eBook to learn how to create a CFP® exam study plan that works for you.

CFP® Exam Preparation: On-Demand Classes

On-demand preparation enables you to learn from an expert instructor but on your own time. It is designed to ensure you are staying on track in your prep plan and mastering the curriculum at your own pace. This means it is a great option for those CFP® candidates who must schedule their exam preparation around a full-time job or learn at a different speed. With on-demand learning, you can start, stop, and rewind through video instruction as often as you need. You have access to practice questions that can help you apply what you’ve learned. And, although you do not get the real-time interaction with instructors, they are helping you review and master the material. You can even email them your questions.

CFP® Exam Preparation: Self-Study

Self-study is the most affordable exam preparation option. It’s also the most difficult, but there are candidates that have gone this route and been successful. If you choose the self-study option, you will prepare, practice, and perform without the help of an experienced instructor. Therefore, you must:

  • Create a study calendar and plan.
  • Go through the exam study books.
  • Find practice questions.
  • Identify and rectify your weak areas.
  • Develop a test-taking strategy that will give you the best chance of success.
  • Find a mock exam.

Self-study takes a lot of motivation, persistence, patience, confidence, self-awareness, and some expertise in learning. Some people have what it takes to do it this way. They tend to be highly motivated self-starters who have the mettle to put in the hard work day after day and be successful when they sit for the exam.

So, the first thing you have to do is take an honest, unflinching look at yourself and your own history of learning. Ask yourself the tough question, “Do I have what it takes to do this without guidance from instructor-led review classes?” If the answer is yes, then self-study could work for you. If you hesitate before answering, it is likely that instructor-guided review is a better option for you.

Ready to Get Started?

Whether you have decided on live online preparation, on-demand learning, or self-study classroom instruction, we have study tools for you.

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Posted by Kaplan Financial Education - May 15, 2020
CFP Exam Prep: Class vs Self-Study

Frequently Asked Questions About the FINRA Series 79 Exam

The questions most frequently asked about Series 79—such as what the license is for and Series 79 exam difficulty, passing score, pass rates, questions, and topics—are answered in this article. Read on to get all the information you need to plan for a career in investment banking.

What is the Series 79 License?

The Series 79 license is for investment bankers, enabling them to offer advice on or facilitate public or private debt or equity offerings, mergers or acquisitions, tender offers, financial restructuring, asset sales, and divestitures or corporate reorganization. Administered by FINRA, the Series 79 license is good for the entire period that you work for a FINRA-member firm or self-regulatory organization (SRO). It only expires if you are terminated or leave a firm and do not find employment within two years. Continuing education is required after you earn your license, however.

Thinking about a career in securities? Download our free eBook, Launching Your Securities Career, to get tips and advice from 100+ securities professionals.

What is the difference between the FINRA Series 79 and Series 7 license?

If you hold a Series 79 license, you can engage in the activities of investment banking. By contrast, the Series 7 license enables you to sell corporate stocks and bonds, municipal bonds, mutual funds, variable annuities, options, direct participation program partnerships, collateralized mortgage obligations, and more. Although each is independent of the other, the general industry consensus is that a representative with a Series 7 license who wants to work investment banking should earn the Series 79 license.

What jobs can I get with a Series 79 license?

If you’re interested in a career in investment banking and want to engage in its specific activities, this is the license to have. Officially listed as Investment Banking Limited Representatives by FINRA, Series 79 license holders are usually associates at an investment bank, investment banking analysts, or investment bankers. If you earn this license, you will most likely work in an investment firm or bank. In fact, you need to be employed by a sponsoring FINRA-member firm before you can sit for the Series 79 exam.

How do I earn a Series 79 license?

Earning a Series 79 license involves four key steps:

  1. Take and pass the SIE exam.
  2. Secure a sponsorship from a FINRA-member firm.
  3. Register for the Series 79 exam.
  4. Study for and pass the Series 79 top-off exam.

What is the Series 79 top-off exam?

As part of implementing the Securities Industry Essentials (SIE) exam, FINRA restructured their examination programs. FINRA is the governing body that ensures that anyone who sells securities products is qualified and tested. As part of this restructuring, FINRA created a tailored top-off examination for earning the Series 79 license. You should take the Series 79 top-off exam if you want to be licensed to sell investment banking products.

What are the requirements to sit for the Series 79 exam? Do I need a sponsor?

A FINRA-member firm or SRO must sponsor you to take the Series 79 exam. After you’ve worked for them for four months or more, they can file a Form U4 (Uniform Application for Securities Industry Registration) which registers you for the exam. Fortunately, most firms that hire or train you will have a mandatory Series 79 licensing program included in their training package.

There are no education requirements to sit for the Series 79 exam, although most candidates have a college degree in a finance-related field, and many choose to complete a Series 79 exam prep package before sitting for the exam.

May I take the Series 79 exam before the SIE exam?

Yes, although the more natural progression is to take the SIE exam first, mainly because you don’t have to be sponsored to take it, and it is a more general exam that covers securities concepts. The SIE exam and Series 79 top-off exams are “co-requisites,” which means you can take and pass them in any order. Of course, you have to pass both to earn your Series 79 license.

Do I need to take the Series 79 top-off exam if I already have a different securities license?

It depends. You might not need the Series 79 if you have a Series 7 license, and you want to sell a broader range of securities than those associated with investment banking. However, Series 7 license holders usually earn their Series 79 licenses if they plan to focus investment banking as registered representatives. You should consult with your firm before deciding whether you need a license or not.

Is the Series 79 exam paper or computer-based?

Like all other securities qualification exams, the Series 79 exam is administered by computer at a Prometric testing center.

What are the Series 79 exam dates?

The date of the Series 79 exam is a 120-day window that is opened when a candidate enrolls for the exam. So, after you enroll in the exam, you schedule an appointment with Prometric, and choose an available exam date within that 120-day period. We recommend scheduling your exam session as far in advance as possible to secure your desired Series 79 exam date.

What topics are covered on the Series 79 exam?

The Series 79 exam topics assess an entry-level registered representative’s competency and degree of knowledge associated with carrying out the three critical functions of an investment banking representative. This includes advising on or facilitating debt or equity securities offerings through a private placement or a public offering and mergers and acquisitions. Some of the topics covered are:

  • Analysis of trends in the market, specific industry sectors, individual companies, and the capital structure and valuation metrics of comparable companies
  • Due diligence by identification of information that is required to be disclosed in public or private offering documents Public offerings
  • Underwriting
  • Sell-side and buy-side transactions associated with mergers and acquisitions, tender offers, and closing

How many questions are on the Series 79 exam?

The exam consists of 75 multiple-choice questions, and each question has four answer choices. There are also 10 additional, unidentified and unscored pretest questions that do not contribute to your score that are randomly distributed throughout the exam.

Series 79 exam questions all relate to the three functions shown in this table: 

Sections         % of Exam# of Exam Questions
F1 - Collection, analysis, and evaluation of data49% 37
F2 - Underwriting/New financing transaction, types of offerings and registration of securities27%20
F3 - Mergers and acquisitions, tender offers, and financial restructuring transaction 24%18 
 Total 100%75

 

How much time does it take to study for the Series 79 top-off?

Most candidates spend 60 to 100 hours studying for the FINRA Series 79 exam. If you are looking for some exam study tips, this article about studying for all securities licensing exams has great advice.

How hard is the Series 79 exam?

Candidates must apply their knowledge to specific scenarios related to the three investment banking functions identified as critical by FINRA. The degree of Series 79 exam difficulty, therefore, is quite high. The questions are detailed with a heavy emphasis on data and analysis. So you should expect it to be challenging; however, with dedicated and focused preparation, it is possible.

How much does it cost to sit for the Series 79 exam?

The exam cost is $245.

What is the passing score for the Series 79 exam?

The Series 7 passing score is 73%. What is the passing rate for the Series 79 exam? FINRA announced that the passing rate as of April 2019 was 87%.

If I fail the Series 79 exam, what is the wait time before I can retake it?

Candidates who do not pass the exam must wait 30 days before taking it again. However, if you fail it three times in succession, you must wait 180 days. Your firm will also have to sponsor you again for each retake, and you will have to pay the full fee each time.

Ready to earn your Series 79 license?

We hope this article answers your pressing questions about the Series 79 top-off exam and license. If you’re interested in taking the exam, we have Series 79 exam preparation packages. Or, if you’re just getting started, check out our SIE exam prep packages.

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Posted by Kaplan Financial Education - May 7, 2020
People Answering Series 7 Frequently Asked Questions

How to Become a Licensed Stockbroker

If you’re majoring in finance or a related degree, or you are working in the financial sector, you might be considering a career as a stockbroker. Buying and selling stock and other securities on behalf of clients is a rewarding and gratifying profession, but it requires at least two licenses. This article explains each stockbroker license and then walks you through the process of how to become a licensed stockbroker.

Stockbroker License Overview

Technically, there are only two licenses that are absolutely required for stockbrokers. However, your employer might require or recommend that you earn others as part of your responsibilities. Here’s a rundown of them all:

  • Series 7: Administered by FINRA and known as the general securities representative license, this authorizes you to sell virtually any type of individual security, such as preferred stocks, options, bonds, and other individual fixed income investments—plus all forms of packaged products. Basically, this license enables you to sell everything except commodities futures, real estate, and life insurance.
  • Series 63: Administered by NASAA, Series 63 is known as the Uniform Securities Agent license. Along with the Series 7 license, you must hold this license to do business as a stockbroker or sell mutual funds in many states.
  • Series 3: If your employer wants you to sell commodity futures contracts, you need this license, also administered by FINRA.
  • Series 31: To sell managed futures, which are pooled groups of commodities futures, you’ll need this license, an offshoot of the Series 3 license.
  • Series 65: Financial planners or advisors who work for an hourly fee rather than a commission and stockbrokers and other financial representatives who deal with managed-money accounts need this license. It’s also administered by NASAA.
  • Series 66: If you have a Series 7 license, you have already been tested on a good portion of the topics covered on the Series 65 exam. Therefore, Series 66 rolls Series 63 and Series 65 content into one license so you don’t have earn the others separately.

Thinking about a career in securities? Download our free eBook, Launching Your Securities Career, to get tips and advice from 100+ securities professionals.

The Steps to Becoming a Licensed Stockbroker Here’s what you need to do to become a licensed stockbroker:

  1. Sit for and pass the SIE exam. The SIE exam tests common topics such as fundamentals, regulatory agencies and their functions, product knowledge, and acceptable and unacceptable practices. You can take the SIE exam before being sponsored by a firm and even while you are still in school. Note that although you have to pass both the SIE and Series 7 exams to get your Series 7 license, you can take them in any order.
  2. Secure sponsorship with a licensed firm. Once you’ve passed the SIE exam and you’re employed, your firm must file a Uniform Application for Securities Industry Registration or Transfer, also known as Form U4, to enable you to earn your Series 7 license.
  3. Register for the Series 7 exam. Your sponsoring broker is required to file an application for you through FINRA’s CRD system. FINRA’s approval of that application opens a 120-day testing window. FINRA suggests you schedule your exam as far in advance as possible to ensure you get your desired date.
  4. Study for and pass the Series 7 exam. The Series 7 exam is not exactly a walk in the park. Study with purpose and planning. Exam preparation and review courses go a long way toward helping you pass your Series 7 exam the first time. The exam consists of 125 multiple-choice questions, and you have 3 hours and 45 minutes to complete it. The passing score is 72 percent.
  5. Register for the Series 63 exam. The Series 63 exam does not require member firm sponsorship. You can use Form U10 to apply for the Series 63 exam if you are not sponsored.
  6. Study for and pass the Series 63 exam. Prepare for the Series 63 exam in the same way you prepared for the Series 7 exam. Consider Series 63 exam study materials and review packages to improve your chances of passing. The Series 63 has 65 questions and lasts for 75 minutes. The passing score is 73 percent.
  7. Register, study for, and pass additional exams. Either find out from your employer or decide for yourself any other licenses you need to earn, and then prepare for them like you did for Series 7 and Series 63.

Additional Tips for Success

If you want to become a licensed stockbroker, here are some extra tips to help you succeed:

  • If you are still in college or are about to enter college, consider majoring in financial planning, business, finance, economics, or accounting as an undergraduate and possibly continue these studies in graduate school.
  • Complete an internship. Many brokerage firms and investment banks accept summer interns. Internships help you understand the career and, in some cases, they can serve as an extended job interview.
  • Find a job in a brokerage, asset management firm, or bank. Because you can’t register for the Series 7 exam without a sponsor, you need to be employed before you take the exam.
  • Make sure you can pass a background check, which typically consists of a credit check and a criminal background search. Many employers will use these checks as a condition of employment.
  • As part of your study plan for each license exam and the SIE exam, take a practice exam after you’ve read the materials and answered practice questions. A practice exam closely replicates the degree of difficulty, weighting, and format of the real exam, and you receive a score with diagnostic feedback. The better you perform on a practice exam, the greater your likelihood of passing your licensing exams.
  • Stay calm on exam day. Plan to arrive at the testing center more than 30 minutes beforehand so that you have plenty of time to check in, find where you are supposed to go, and collect your thoughts. During the exam, take the questions one at a time and don’t look ahead to others or second-guess yourself.

Ready to Get Started on the Path to Becoming a Licensed Stockbroker?

Exam preparation packages for the SIE, Series 7, and Series 63 can help increase your odds of passing these critical exams on your way to becoming a licensed stockbroker.

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Posted by Kaplan Financial Education - March 20, 2020
Stockbroker license conceptual photo

Frequently Asked Questions About the Life Insurance License

To get your life insurance license, you must pass an exam and meet other requirements. The questions most frequently asked about life insurance licensing and the exam—such as license requirements, exam difficulty, passing score, pass rates, questions, and topics—are answered in this article. Read on to get information that can help you plan for a successful career as a life insurance agent.

How do I earn a life insurance license?

You need to be at least 18 years old to earn your life insurance license, and in some states, you’ll be earning a joint life and health insurance license. Here are the steps to follow:

  1. Complete any prelicensing education required by the state you want to become licensed in. The number of hours you’ll have to complete and the cost vary by state. Note: A few states do not require prelicensing education, so before you start the process for your state, check with the state’s insurance organization.
  2. Pass the state insurance licensing exam for life insurance or life and health insurance. An  insurance license exam preparation can help.
  3. Pass a background check. The process varies by state and, in some cases, includes fingerprinting.

Thinking about a career in insurance? Download this free Launching Your Insurance Career eBook.

What is the difference between a life insurance license and a life and health insurance license?

A life insurance license permits you to sell annuities, term, and cash value (commonly called whole or universal) life insurance. A life and health insurance license enables you to sell these life insurance products, plus policies that provide protection for medical expenses, loss of income due to a disability, and the need for long-term care.

Some states, like Alabama and Florida, offer the options of earning a life insurance license, a health insurance license, and a life and health insurance license. Each of the three types require passing a separate exam. Others, like North Carolina, have separate licenses for life and health but not a combination, and each requires passing a separate exam. Still others, like Missouri, have a combined life and health insurance license only.

What jobs can I get with a life insurance license?

A life insurance license enables you to become a life insurance agent. Life insurance agents sell life insurance policies and annuities and work with clients and beneficiaries to process claims.

Life insurance agents do a lot of selling, so it’s important to be interested in marketing and have a knack for it. Excellent interpersonal and communication skills are also required because life insurance agents have to explain the ins and outs of all the products they sell in a way that is easy to understand. Life insurance agents can either be “captive” and work exclusively for one insurance company, or they can be “independent,” selling products from multiple companies.

How hard is the life insurance exam?

Each state has its own insurance exam, so the tests vary, making this question complicated to answer. However, the overarching topics covered on the exam, as well as the passing scores, are similar for all states. No matter where you take it, the test is not a walk in the park. But if you have a good understanding of the topics, you have a good chance of passing the life insurance exam.

What are the life insurance exam topics?

The life insurance exam tests you on specific topics, and these topics are weighted. These are the life insurance topics you are most likely to be tested on in most states:

  • Life insurance general knowledge
  • Life insurance policies
  • Policy riders and options in life insurance coverage
  • Life insurance tax issues
  • Annuities
  • Annuity policy tax issues

If you are taking a combined exam, there will be health insurance topics as well.

What are the requirements for taking the life insurance exam?

To take the life insurance exam, you must:

  1. Have a high school diploma or an equivalent.
  2. Know where you want to sell insurance and what the state requires. If it’s not the state where you currently reside, check to see if you are required to be a resident for a certain amount of time before taking the exam. The bodies of government that regulate insurance have different names, depending on the state, so a good way to find out is to go to the official website of the state and search for the insurance licensing rules.
  3. Meet the specific state exam requirements. In many states, you must complete a specified amount of prelicensing education hours. Visit the official website of the state insurance department or commission and search for the insurance licensing rules.
  4. Register for the exam, which includes paying a registration fee determined by each state.

When is the life insurance exam?

You can choose the date and time of your life insurance exam in most states. Scheduling options are usually on the respective state’s department of insurance website. To give yourself time to study, schedule your exam at least two weeks in advance.

Is the life insurance exam paper- or computer-based?

The life insurance exam is computer-based in all states.

How many questions are on the life insurance exam?

The life insurance exam consists of between 105–150 multiple-choice questions, depending on the state, and whether it is a separate exam or combined with health.

How much time does it take to study for the life insurance exam?

Most candidates study for the life insurance exam for about 35 to 40 hours.

How much does it cost to take the life insurance exam?

The cost to take the exam ranges from $43–$150, depending on your state. You can find the fee on your state’s insurance licensing website. Note that license application fees are separate.

What is the passing score for the life insurance exam?

The passing score is 70 percent in all states.

What is the passing rate for the life insurance exam?

According to a 2016 NAIC document, the passing rate is broad. The lowest passing rate was in Maryland at 40 percent, and the highest was in Wyoming at 87 percent. The majority of states recorded passing rates in the range of 60–67 percent.

How do I pass the life insurance exam?

Follow these steps to increase your chances of passing the exam:

  1. Learn your state’s requirements and get the exam outline. Check with the department of insurance in your state (or the state where you’ll be working) for the requirements and the outline and print it out.
  2. Have a study plan. Cramming for the life insurance exam is not recommended. Instead, have a realistic plan that spreads your study time over several weeks and is easy for you to stick to. An insurance certification study package can help you stay on track so you don't cram at the last minute.
  3. Follow the state exam outline, which has a list of the topics that will be covered and how they are weighted.
  4. Prepare and practice. Review courses and reading can help you prepare. However, you should also take practice exams. These will help you determine how well you have absorbed the material and what still needs your attention.
  5. Know the exam center process. Visit the test center before the exam—see how long it takes to get there and get a feel for the testing area. Find out what forms of identification are needed.
  6. Stay calm while taking the exam. Read each question carefully and thoroughly before answering it. Find the questions you know the answer to, and answer them first. If you find yourself stuck on any question, move on and come back to it later.

If I fail the life insurance exam, what is the wait time before I can retake it?

You will find out if you passed or failed the exam at the testing center. However, you cannot register to take it again at that time. Instead, you must wait 24 hours before you can register again. You can take the exam three times in one year. If you fail it all three times, you will have to complete prelicensing education again before you can take it for a fourth time the following year. This process may vary by state.

Ready to Earn Your Life Insurance License?

We hope this article answers your pressing questions about the life insurance exam and license. If you’re interested in taking the exam, we have life and health exam preparation packages.

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Posted by Kaplan Financial Education - March 18, 2020
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What Is a Registered Representative?

“Registered representative” is a term that describes someone who is licensed to buy and sell securities for clients and is sponsored by a firm registered with the Financial Industry Regulatory Authority (FINRA). Registered representatives are more commonly referred to as stockbrokers. This article explains what a registered representative does and details the difference between an investment adviser representative and a registered representative. You'll also learn the steps you need to take to become a registered representative.

What a Registered Representative Does

Registered representatives represent clients in the trading of investment products such as stocks, bonds, and mutual funds. Many handle complicated trades or complex products that are outside the capabilities of online trading. Well-versed in the markets, they search for the best securities and prices possible so they can advise clients on what to buy and sell, as well as the best times to trade. In return, they receive either a flat fee or a percentage of the transaction value as a commission. Therefore, a registered representative is adept at sales and working with people.

Registered representatives must follow standards and rules set by FINRA and the SEC, as well as the suitability standard. The suitability standard requires that a registered representative recommend only the securities that meet client requirements and goals and complement their portfolios. However, if a registered representative finds an investment product that will make the client money, they can recommend a trade, even if it doesn’t meet the client’s financial goals or appetite for risk.

Thinking about a career in securities? Download our free eBook, Launching Your Securities Career, to get tips and advice from 100+ securities professionals.

Registered Representative vs. Investment Adviser Representative

An investment adviser representative (IAR) is an individual who works for an investment advisory company or firm and provides investment-related advice for a fee. The advice IARs can provide is based on the licenses they hold. IARs are usually asset managers, investment counselors, investment managers, portfolio managers, and wealth managers. Many have Series 65 licenses.

By contrast, registered representatives work with broker-dealers or brokerage firms, buying and selling securities stocks, bonds, mutual funds and certain other investment products on behalf of customers or for their firm’s own accounts, or both. The securities licenses most commonly associated with registered representatives are Series 7 and Series 63.

How to Become a Registered Representative

Here are the steps to becoming a registered representative:

  1. Sit for and pass the SIE exam. This exam, which tests security industry essential concepts, gets you started on the path to earning your Series 7 and Series 63 licenses.
  2. Secure employment with and sponsorship from a FINRA-licensed firm.
  3. Register and prepare for the Series 7 exam. Your sponsoring broker is required to file an application for you through FINRA’s CRD system. FINRA’s approval of that application opens a 120-day testing window. You should schedule your exam as far in advance as possible to ensure adequate preparation time and to get your desired date.
  4. Sit for and pass the Series 7 exam.
  5. Register for, prepare for, sit for, and pass the Series 63 exam.

After you complete these steps, you will be licensed and sponsored to buy and trade securities for individual clients, your firm, or both.

Thinking of Becoming a Registered Representative?

A career as a registered representative is hard work, but it is satisfying and rewarding. Sitting for the SIE exam is a great way to start, and SIE exam preparation packages can increase your chances of passing. Another option is to enroll in an SIE and Series 7 exam preparation bundle, which will ultimately save you money in the long run.

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Posted by Kaplan Financial Education - February 24, 2020
Registered representatives at work

How Much Money Do Financial Advisors Make?

What kind of salary can you earn as a financial advisor? PayScale lists the salary range for financial advisors as $36,000–100,000 per year; however, the earning potential over time is even greater than that. Why the big range? It all comes down to what kind of financial advisor you are. Here are some examples.

Stockbroker Salary (Registered Representative Salary)

Stockbrokers, which FINRA calls registered representatives, are financial advisors who work at brokerages, managing the financial portfolios of individuals or corporate clients. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), the median salary in 2018 for a stockbroker was $64,120 per year. However, because stockbroker pay is commission-based (after a certain sales threshold), they have the opportunity to earn much more than that. According to the Street, the median pay for the top 10 percent of all stockbrokers in the U.S. is $208,000.

If you’re interested in becoming a stockbroker or registered representative, you’ll need to earn securities licenses from FINRA. These include the Series 7 and Series 63 licenses.

Considering a career in securities? Download the free Launching Your Securities Career eBook.

Investment Advisor Salary

Working for a financial investment firm, financial planning firms, or themselves, investment advisors determine the best investments for a client’s portfolio. According to Payscale, the average annual salary of an investment advisor is $70,797. However, like that of stockbrokers, investment advisor pay can include commissions and profit-sharing, increasing the annual salary. For example, in Chicago, the salary plus commissions and other add-ons can average $234,700, according to a 2018 CFA Society Chicago report.

If becoming an investment advisor appeals to you, you’ll need a Series 65 license, which enables you to work with clients as an Investment Advisor Representative.

Financial Planner Salary

“Financial planner” is a broad term for a type of financial advisor who helps individuals and corporations meet their long-term financial objectives. They generally charge their clients a percentage of the assets they manage. They may also charge an hourly fee or get fees for stock and online insurance policies purchased. Those who help individuals with planning are referred to as “personal financial advisors.” Many of these financial planners are certified CFP® professionals.

According to ZipRecruiter, the median pay for a professional with the CFP® certification is $85,449 annually, topping out at $149,500. The U.S. BLS states that the median pay for a professional under the larger umbrella of personal financial advisors is $88,890 annually, and Payscale adds that, at the high end of the scale, the salary is $122,000.

Wealth Manager Salary

A wealth manager is a type of financial advisor who consults with high-net-worth clients to achieve their goals related to wealth accumulation, protection, and distribution. High-net-worth clients generally refer to those worth $1 million or above, although some firms only serve clients worth at least $5–10 million. Salary.com estimates that the average salary range for wealth managers is $63,975–93,420 annually. However, wealth managers have the potential to earn much more, especially as they gain experience or if they work for major broker-dealers. According to a number of articles, wealth managers in that category can bring home $2 million annually.

Designations offered in wealth management are many and varied. Examples include Wealth Management SpecialistSM, Accredited Portfolio Management AdvisorSM, the CFP® certification, and the CFA® charter. If wealth managers are providing investment advice or selling securities, they will also need (at minimum) Series 65, Series 6, and Series 7 licenses.

Interested in Making Money as a Financial Advisor?

If you put in the time and hard work to earn your securities licenses or CFP® certification, you increase your odds of earning a top salary as a financial advisor. Securities prelicensing exam preparation packages and CFP® education help increase your odds of earning the licenses and certification that can get you started on the path to financial success.

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Posted by Kaplan Financial Education - January 30, 2020
Financial advisor salary calculated by woman

What Is an Insurance Producer?

An insurance producer sells insurance products to clients on behalf of an insurance company. It is a rewarding career with amazing growth potential. Becoming an insurance producer is also a great way to get started in finance or to make a much-needed career change. This article explains what an insurance producer does, shows you the differences between an insurance producer, agent, and broker, and describes how you can become a producer.

What an Insurance Producer Does

Insurance producers are licensed to sell and negotiate life, health, property, or other types of insurance offered by an insurance company. As an insurance producer, you may work for one insurance company only or represent multiple carriers.

Being a producer includes finding new clients and maintaining relationships with those you already have. Insurance producers need to be a reliable first point of contact when a client needs to file a claim or increase coverage due to major life events, like purchasing a new car or having a child. Other responsibilities include:

  • Calculating premiums and establishing payment methods
  • Monitoring insurance claims and helping clients settle them
  • Fulfilling all policy requirements
  • Customizing insurance programs to suit individual customer needs
  • Inspecting property to examine its overall condition and decide its insurance risk
  • Acting as an intermediary between a customer and the insurance company

Thinking about a career in insurance? Download this free Launching Your Insurance Career eBook.

What’s the Difference Between an Insurance Producer and an Insurance Agent?

There is no difference. The two terms are used interchangeably to describe selling insurance on behalf of a company or multiple carriers. “Insurance agent” is the term used most often in the industry, but “insurance producer” is often the official title that states use for licensing. No matter which term you use, you will have the same responsibilities.

What’s the Difference Between an Insurance Producer and an Insurance Broker?

Insurance producers or agents represent insurance companies. By contrast, insurance brokers represent insurance buyers. In other words, producers look for clients who will buy insurance products, while brokers look for insurance products that will meet their clients’ needs. In addition, an insurance producer can bind a client to a policy whereas an insurance broker cannot. Once a broker has found a product for a buyer, a producer must complete the transaction.

How to Become an Insurance Producer

Before you can become an insurance producer (or agent), you must have a high school diploma and be 18 years of age or older. If you meet these requirements, here are your next steps:

  1. Decide what kind of insurance you want to sell. Examples include life and health, property and casualty, auto, and workers’ compensation.
  2. Learn your state’s prelicensing requirements. Many states require you to complete a specific number of hours of prelicensing education for each type of insurance.
  3. Pass your state’s insurance licensing exam.

You can get all the details on these steps in this article.

Ready to Get Started?

Learn more about what an insurance agent does.

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Posted by Kaplan Financial Education - January 13, 2020
Insurance Producer Concept

Popular Careers in the Insurance Industry: What You Can Do with Your License

What are the most popular insurance careers? If you’re getting ready to graduate or you’re considering a more exciting career alternative, you might be wondering what you can do if you earn your insurance license. To help you decide which license to earn and how to use it, this article describes the most popular types of insurance agents and other top jobs you can get with an insurance license.

Life Insurance Agent: One of the Most Popular Insurance Careers

Life insurance agents sell life insurance policies and annuities and work with clients and beneficiaries to process insurance claims. Life insurance agents do a lot of selling, so it’s important to be interested in marketing and have a knack for it. Excellent interpersonal and communication skills are also required because life insurance agents have to explain the ins and outs of all the products they sell in a way that is easy to understand. Life insurance agents can either be “captive” and work exclusively for one insurance company, or they can be “independent,” selling products from multiple companies.

To earn a license to sell life insurance, you might need need to complete prelicensing education for the state where you plan to work (26 states require prelicensing education). You must also pass either a life insurance or a life and health insurance exam. Agent pay is on commission. The average salary for a life insurance agent as of November 2019 was $79,606. You can learn more about this popular option for people with insurance licenses in this article about what a life insurance agent does.

Thinking about a career in insurance? Get advice from 100 insurance professionals in our free eBook, Launching Your Insurance Career.

Health Insurance Agent: Helping Clients Get Healthcare

Health insurance agents sell health-related products and insurance to their clients. Typically, these agents look for clients, share options that meet their requirements, and, when necessary, help them get their claims settled. Health insurance agents can also help people navigate healthcare exchanges and sign up for the coverage that best suits their needs and budget. They must have strong customer service and analytical skills, and they must excel at verbal and written communication, time management, critical thinking, and decision-making. Like life insurance agents, health insurance agents can be captive or independent.

In almost all U.S states, health insurance agent licenses are packaged with life insurance qualifications. You must complete prelicensing education and pass a combined life and health insurance exam to earn your license. The average salary for a health insurance agent as of November 2019 was $55,839. Agents are paid by commission.

Property and Casualty Insurance Agent: A Great Entry-Level Choice

Property and casualty insurance agents help clients insure property, such as auto, home, and jewelry, against possible damage or legal liability, and they help them settle their claims. These agents navigate clients through all the available property and casualty insurance products to help them decide the best way to protect their valuable assets. All states require licensed drivers to carry auto insurance, and mortgage loan companies require homeowners insurance, so there will always be buyers. This makes property and casualty a good entry-level position for a newly licensed agent. Like life insurance and health insurance agents, property and casualty insurance agents can be captive or independent.

To earn a property and casualty insurance license, completing prelicensing education and passing a licensing exam for your state (or the state where you plan to sell) are required. The average salary for a property and casualty insurance agent as of November 2019 was $48,723.

Claims Adjuster: An Investigative Insurance Career

Claims adjusters gather information about what happened in an incident or catastrophe to find a fair settlement price. They collect police reports, witness statements, and photos of an incident or property damage, for example. Adjusters are either full-time employees or contractors who are paid a fee. Some work for only one insurance company. Others work with multiple companies (usually after a catastrophe, often traveling to affected areas). And there are others who work on behalf of policyholders, helping them file insurance claims if a proposed settlement seems unfit from an insurer.

Most states require adjusters to earn a license. They can do this by completing licensing education and passing an exam. The average salary for a claims adjuster as of November 2019 was $54,479. This article explains everything you need to do to become a claims adjuster.

Insurance Underwriter: A Different Insurance Career Path

An insurance underwriter evaluates insurance applications in order to decide whether to provide the insurance and, if so, the coverage amounts and premiums. Underwriters act as go-betweens for insurance agents who are eager to sell a policy and insurance companies who want to minimize risk. For someone with an interest in finance or insurance, an eye for detail, and decision-making skills, it is an attractive career option.

Unlike most other insurance careers, an underwriter does not have to be licensed. However, most participate in underwriting professional development to sharpen their skills and knowledge. Others have found that having an insurance license in the same specialty as their underwriting, such as life or property and casualty, can be beneficial. The average salary for an insurance underwriter as of November 2019 was $71,116. You can get all the details about the insurance underwriting career in this article.

Insurance Careers Are Rewarding and Satisfying

There are a variety of career paths you can take in the insurance industry, depending on your interests and qualifications. Start your new career by downloading this free eBook on launching your insurance career or by checking out our insurance licensing education options.

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Posted by Kaplan Financial Education - November 22, 2019
Insurance Careers - Smiling Agent

AAMS® vs. CFP® Mark: Which Designation Is Right for Me?

A special designation in financial planning can set you apart from the competition and boost your career. But should you earn the AAMS® or the CFP® mark? Both lead to rewarding, professional opportunities for those who want a career in personal finance and planning, but the topics they cover, their requirements, and their benefits are slightly different. In this article, we compare the AAMS® vs. CFP® mark to help you choose the credential that’s right for you.

AAMS® Designation Overview

The Accredited Asset Management SpecialistSM (AAMS®) program provides advisors with fundamental financial knowledge of asset management and investments. Offered exclusively online by the College for Financial Planning®—a Kaplan company (CFFP), the AAMS® credential and program are designed to help personal financial advisors who are just starting out in their careers. However, more experienced financial advisors can benefit from the credential, too, because it lets clients know they have a specialty in asset management.

Get more details in this AAMS® designation article.

Requirements for Earning the AAMS® Designation

To earn the AAMS® designation, follow these steps:

  1. Complete a 10-module education program provided by CFFP. There are no prerequisites for this program. Students have 120 days from the date they are provided online access to complete a designation program (including testing and passing the Final Exam). The modules cover the asset management process; risk, return, and investment performance; asset allocation and selection; investment strategies; taxation of investments; investing for retirement; deferred compensation and benefit plans; insurance products for investment clients; estate planning for investment clients; and fiduciary, regulatory, and ethical issues for advisors.
  2. Take and pass the AAMS® exam. You must take the test for the first time within six months of enrolling for the program, and you have a year to pass it. There are 80 questions on the exam, and the passing score is 70 percent. Plan on studying for about 80–100 hours.
  3. Agree to abide by a code of ethics.

AAMS® Benefits

The AAMS® designation is recognized as the industry benchmark for asset management credentials and is endorsed by leading financial firms. Compared to earning an MBA or other credentials, the AAMS® designation is a relatively low-cost ($1,300) way to advance your career and lets clients know you have deep knowledge in asset management and investments. Financial advisors with the AAMS® credential report an average earnings increase of 20 percent, as well as client-base growth and greater job satisfaction.

CFP® Certification Overview

The CERTIFIED FINANCIAL PLANNER (CFP®) mark enables finance professionals to help individual clients create comprehensive plans for meeting their long-term financial goals, such as retirement, college tuition, business start-up, a home, and so on. Its governing body, CFP Board, administers the credential. In 2017, CNN Money reported that jobs for CFP® professionals are expected to grow 30 percent over the next 10 years, making it an excellent career option for young financial professionals.

Requirements for Earning the CFP® Mark

The requirements for earning CFP® certification are:

  • Complete a CFP Board-registered education program. CFP Board must be notified when you’ve completed it.
  • Pass the CFP® exam. Offered three times a year in March, July, and November, the CFP® exam focuses on testing your financial planning knowledge in client situations. The topics covered include professional conduct and regulation, general financial planning principles, education planning, risk management and insurance planning, investment planning, tax planning, retirement savings and income planning, and estate planning. You should plan to spend 250 hours studying for the six-hour, 170-question, computer-based exam. This exam FAQ has more details.
  • Hold a bachelor’s degree from an accredited university or college. You can hold the degree before you complete the education program and pass the exam or earn it afterward. (You have up to five years after passing to get your degree.)
  • Have financial planning experience. This can be 6,000 hours of full-time, relevant personal financial planning or 4,000 hours of apprenticeship.
  • Pass the CFP Board candidate fitness standards. To do this, you must agree to adhere to CFP Board’s ethical standards, disclose any criminal or employment termination history, and pass a background check.

For all the details about how to become a CFP® professional, check out this article.

CFP® Certification Benefits

Like the AAMS® designation, the benefits of earning the CFP® mark include a rewarding career that involves a relatively low investment ($7,000 for the course work plus exam fees) compared to the tuition for an MBA or other credentials. The most common careers include financial planner, wealth advisor, estate planning specialist, trading and research associate, financial consultant, financial representative, or financial analyst. If you want to become a branch manager at a financial firm, CFP® certification can help you achieve that level in your organization as well.

AAMS® vs. CFP® Mark: How to Choose

The AAMS® designation is respected as an achievement milestone. If you would like to quickly earn a credential to demonstrate your asset investment expertise to clients and employers, the AAMS® program takes less than three months to complete. If you are in training to become a personal financial planner, earning your AAMS® can put you on the path to an entry-level position.

The CFP® mark is highly respected in the industry, and it can open many doors for you in your career. Firms know that CFP® professionals are preferred by clients. In fact, a recent CFP Board study revealed that 69 percent of surveyed consumers said they would insist that their financial planners have the CFP® certification. As a result, many companies will offer financial assistance to employees interested in earning the CFP® mark.

As you ponder the benefits of each, ask yourself what your long-term goals are. If you would like to get a headstart in your financial planning career, earning the AAMS® designation is a good option. If your dream is to work in a large firm where you can apply personal financial planning knowledge and skills more broadly—and you have the time to invest in an intense program—the CFP® mark is an excellent choice.

Who Says You Have to Decide?

There is a third option: earning both the AAMS® and the CFP® mark. Many financial planners and advisors start with the AAMS® designation. Then, after gaining experience in the field, they enroll in the CFP® program and earn that credential. In fact, AAMS® designees receive credit for the completion of FP511 in the CFFP CFP® certification education program. This allows you to save both time and money.

Performing well in the AAMS® designation program and on the exam also increases your odds of passing the CFP® exam. A study by CFFP that was submitted to the 2019 Annual Meeting Academy of Financial Services shows that students who did well (either an A or B grade) in the AAMS® program had a good chance of doing well in the CFP® program. Testing out of two courses offered by CFFP and performing better in the CFP® program are two powerful arguments for earning your AAMS® before your CFP® mark.

Ready to Get Started?

Get your financial planning career on the right track. Learn more about our CFP® certification packages here, or explore the AAMS® program.

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Posted by Kaplan Financial Education - November 18, 2019
AAMS vs CFP - Woman Trying to Decide

What is the SIE Exam Passing Rate?

If you’re taking the FINRA Securities Industry Essentials (SIE) exam, you might be wondering about the passing rate. And you probably want to know how hard the exam is. Although more than three-quarters of those who sit for the SIE exam end up passing it, it’s still challenging. Let’s take a look at the data and then see what you can do to increase your chances of passing.

SIE Exam Passing Rate

You need a score of 70% or better to pass the SIE. As of August 31, 2019, the overall passing rate of the SIE exam was 82% out of 67,445 exams administered. Of the 58,264 candidates who were taking it for the first time, the pass rate was 74%. The rates for those taking the SIE with the Series 6, Series 7, and Series 79 exam were as follows:

  • SIE and Series 6: 80%
  • SIE and Series 7: 84%
  • SIE and Series 79: 96%

Thinking about taking the SIE exam? Our free Candidate's Complete Guide to the SIE Exam is packed with useful information.

How Hard Is the SIE Exam?

The SIE exam is not easy. You should be prepared for a challenge. You are expected to know about capital markets, securities products, and regulations, as well as how to trade securities and what products are prohibited.

Although the exam requires some math and a few calculations, mostly you are being tested on how well you read the exam questions and your understanding of finance and securities concepts. Knowing definitions will not be enough. You should also be prepared for one word being used to mean different things and, conversely, several different words being used to mean the same thing. For examples and more details, read our article on frequently encountered SIE exam roadblocks.

Despite the challenges, you can be part of the 82% passing rate if you know the topics and prepare properly.

SIE Exam Questions and Topics

The SIE exam consists of 75 multiple-choice questions plus 10 unscored questions, and you have an hour and 45 minutes to complete it. The topics and the number of questions assigned each are:

  1. Knowledge of Capital Markets: 12 (16% of the exam)
  2. Understanding Products and their Risks: 33 (44% of the exam)
  3. Understanding Trading, Customer Accounts, and Prohibited Activities: 23 (31% of the exam)
  4. Overview of the Regulatory Framework: 7 (9% of the exam)

As you can see, the second and third sections make up 75% of the exam, so you need to do well on both those sections. But don’t overlook the other two. They are important because you will need to know how to apply those concepts in future securities licensing exams.

SIE Exam Study Tips—How to Increase Your Odds of Passing

These tips will help you develop the knowledge and confidence necessary to increase your odds of passing:

  • Layout a study plan. Use the SIE Exam Content Outline from FINRA as a starting point. An SIE exam prep package is even more helpful for developing your study plan and determining how many hours to study. Because the SIE exam was just implemented in October 2018, guidance on how many hours of study to put in varies widely. Some say 20 hours. Others say 100-150 hours. Kaplan advises no less than 50 hours, and you should add more hours if you don’t have a financial background.
  • Develop a steady, regular study routine. A routine can increase your retention dramatically. Balance your studying between reading and practicing with breaks in between that enable concepts (and how to apply them) to percolate. Relying solely on frantic cramming a few days before the exam is not recommended because you aren’t tested on memorization.
  • Be sure you have a thorough understanding of finance and the markets, and are keeping up with trends. Take some extra study time to listen to podcasts or youtube videos about investing. Subscribe to updates from financial news sources online. Visit online discussions of finance, the stock market, and securities on quora and reddit. Build your confidence by answering practice questions and taking practice exams.
  • Practice questions and exams enable you to assess how well you understand and apply critical concepts. You’ll be able to address weaknesses and become accustomed to the kinds of questions you’ll be asked on the exam.

Ready for the Challenge?

If you’re interested in taking the exam, check out our SIE exam preparation packages. You can also find answers to the most commonly asked questions about the exam in this SIE FAQ.

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Posted by Kaplan Financial Education - October 16, 2019
SIE Exam Passing Rate Celebrated by 4 Students

I Failed the Series 7 Exam: Now What?

So, you failed the Series 7 exam. You might be a little down right now, but you don’t need to feel that way for long. Most brokerages and investment firms offer you at least two opportunities to pass the exam and get your license. So, sign up for a retake. If you think positively as you prepare and follow the six tips in this article, you can increase your odds of success when you take the exam again.

Failing the Series 7: The Good News

Yes, there’s good news. You have already put in a great deal of study time, so it’s unlikely you need to study that much again. Also, you don’t have to fear losing what you learned because of long cycles between exam dates. You can retake the exam as early as 30 days after you fail. For these reasons, it should be much easier to balance your work, family, and study commitments this time around.

You are also likely to have learned what your weak spots were based on how you felt about the questions when you took it the first time. In addition, you probably won’t feel as anxious and panicky on exam day, which could cost you a passing score, because you now know what you can expect. Unsure about how to prepare for your retake? Here are six tips that can increase your odds of passing when you take it again.

Download our free eBook, Launching Your Securities Career, to get tips and advice from more than 100 successful securities professionals.

1. Take time to reflect on why you failed the Series 7 exam.

What were the reasons you failed? Did you feel the questions were more in-depth than you expected or that the questions focused on topics that were unfamiliar? Did you have high scores for certain types or categories of practice questions, only to find that the exam had different kinds? Did you rush your study time, perhaps only putting in a week or so of study right before the exam? Maybe you thought you didn’t need an exam prep package or practice. Don’t feel embarrassed if one (or more) of these is why you didn’t pass because these are all common reasons for failing. In fact, it’s good to be honest, because that can guide your study plan for the retake.

2. Create a study plan based on why you didn’t pass.

Now that you’ve done an inventory of what might have caused you to fail the Series 7, you can create a study plan to address your issues. If you didn’t put in enough hours, make sure your plan includes them this time around. If you sailed through some topics and stumbled on others, focus on the ones that tripped you up. However, you should also make sure that you dedicate some time to reviewing the others just to keep them fresh in your mind. If you tried to “go it alone,” consider investing in a Series 7 test prep this time around.

3. Make sure that your study materials are up-to-date.

Securities rules and regulations change frequently and test topics can reflect them almost just as fast. Try to keep up with the latest information from FINRA, starting with their notices web page. Check to make sure that any guides you have or review packages you purchased are based on the most recent information. Although some providers update their packages and guides regularly, it’s good to do a little homework to make sure that what you’re studying is current.

4. Start studying as early as you can.

You can’t cram for the Series 7. If you tried that last time, it is most likely the main reason why you didn’t pass. So, get in a study routine early. A steady, regular study method will increase your retention dramatically. And if you didn’t cram, good for you, but you should still start studying as soon as you can. You will some breaks to let concepts percolate. Also, you'll need time to sleep, because that’s very important for peace of mind on exam day.

5. Take practice exams.

Some test takers fail the Series 7 exam because they spend too much time on reading and memorizing calculations and concepts. In this article that lists 7 strategies for passing the Series 7 exam, it says to balance studying between manuals and practice questions, which is sound advice for first-time exam takers. For this second time around, you should practice much more than you read. You should take practice exams, which closely replicate the real exam in degree of difficulty, weighting, and format. Most are updated to address the latest regulations, and you receive a score with diagnostic feedback.

6. Read the whole question.

You’d be surprised at how many people failed the Series 7 because they missed something important in some of the questions. So, for each question, be sure you read it in its entirety and don’t start to answer until you’ve also read all the answer choices. Then read the last sentence of the question again before starting to eliminate answers. Here’s another valuable tip: if you have read the question thoroughly, and there are at least two answer choices you cannot eliminate, consider choosing “all of the above” if it’s an option.

Ready to give it a try again?

If you failed the Series 7 exam the first time, remember that it’s a challenging exam, and you are not alone. If you follow the tips in this article and invest in exam preparation packages and study tools, you will improve your odds of passing it on your second try.

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Posted by Kaplan Financial Education - September 16, 2019
Man Who Failed Series 7 But Retook it and Passed

How Hard is the FINRA Series 7 Exam?

How hard is the Series 7 exam? FINRA designed it to test Series 7 license candidates on how well they can apply their knowledge of securities concepts to specific scenarios. It is a corequisite of the SIE exam, which tests you on general securities topics. By contrast, the questions on the Series 7 exam are detailed and related to the day-to-day activities, responsibilities, and job functions of stockbrokers. Therefore, it can be considered a challenging exam. In this article, we’ll share the details, including Series 7 pass rates and topics, and how to improve your odds of success.

Series 7 Pass Rate

At the FINRA 2019 annual conference, it was announced that from October 1, 2018 to March 31, 2019, 10,542 individuals sat for the exam, and the Series 7 pass rate for that period was 71 percent. That rate applies only to those who passed both the SIE exam and the Series 7 exam. FINRA also reported that this pass rate was better than those from before October 1, 2018, when the SIE was introduced. However, this improvement was just a few percentage points and factors in a 74 percent rate for the SIE alone. Therefore, the exam is still no walk in the park.

Thinking about a career in securities? Download our free eBook, Launching Your Securities Career, to get tips and advice from 100+ securities professionals. 

Series 7 Exam Questions and Topics

The Series 7 exam consists of 125 multiple-choice questions, and each question has four answer choices. The topics include investment risk, taxation, equity and debt instruments, packaged securities, options, retirement plans, and interactions with clients. The focus of the exam is the nature of these securities and financial instruments, and it tests knowledge relevant to the day-to-day activities, responsibilities, and job functions of general securities representatives. The 125 questions are broken into four sections as shown in this table:

SectionWeightQuestions 
1 - Seeks Business for the Broker-Dealer from Customers and Potential Customers7%
2 - Opens Accounts after Obtaining and Evaluating Customers' Financial Profile and Investment Objectives9%11
3 - Provides Customers with Information About Investments, Makes Suitable Recommendations, Transfers Assets and Maintains Appropriate Records73%91 
4 - Obtains and Verifies Customers’ Purchase and Sales Instructions and Agreements; Processes, Completes and Confirms Transactions11%14 
Total 100%125 

 

As you can see, the third topic dominates the Series 7 exam curriculum. Therefore, it is essential that you have a firm grasp on how to provide investment information and recommendations to customers, how to transfer assets, and how to maintain appropriate records. You should keep this in mind as you study.

Series 7 Exam Study Tips—How to Increase Your Odds of Success

The Series 7 exam is not easy. It requires a significant investment of time to be successful. Proper preparation is the key. These tips will help you develop the knowledge and confidence necessary to increase your odds of passing:

  • Develop a solid study plan and stick to it: You need to spend 80-100 hours studying for the FINRA Series 7 exam if you have a finance background and about 150 if you don’t. The first thing you should do is lay out a study plan that ensures you put those hours in. Give yourself enough time to take breaks from study to let concepts percolate. Consider making a Series 7 preparation package part of your plan.
  • Set a routine early: A steady, regular study method will increase your retention dramatically compared to frantic cramming at the end. Balance your studying between manuals and practice questions so you don’t burn out on either. Be sure to take a day off to rest your mind when you need to.
  • Focus on learning concepts: Most of the exam questions will test how you incorporate all your knowledge about securities and financial instruments to make suitable recommendations for a hypothetical client. For that reason, understanding concepts and how to apply them should be your focus, not memorizing formulas.
  • Practice, practice, practice: There is no better way to build your confidence ahead of the Series 7 exam than by doing practice questions. You should also take practice exams. Both types of exam practice help you truly assess your comprehension of critical concepts, identify and address weaknesses, and get comfortable answering the kinds of questions you’ll face on exam day.

Read this article on Series 7 study strategies for more details about preparing for the exam, including what to do on exam day.

Ready for the Challenge?

If you’re interested in taking the exam, check out our Series 7 exam preparation packages. Or, if you’re just getting started, we offer SIE packages and an SIE and Series 7 combo series.

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Posted by Kaplan Financial Education - August 26, 2019
Students wondering how hard is the Series 7

How to Find and Secure a Financial Advisor Internship

Financial advisor internships offer a great opportunity to get experience before earning a finance degree and fully entering the workforce. Internships enable aspiring financial advisors to learn the ropes firsthand, and the knowledge and “on-the-job” training can be beneficial during a later job hunt. Internships also benefit financial firms by providing additional help to address pressing demands. This article shares ways you can find a financial advisor internship and the steps you can take to secure it.

Financial Advisor Internships Aren’t Just for Summer Anymore

Before you start your search, think about whether you’d be willing to consider something other than a summer internship. Some universities and companies offer co-op positions throughout the year. Fall and spring internships are also available at some financial services firms. These longer-term internships are often easier to secure because there is less competition. So, if you go for one of these positions, you could already be an intern when the majority of students are applying for summer opportunities.

Another benefit of longer-term internships is that they look good on your resume. They can also, on occasion, lead to a job offer from the same firm because they have had more time to evaluate your work and see your skills and knowledge.

Considering a finance career? Download the free eBook Getting There from Here: Career Path Stories from Finance Professionals

Searching for Financial Advisor Internships

Once you decide what kind of internship you’d like, a good place to start the search is at your college or university career center. These centers often have a list of financial services firms who are specifically interested in hiring interns. The career center can also help you determine where you would like to work when you graduate and in what capacity, which can help you hone your search.

Another avenue for finding open internships is searching the websites of major financial services firms. Some of the most well-known, such as Merrill Lynch, Bank of America, and Wells Fargo, advertise for internships on their sites. Others have their own special programs for college students. Vanguard, for example, has a College to Corporate Advice Internship Program.

Independent finance associations such as CFP® Board, NAIFA, and the Society of Financial Services Professionals have career listings that include internships. For less specialized sources, visit internships.com, Glassdoor.com, LinkedIn, and indeed.com and do a keyword search for internships as a financial advisor.

And, here’s a great tip for internet searches that can save you time if you are interested in interning close to home or your university: simply go to Google and type “finance internship” or “financial advisor internship.” It will return listings of all the internships available in your area or state, including those that are advertised by financial firms or on all the major job search sites, including internships.com. You even have options for where and how to apply.

Getting a Financial Advisor Internship Interview

Like any career opportunity, you need to stand out in a sea of online applications so you can get an interview. Here are three good tips that can help you meet that goal:

  • Contact the financial firms on LinkedIn before you apply: Do a search for the firms’ job openings. There is usually a contact name there. Or, you can do a search for “talent” with the company’s name to find a talent manager. Reach out to that person and express your interest in the internship and explain what makes you the best candidate. Let them know you plan to apply.
  • Go over your resume carefully to make sure that it honestly represents your experience: Eliminate language that stretches the truth, such as saying you have cash management experience because you were a retail sales associate. Put your most relevant experience at the beginning and don’t forget to include any related volunteer work, such as helping people with their taxes at the library or being part of an investment club at a charitable organization.
  • Apply early: As in just about every job market, competition for internships is fierce. The earlier you can get your application to financial services firms, the better. It helps you make a great first impression. You should also read the application carefully to make sure you follow the instructions to the letter. That also goes a long way toward impressing the firm.

Although these tips can’t guarantee you an interview, they can get you closer to one. If you don’t get an interview on the first try or first few tries, do not become discouraged. Look for other opportunities and keep applying. This article on getting a finance internship has additional advice that can help.

Acing the Interview

If you’ve been notified that you have an interview for a financial advisor internship, there are a number of things you can do to make sure you come through it with flying colors. Here are a few that have worked successfully for others:

  • Before the interview, brush up on your finance knowledge and technical skills and work through the common finance problems or processes on which you could be tested. Then consider them in the context of the firm that is interviewing you and how to apply them in real-life scenarios. In addition, read this article on common finance internship interview questions and practice answering them.
  • On the day before the interview, practice “selling yourself”: What are you good at? What makes you different from every other candidate who is applying for this internship? What soft skills, personality traits, passions, and values do you bring to the table that others don’t?
  • On the day of the interview, bring your own set of questions: This article on preparing for a finance interview has some really good ones that focus on the work you’ll do, the organizational culture of the firm, and what skills and abilities you’ll have gained at the end.
  • Emphasize your flexibility: Although many interns have set duties, you might be asked to do work outside those duties or they might vary or change frequently. Let the interviewer know you are willing and able to take on new or different tasks. Be as professional as possible throughout the interview and in other interactions you have with anyone else in the firm. However, you should also relax and have confidence in yourself. Smile when you can because that always makes a good impression.

Personality Wins Out

A final note: personality is key to landing a financial advisor internship. Companies really aren’t interested in hiring robots; therefore, you can stand out from the crowd by demonstrating that you’re passionate about something other than work. Help the company get past your interview “game face” by letting them learn more about you as a person. Situations that demonstrate your ability to lead or be an active member of your community are great examples to cite in your resume, application, and interview.

You Got the Internship! What’s Next?

The questions shouldn’t stop once you’ve gotten hired. Read our article on the five valuable questions you should ask your employer during your financial advisor internship to learn more.

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Posted by Kaplan Financial Education - August 9, 2019
Financial Advisor Internship Found and Secured

What Jobs Can I Get After Earning the CFP® Mark?

With the CERTIFIED FINANCIAL PLANNER™ (CFP®) mark, you have a credential that can set you apart in the financial services industry. Earning the CFP® designation opens the door to unique professional opportunities for those with a bachelor’s degree who want a career in personal finance and planning. So, what kind of CFP® jobs are available to you after you’ve earned the credential and what kind of firms are hiring? Let’s take a look.

Financial Planner

A financial planner helps clients organize their finances and estimates the results of their savings and investments so they can see how well prepared they are to meet long-term financial goals. Financial planners also have certain areas of expertise, such as retirement planning or education funding planning. They assist with budgeting, cash flow planning, and saving for college and retirement. As a financial planner, you’ll likely create a comprehensive plan to help clients after assessing their current financial situations and researching what they can do to improve them.

Financial Advisor

A financial advisor helps clients manage their money, so the role is more general and broader than that of a financial planner. Financial advisors often specialize in investment management, estate planning, retirement planning, insurance, debt repayment, tax planning, or any other aspect of the finance industry. They can be stockbrokers, insurance agents, money managers, estate planners, bankers, and more. Financial planners with the CFP® designation are likely to create short-term and long-term financial goals for their clients and then devise financial plans for achieving them.

Financial Consultant

A financial consultant focuses on the accountability aspects of financial planning by designing action plans and a financial strategy and by helping clients run their financial systems. As part of this accountability, financial consultants collaborate with other financial professionals, such as attorneys, accountants, and investment managers to ensure their clients' financial needs are met. They also stay up-to-date on financial news and economic events that might affect the plans they’ve designed for their clients.

Investment Advisor or Investment Adviser Representative

Investment advisors, also known as Investment Adviser Representatives, recommend investments or conduct securities analysis for their clients. Although this position is generally associated with selling securities, investment advisors are often CFP® certificants, especially if their recommendations are for financial planning purposes, such as retirement, college, and estate.

Wealth Manager

Wealth managers provide services to high-net-worth individuals and ultra-high-net-worth individuals, which can include types of financial planning. Examples include investment management, financial planning, tax services and planning, retirement planning, legal planning, philanthropic planning, and estate planning, among others. Wealth managers are usually more hands-on, and their solutions are usually more comprehensive than other financial planning and advising disciplines because of the special needs of their high-net-worth clients.

CFP® Jobs: What Types of Firms Are Hiring?

Finance and insurance companies, including securities and commodity brokers, banks, insurance carriers, and financial investment firms, are the most common employers of finance professionals with the CFP® credential. Other sources of employment are wealth management firms, pension funds, and Registered Investment Advisers.

Interested in Pursuing the CFP® Designation?

Although earning the CFP® designation does not guarantee you a job, it can make a difference when an employer is deciding between two otherwise equally qualified candidates. Passing the CFP® Exam and earning the designation takes hard work and dedication. It demonstrates to potential employers that you have a mastery of the important concepts in financial planning. Therefore, companies are more likely to choose the candidate with the CFP® mark. It’s a career move worth considering. Our CFP® Exam prep study packages can certainly help you on your journey.

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Posted by Kaplan Financial Education - July 26, 2019
Woman Choosing Careers After Earning CFP

What’s the Difference Between Series 7 and the CFA® Charter?

Working in a brokerage or an investment firm is a popular choice for those who want a career in finance. Having a FINRA Series 7 license or a CFA® charter can be beneficial to anyone interested in working in that area of finance. So, you might be wondering what’s the difference between the Series 7 license and the CFA charter? This article breaks down both, including what they are, how to get them, what’s on the exams, and more to help you determine which you should earn.

The FINRA Series 7 license

The FINRA Series 7 license, also known as the General Securities Registered Representative license, allows you to sell corporate stocks and bonds, municipal bonds, mutual funds, variable annuities, options, direct participation program partnerships, collateralized mortgage obligations, and more in the United States. It’s administered by the Financial Industry Regulatory Authority (FINRA), which regulates member brokerage firms and exchange markets.

To earn the Series 7 license, you must pass two exams: the Series 7 exam and its corequisite, the Securities Industry Essentials (SIE). The SIE focuses on the basic information anyone in securities should know, but the Series 7 license requires specific knowledge. Therefore, you may hear it referred to as a “top-off exam.”

Thinking about a career in securities? Download our free eBook, Launching Your Securities Career, to get tips and advice from 100+ securities professionals.

How to get your Series 7 license

These are the steps for getting your Series 7 license:

  1. Pass the SIE exam. No degree or work experience is required to take this exam. The majority of candidates have a college degree or are in the process of earning one, however.
  2. Secure a sponsorship with a FINRA-member firm. After you work for a FINRA-member firm, they indicate that they are sponsoring you by filing a special application called a Form U4 which registers you for the exam.
  3. Take and pass the FINRA Series 7 license exam. Like the SIE, there are no degree or work requirements, but most candidates have a college degree in a finance-related field.

How to prepare for the FINRA Series 7 license exam

The recommended number of hours of study ranges from 80-100 to prepare for the FINRA Series 7 exam if you have a finance background and about 150 hours if you don’t. You should expect the exam to be challenging. Series 7 exam preparation classes are recommended as part of the preparation process, along with making a study plan, focusing on learning concepts, using practice questions, and taking practice exams.

About the FINRA Series 7 license exam

Series 7 exams are administered by Prometric throughout the year, and the fee for the exam is $245 USD. After your sponsor submits the Form U4 application, FINRA opens up a 120-day window, and you can take the computer-based, multiple-choice exam at a Prometric testing center on one of the days in that window. The format of the exam changed in October 2018, so pass rates for the new version are not available yet, but the general report is that it is around 72 percent.

Those who sit for the FINRA Series 7 exam can expect to be tested on investment risk, taxation, equity and debt Instruments, packaged securities, options, retirement plans, and interactions with clients.

The CFA® Charter

The CFA Charter is a professional credential offered internationally by CFA Institute to investment and financial professionals; it is an abbreviation for Chartered Financial Analyst®. The program covers a broad range of investment and portfolio management, financial analysis, stocks, bonds, and derivative topics, and it provides a generalist knowledge of other areas of finance. To earn the charter, you must take and pass all three levels of the CFA Program exam.

How to get the CFA® Charter

These are the steps for getting the CFA designation:

  1. Earn a bachelor’s degree (or equivalent) or be in the final year of your bachelor’s degree program. If you have 4 years of relevant work experience or a combination of professional work and university experience that totals 4 years, you are also eligible to start the CFA Program.
  2. Take and pass the Level I, Level II, and Level III CFA Program exams.
  3. Become a member of CFA Institute (which costs $275 USD and includes agreeing to abide by its code of ethics).
  4. Provide CFA Institute with proof that you’ve been working full-time for 2 years in a role that either involves investment decision-making or with a product that contributes to that process. This can include any work experience you had before passing the exam, as well as after.

How to prepare for the CFA® Program exam

CFA Institute advises spending a minimum of 300 hours of studying to prepare for each level of the CFA Program exam. CFA Institute offers Learning Outcome Statements (LOS) that detail exactly what you are expected to do on exam day, so they should be your main area of focus. It helps to take CFA Program exam preparation classes and answer as many practice questions as you can. To familiarize yourself with the exam process, take several mock exams as well.

About the CFA® Program exam

All three levels of the CFA Program exam are offered in June, and you can also sit for Level I in December. This is quite a difference from the FINRA Series 7 exam. The main format is multiple-choice, although Level III has a written portion called constructed response, too. The fees for each level range from $650–$1380 USD, depending on when you register. There is also a one-time enrollment fee of $450 USD. As for the pass rates, they look like this: Level I: 43 percent (May) and 45 percent (December); Level II: 45 percent; and Level III: 56 percent.

For all levels of the CFA Program exam, you will be tested on ethical and professional standards, quantitative methods, economics, financial reporting and analysis, corporate finance, equity valuation, alternative investments, fixed income, derivatives, and portfolio management.

Now that you know about each, let’s look at how to decide which is right for you.

Which is right for you—the FINRA Series 7 license or the CFA® Charter?

Another difference between the two credentials is that the Series 7 license is mandatory for anyone who wants to sell securities in the U.S., but the CFA Charter is an optional designation that demonstrates mastery of finance topics. So, which designation to pursue really depends on what you want to do in your career. If you want a career selling stocks in a brokerage, investment firm, or bank, then not only is the FINRA Series 7 right for you, but it is also required. With a CFA charter, you can pursue a number of career opportunities such as portfolio manager, research analyst, consultant, risk manager, corporate financial analyst, financial adviser, and the C-suite.

Of course, you don’t have to choose at all. Having both designations opens more doors in your career, especially if stocks and other securities investment products are your passion. Many Series 7 license holders who become investment advisor representatives or set up registered investment advisor firms have found that holding the CFA charter is beneficial to their business and clients. And, quite a few CFA charterholders who take staff positions in the research departments of brokerages will go on to earn their Series 7 licenses.

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Posted by Kaplan Financial Education. - June 27, 2019
Woman staring at a building trying to decide whether to earn Series 7 or CFA

Frequently Asked Questions About the FINRA Series 7 Exam

If you're preparing to sit or study for the FINRA Series 7 Securities licensing exam, you've probably got some questions. This article answers the most frequently asked questions about the Series 7 top-off exam and license, equipping you with the information you need to plan for this next step in your career.

What is the Series 7 License?

Also known as the General Securities Registered Representative license, the Series 7 license is administered by FINRA. FINRA is the governing body that ensures that anyone who sells securities products is qualified and tested.  If you hold this license, you can sell corporate stocks and bonds, municipal bonds, mutual funds, variable annuities, options, direct participation program partnerships, collateralized mortgage obligations, and more. The benefit of the Series 7 license is that it permits you to sell several types of securities products, except commodities and futures. 

The Series 7 license is good for the entire period that you work for a FINRA-member firm or self-regulatory organization (SRO). It only expires if you are terminated or leave a firm and do not find employment within two years at another FINRA-member firm or SRO. You do have to maintain it with continuing education, however. FINRA explains this in an article about firm and regulatory requirements.

Thinking about a career in securities? Download our free eBook, Launching Your Securities Career, to get tips and advice from 100+ securities professionals.

What is the difference between the Series 6 and Series 7 license?

If you hold a Series 6 license, you’re called a limited representative, and you can only sell mutual funds, variable annuities, and insurance premiums. For example, if a CPA wants to offer annuities and retirement planning services to clients, the CPA may only have to take the Series 6 exam. You’re a lot more restricted to what you can sell with a Series 6 license as opposed to a Series 7 license, which permits you to sell many more types of securities. Both serve specific needs and are appropriate for financial professionals who want to offer certain capabilities to their clients.

What jobs can I get with a Series 7 license?

Those who get this license are officially listed as registered representatives by FINRA but are more commonly referred to as stockbrokers. The majority of jobs will be with brokerages, investment firms, and banks. If you’re planning to focus on employment in the financial services industry after graduating from college, the Series 7 license is what banks and brokerages prefer.

How do I earn a Series 7 license?

Earning a Series 7 license involves four key steps:

  1. Take and pass the SIE exam.
  2. Secure a sponsorship from a FINRA-member firm.
  3. Register for the Series 7 exam.
  4. Study for and pass the Series 7 top-off exam.

Start your Securities career with confidence. Download our free eBook Launching Your Securities Career.

What is the Series 7 top-off exam? Why should I take it?

As part of implementing the Securities Industry Essentials (SIE) exam, FINRA restructured their examination programs. As part of this restructuring, FINRA has created a tailored top-off examination for earning the Series 7 license. 

You should take the Series 7 top-off exam if you want to be licensed to sell a broad range of securities in a brokerage or bank.

What are the requirements to sit for the Series 7 exam? Do I need a sponsor?

To take the Series 7 exam, you need a FINRA-member firm or SRO to sponsor you. After you’ve worked for them for four months or more, they can file a Form U4 (Uniform Application for Securities Industry Registration), which registers you for the exam. Fortunately, most firms that hire or train you will have a mandatory Series 7 licensing program included in their training package. 

There are no education requirements to sit for the Series 7 exam, although most candidates have a college degree in a finance-related field, and many choose to complete a Series 7 exam prep package prior to sitting for the exam.

May I take the Series 7 exam before the SIE exam?

Yes, although the more natural progression is to take the SIE exam first, mainly because you don’t have to be sponsored to take it. The SIE and Series 7 top-off exams are “co-requisites,” which means you can take and pass them in any order. Of course, you have to pass both to earn your Series 7 license.

Do I need to take the Series 7 top-off exam if I already have a different securities license?

If you’d like to be a stockbroker who sells virtually any type of securities, the answer is yes. Basically, the Series 7 license is what you need to sell everything except commodities futures, real estate, and life insurance.

Is the Series 7 exam paper or computer-based?

Like all other securities qualification exams, the Series 7 exam is administered by computer at a Prometric testing center.

What topics are covered on the exam?

The Series 7 exam topics include Investment risk, taxation, equity and debt instruments, packaged securities, options, retirement plans, and interactions with clients. The focus of the exam is the nature of these securities and financial instruments, and it tests knowledge relevant to the day-to-day activities, responsibilities, and job functions of general securities representatives.

How many questions are on the exam?

The exam consists of 125 multiple-choice questions, and each question has four answer choices. There are also ten additional unidentified and unscored pretest questions that do not contribute to your score that are randomly distributed throughout the exam. 

Sections% of Exam# of Exam Questions
1 - Seeks Business for the Broker Dealer from Customers and Potential Customers7%9
2 - Opens Accounts after Obtaining and Evaluating Customers' Financial Profile and Investment Objectives9%11
3 - Provides Customers with Information About Investments, Makes Suitable Recommendations, Transfers Assets and Maintains Appropriate Records73%91
4 - Obtains and Verifies Customers’ Purchase and Sales Instructions and Agreements; Processes, Completes and Confirms Transactions11%14
Total100%125

 

How much time does it take to study for the Series 7 top-off?

Most candidates spend 80–100 hours studying for the FINRA Series 7 exam if they have a finance background and about 150 if they don’t.

How hard is the Series 7 exam?

The Series 7 top-off exam expects candidates to be able to apply their knowledge of securities concepts to specific scenarios. The questions are detailed and related to the day-to-day activities, responsibilities, and job functions of representatives. Therefore, candidates should expect it to be challenging.

How much does it cost to sit for the exam?

The exam cost is $245.

What are the pass rates and passing scores for the exam?

The passing score for the exam is 72%. Because the Series 7 top-off exam just went live in October 2018, a pass rate has not been announced.

If I fail the Series 7 exam, what is the wait time before I can retake it?

Candidates who do not pass the top-off exam must wait 30 days before taking it again. However, if you fail it three times in succession, you must wait 180 days.

Ready to earn your Series 7 license?

We hope this article answers all of your questions about the Series 7 top-off exam and license. If you’re interested in taking the exam, we have Series 7 exam preparation packages. Or if you’re just getting started, check out our SIE exam prep and our SIE and Series 7 combo series.

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Posted by Kaplan Financial Education - April 9, 2019
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Frequently Asked Questions About the FINRA Series 6 Exam

So, you're planning to earn your Series 6 license? The questions most frequently asked about the Series 6 top-off exam and license are answered in this article, equipping you with the information you need to plan for this next step in your career.

What is the Series 6 License?

The Series 6 license (also known as the Investment Company/Variable Contracts Products license) enables you to register as a company's representative and sell mutual funds, variable annuities, and insurance.

Administered by FINRA, the Series 6 license is good for the entire period that you work for a FINRA-member firm or self-regulatory organization (SRO). It only expires if you are terminated or leave a firm and do not find employment within two years at another FINRA-member firm or SRO. You do have to maintain it with continuing education, however. FINRA explains this in an article about firm and regulatory requirements.

Thinking about a career in securities? Download our free eBook, Launching Your Securities Career, to get tips and advice from 100+ securities professionals.

What is the difference between the Series 6 and Series 7 license?

If you hold a Series 6 license, you’re called a limited representative, and you can sell mutual funds, variable annuities, and variable insurance policies. By contrast, the Series 7 license enables you to sell corporate stocks and bonds, municipal bonds, mutual funds, options, direct participation program partnerships, collateralized mortgage obligations, and more. A Series 6 license is more restrictive in terms of what you can sell compared to a Series 7 license, which permits you to sell most securities except commodities futures, real estate, and life insurance. Both serve specific needs and are appropriate to financial professionals who want to offer certain capabilities to their clients.

What jobs can I get with a Series 6 license?

If you’re interested in providing investment advice, retirement-planning services, and other types of financial guidance to clients. or you want a career in insurance or mutual fund sales, this is a good license to have. Officially listed as Investment Company Products/Variable Contracts Limited Representatives by FINRA, Series 6 license holders are usually financial advisers or insurance agents who also sell mutual funds; they work in brokerages, investment firms, banks, and insurance companies. In fact, you need to be employed by a sponsoring FINRA-member firm before you can sit for the Series 6 exam.

How do I earn a Series 6 license?

Earning a Series 6 license involves four key steps:

  1. Take and pass the SIE exam.
  2. Secure a sponsorship from a FINRA-member firm.
  3. Register for the Series 6 exam.
  4. Study for and pass the Series 6 top-off exam.

Start your Securities career with confidence. Download our free eBook Launching Your Securities Career.

What is the Series 6 top-off exam? Why should I take it?

As part of implementing the Securities Industry Essentials (SIE) exam, FINRA restructured their examination programs. FINRA is the governing body that ensures that anyone who sells securities products is qualified and tested. As part of this restructuring, FINRA created a tailored top-off examination for earning the Series 6 license.

You should take the Series 6 top-off exam if you want to be licensed to sell mutual funds, variable annuities, and insurance.

What are the requirements to sit for the Series 6 exam? Do I need a sponsor?

To take the Series 6 exam, you need a FINRA-member firm or SRO to sponsor you. The firm files a Form U4 (Uniform Application for Securities Industry Registration), which registers you for the exam. Fortunately, most firms that hire or train you will have a mandatory Series 6 licensing program included in their training package.

There are no education requirements to sit for the Series 6 exam, although most candidates have a college degree in a finance-related field, and many choose to complete a Series 6 exam prep package prior to sitting for the exam.

May I take the Series 6 exam before the SIE exam?

Yes, although the more natural progression is to take the SIE exam first, mainly because you don’t have to be sponsored to take it, and it is a more general exam that covers securities concepts. The SIE exam and Series 6 top-off exams are “co-requisites,” which means you can take and pass them in any order. Of course, you have to pass both to earn your Series 6 license.

Do I need to take the Series 6 top-off exam if I already have a different securities license?

It depends on the license. You might not need the Series 6 if you have a Series 7 license and you don’t plan to sell life insurance. If you have a Series 3 license and decide to stop selling commodity futures in favor of mutual funds, you’ll need to earn the Series 6. You should consult with your firm before deciding whether you need a license or not.

Is the Series 6 exam paper or computer-based?

Like all other securities qualification exams, the Series 6 exam is administered by computer at a Prometric testing center.

What topics are covered on the Series 6 exam?

The Series 6 exam topics include mutual funds, variable annuities, securities and tax regulations, retirement plans, and insurance products. The focus of the exam is the day-to-day activities, responsibilities, and job functions related to selling and purchasing these products.

How many questions are on the Series 6 exam?

The exam consists of 50 multiple-choice questions, and each question has four answer choices. There are also five additional unidentified and unscored pretest questions that do not contribute to your score that are randomly distributed throughout the exam.


Sections
% of Exam# of Exam Questions
1 - Seeks business for the broker-dealer from customers and potential customers24%12
2 - Opens accounts after obtaining and evaluating customers’ financial profile and investment objectives16%8
3 - Provides customers with information about investments, makes suitable recommendations, transfers assets, and maintains appropriate records50%25
4 - Obtains and verifies customers’ purchase and sales instructions; processes, completes, and confirms transactions10%5
Total100%50

 

How much time does it take to study for the Series 6 top-off?

Most candidates spend 40 to 60 hours studying for the FINRA Series 6 exam.

How hard is the Series 6 exam?

The Series 6 top-off exam expects candidates to be able to apply their knowledge to specific scenarios. The questions are detailed and related to the day-to-day activities, responsibilities, and job functions of limited representatives. Therefore, candidates should expect it to be challenging but quite passable with dedicated and focused preparation.

How much does it cost to sit for the Series 6 exam?

The exam cost is $40.

What are the pass rates and passing scores for the Series 6 exam?

The passing score for the exam is 70%. Because the Series 6 top-off exam just went live in October 2018, a pass rate has not been announced. However, in our most recent customer surveys, 90% of respondents have reported passing the Series 6 exam after using Kaplan prep materials.

If I fail the Series 6 exam, what is the wait time before I can retake it?

Candidates who do not pass the top-off exam must wait 30 days before taking it again. However, if you fail it three times in succession, you must wait 180 days. Your firm will also have to sponsor you again for each retake, and you will also have to pay the full fee each time.

Ready to earn your Series 6 license?

We hope this article answers your pressing questions about the Series 6 top-off exam and license. If you’re interested in taking the exam, we have Series 6 exam preparation packages. Or if you’re just getting started, check out our SIE package and our SIE and Series 6 combo series.

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Posted by Kaplan Financial Education - April 9, 2019
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Frequently Encountered SIE Exam Roadblocks and Solutions

FINRA launched the Securities Industry Essentials (SIE) examination late last year. The regulator’s intent was to position the SIE exam as an introduction to the securities industry. The exam is designed to assess a candidate’s knowledge of the fundamentals of the securities industry. Test content focuses on products and their risks, the process of raising capital, the structure of securities markets, and the role of various regulatory agencies.

By design, the intent of the SIE exam is to focus on the basics. Why just the basics? Remember, passing the SIE exam alone does not qualify an individual for registration with a FINRA member firm. To become registered, successful SIE candidates need to gain sponsorship with a member firm and then pass one or more “top-off” exams. These top-off exams are narrower in focus and cover specific products and their regulation in far greater depth. Additionally, the top-off exams assume the candidate understands the basics of a given product and are designed to be more focused on suitability issues.

In 2018 alone, Kaplan had more than 18,000 students purchase SIE exam prep materials. Enough of those students have now sat for the exam that we can learn more about the most common challenges they’ve encountered. In this article, we will examine some of those challenges and offer some helpful tips on how to remedy them.

Roadblock #1: Specialized language and acronyms

The SIE exam is, above all else, a reading comprehension exercise. There are very few math computations on the test. Exam writers expect students to be comfortable with the specialized language of finance, as well as common acronyms. Students are strongly encouraged to review the glossary found in the back of the Kaplan License Exam Manual (LEM). The glossary is a great first step in demystifying some of the industry-specific language students may encounter on their exams.

We also strongly recommend students complete the 75-question SIE Practice Test provided by FINRA. Spending the time to review the practice test will pay dividends by exposing SIE exam candidates to a test created by the same writers who author the real exam. Remember, FINRA exams are written by committee and, unlike other standardized tests such as the SAT, the language and sentence structure may vary between individual questions. Some questions may contain legal jargon contained within various FINRA rules, while others may employ more of a conversational tone. The point of taking FINRA’s SIE Practice Test is to gain exposure to several different writing styles and “spins” on topics prior to taking your actual test.

Roadblock #2: One word may have several meanings

If you’ve spent some time with the SIE exam prep you’ll notice some words have multiple meanings. For example the word principal could refer to:

A) a bond’s face value,

B) a person in a managerial position at a brokerage firm, or

C) the capacity of a firm on a given trade.

Students may encounter this “one word has several meanings” quandary on the SIE exam as well. For example, exam writers could use the word covered in several different contexts:

1) Covered is a situation in which the writer of an option has the underlying deliverable. For example:

  • A call writer is covered by already owning a long stock position. (The long position nets against the call writer’s obligation to sell.)
  • A put writer is covered by a short stock position. (The short position nets against the put writer’s obligation to buy.)

2) The word covered may also be used as slang to mean a protected or hedged position. This is not strict financial terminology but more akin to, “Don’t worry, I’ve got this position covered.”

In this case, a put option covers or protects a long position since the put locks in a minimum sales price on a potential closing out (sale) of the client’s long position. A call option covers or protects a short position since the call locks in a maximum purchase price on a potential closing out (buying back) of the client’s short position.

3) The third use of the term covered involves the closing out an options position. Remember, buyers create their initial position with an opening purchase, while writers create their initial position with an opening sale. In this context:

  • a closing sale covers (or closes out) a buyer’s existing open long option position, and
  • a closing purchase covers (or closes out) a writer’s existing open short option position.

Planning to sit for the SIE Exam? Download a FREE copy of the Candidate's Complete Guide to the SIE Exam. 

Roadblock #3: Multiple terms used to reference the same concept

As noted in Kaplan’s LEM, the terms options writers, options sellers, and going short a contract and option could all be used to express the same concept. Conversely options owners, options buyers, and going long a contract reference the same ideas. Remember, the SIE exam is written by committee, and the writers may employ their own favored terminology.

Roadblock #4: Math? (Not much, but some)

Remember, the SIE exam focuses on reading comprehension. Students can expect very few calculations on their exam. Many students report only seeing one or two calculation items. Here are the three formulas that are the most likely to be tested:

  • % Sales Charge (load) for a Mutual Fund Purchase = (POP – NAV)/POP
  • Current Yield = Annual Interest Payment/Bond Price
  • Dividend Yield = Annual Dividend*/Stock Price

*Note: Remember to multiply the quarterly dividend provided in the question by 4.

Roadblock #5: Expansion of definitions into concepts

Students can expect that approximately 25% of their exam questions will move beyond mere definitions and tie together various concepts from different sections of Kaplan’s LEM and/or address suitability issues with a given product. In these tough questions, students are expected to extend their factual knowledge of a product or rule into a conceptual understanding. Here are a few examples of these more challenging questions:

Example #1: The Influence of FRB Policy

We spend some time in the LEM going through the FRB tools and detail the concepts of FRB tightening (raising rates) and loosening (lowering rates). The exam could employ slang terminology in this area. Tightening becomes the FRB being hawkish, and loosening is referenced as the FRB being dovish.

If the FRB is hawkish, investors should shorten their maturities. Why?

Exam takers must tie together three facts to get to the right answer.

1) Hawkish means rising rates.

2) Rising rates translates into lower future bond prices based on the inverse relationship between yield and price.

3) Short term bonds will be hurt less by rising rates due to their lesser relative price volatility when compared to long term issues. Remember, maturity magnifies the price move.

Dovish is the opposite expectation and implies potentially lower future interest rates and higher future bond prices. If this is the expectation, bond investors should lengthen maturities to take advantage of the anticipated upward positive price movement in bonds.

Example #2: Selecting the Correct Bond

A second example of the extension beyond definitions could be the exam writer providing a brief description of the client and then asking a question about the appropriate debt security recommendation. There will be hints in the question such as the person’s age, job, income, risk tolerance, investment horizon, and so on. To get these questions correct, you need to have a firm grasp of the relative safety profile and tax status of each debt instrument.

For example, high earners should be steered toward municipals because of the tax-free status of these issues’ coupons. Safety seekers should consider treasuries due to these issues’ default-free status. While middle-of-the-road investors (middle-aged, average incomes) might be best served with an investment in a high grade corporate bond issue. If you encounter an investor who appears to want equity exposure as well, go with the convertible corporate bond since this will provide indirect appreciation potential. If the question leads with a client’s near-immediate need for funds, pick the shortest maturity conservative investment.

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Posted by Kaplan Financial Education - April 9, 2019
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9 Helpful Tips for Taking the SIE Exam

As you prepare to sit for FINRA’s Securities Industry Essentials (SIE) exam, you may be wondering what the experience will be like on exam day. Oftentimes, candidates get anxious prior to an important exam just from the anticipation of the unknown. But there are things you can do prior to the exam to reasonably control your nerves and put your best foot forward when you sit to take the exam.

If you’ve completed an SIE exam prep program, you’ve already solidified your knowledge. Now take your exam prep across the finish line by applying these nine crucial tips on SIE exam day.

Tip #1: Read the Full Question

Confidence is an important tool in your test-taking arsenal. But misplaced confidence can also cause problems when you’re sitting for the SIE exam if you’re not careful. Questions are often written to trap people who assume too much. The question may not be asking what you think it is if you don’t read it in its entirety. Read each question completely before choosing your answer.

Tip #2: Watch for Hedge Clauses

A hedge clause is a term like if, not, all, none, or except. In the case of if statements, the question can be answered correctly only by taking the qualifier into account. Be on the lookout for these words, and make sure you fully consider how they affect what’s actually being asked.

Tip #3: Look for Keywords and Phrases

Certain words provide clues to the situation being presented. For example, the word prospectus gives you a clue that the question is about a new issue.

Tip #4: Interpret the Unfamiliar Questions

It’s likely that you will come across some questions on the SIE exam that seem unfamiliar at first glance. Don’t let it throw you off. Sometimes questions present information indirectly, making something you’re quite familiar with seem unfamiliar. It can be helpful to interpret the meaning of certain elements before you can answer the question. To thoroughly test your grasp of the knowledge, expect the exam to test concepts from multiple angles.

Taking the SIE exam? Download the free eBook, A Candidate's Complete Guide to the SIE Exam, for valuable information about the test contents and the securities licensing process.

Tip #5: Use Information from Prior Questions

This is something test takers don’t always think about in the moment. But be attentive to it. Some questions need to provide you with information to set a scene and give you what you need to answer the question being asked. That information may prove valuable, providing clues to an answer on another question later in the exam. 

Tip #6: Define What is Being Asked

Questions sometimes provide too much information, and not all of it is relevant. Learn to separate the story from the question to get to the heart of what’s really being asked. This is something you can practice before the exam so you’re prepared for it when you face it.

Tip #7: Use a Calculator

Most of the questions that require calculations on the SIE exam are written so the math involved is simple in nature and function. But in a potentially high-stress situation, you are more prone to making mistakes. Use a calculator to ensure that common math errors don’t lead to incorrect answers.

Tip #8: Beware of Changing Answers

If you are not completely sure of an answer, you should trust your first hunch. Only change answers when you discover you didn’t read the question correctly, or you find additional helpful information in another question.

Tip #9: Pace Yourself

Keep an eye on the time remaining, which will be displayed on your computer screen. Be aware of the time you have left to complete the exam and the number of questions you have remaining. Don’t panic, but pace yourself appropriately to ensure you’re not scrambling in the end. A common way test takers maintain a pace is answering the questions they know instantly first, and then coming back to the more difficult questions later.

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Posted by Kaplan Financial Education - April 9, 2019
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What is the SIE Exam?

The SIE Exam is a required qualifications exam administered by FINRA. It tests basic information including products, risks, the structure & function of the securities industry & its regulatory agencies, and knowledge of regulated & prohibited practices.

Why FINRA Introduced the SIE Exam

FINRA developed the SIE exam for two primary reasons. First of all, the organization recognized that across many of their series-specific exams, there were questions covering the same introductory topics. As a result, candidates who sat for multiple securities exams throughout their career were being tested on the same material multiple times. These topics have been pulled out of those series-specific exams, and will now be tested in the SIE exam. We’ve detailed which exams will be changing and how in our SIE FAQ article

The second reason FINRA created the SIE exam was to remove a significant barrier to entry into the industry. Previously, in order to sit for any of FIRNA’s series-specific exams, an individual would need to be sponsored by an employing brokerage. While this is still the case, individuals can sit for the SIE exam before securing employment. This significantly opens the industry up to career changers and university students.

Download the free eBook, A Candidate's Complete Guide to the SIE Exam, for more valuable information about the test contents and the securities licensing process.

SIE Exam Format

The SIE exam is a 75-question, multiple-choice exam. It consists of four parts FINRA calls Functions that each carry a different weight in a candidate's score. The Functions and their respective exam weight are: 

Function 1: Knowledge of Capital Markets12 of 75 questions16% of the test
Function 2: Understanding Financial Products and their Risks33 of 75 questions44% of the test
Function 3: Understanding Trading, Customer Accounts, and Prohibited Activities23 of 75 questions31% of the test
Function 4: Overview of Regulatory Framework7 of 75 questions9% of the test

 

All candidate test scores are placed on a common scale using a statistical adjustment process known as “equating”. Equating accounts for the slight variations in difficulty that may exist among the different sets of exam items (questions) that candidates receive. This allows for a fair comparison of scores and ensures that every candidate is held to the same passing standard, regardless of which set of questions they received.

History of the SIE Exam

At the 2015 ARM educational conference, FINRA first introduced a proposal to amend how candidates qualify to be registered at the representative level in the securities industry. Since that initial announcement, FINRA has routinely provided updates introducing additional details about the SIE exam. In October 2017, FINRA announced October 1, 2018, as the effective date for the SIE exam.

If you already hold a securities license, you are exempt from taking the SIE exam. But any individual seeking to earn their first securities license, whose testing window opens after October 1, 2018, will be required to pass the SIE exam prior to earning a representative-level qualification exam for a specific series.

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Posted by Kaplan Financial Education - April 9, 2019
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How to Become a Registered Representative

Registered representatives, also known as brokers, represent clients in the trade of investment products such as stocks, bonds, and mutual funds. The “registered” part of the title refers to the fact that the sponsoring firm and the individual are licensed with the Financial Industry Regulatory Authority (FINRA). Individuals cannot be registered representatives if they and their firm are not licensed.

How to Become a Registered Representative 

Step 1: Sit for and Pass the SIE Exam

In 2018, FINRA initiated a new introductory step in the process of earning a securities license and becoming a registered representative in the form of a new exam called the Securities Industry Essentials (SIE) exam. If you are seeking a securities license with an exam window that opens after October 1, 2018, you will be required to pass the SIE exam plus the qualification (series-specific) exam required for the type of business you plan to engage in.

Many people have questions about the new SIE exam, and here are a couple big things to know. First, the SIE exam tests on a number of topics formerly tested on multiple series-specific exams. Second, you do not need to have a sponsoring broker to sit for the SIE exam. With this move, FINRA is reducing duplicative testing of general knowledge and making it easier for individuals to begin the process of becoming a registered representative.

Thinking about a career in securities? Download our free eBook, Launching Your Securities Career, to get tips and advice from 100+ securities professionals.

Step 2: Secure Sponsorship with a Licensed Firm

Once you’ve passed the SIE exam, your firm must file a Uniform Application for Securities Industry Registration or Transfer. The form is often referred to as Form U4. This form collects administrative and disclosure information. It’s important that all of the information in your Form U4 is accurate and always up-to-date. Otherwise, FINRA can take regulatory action against you, your firm, or both.

Step 3: Choose an Exam that Fits What You Want to Do

Before registering for your first securities examination, you need to know the type of work you’ll be doing and the license that covers it. Your sponsoring broker will likely have a very specific exam in mind for you to begin with, based on the work you’ll be doing. Check out this article detailing the most common securities licenses and what each license qualifies holders to do.

Step 4: Register and Prepare for the Exam

Once you’ve decided on an exam, your sponsoring broker is required to file an application for you through FINRA’s CRD system. FINRA’s approval of that application opens a 120-day testing window. FINRA suggests you schedule your exam as far in advance as possible to ensure you get your desired date. There are a few things the scheduling center will need from you in order to schedule your exam:

  • Your name and CRD number (which you receive upon approval of your Form U4)
  • The test name or corresponding series number
  • Your or your employer’s phone number
  • An email address to confirm your appointment

Once you’ve scheduled your exam, it’s time to turn your attention toward studying and preparing for success. Look for an exam prep provider with a proven history of success preparing candidates for success with securities licensing exams. Many exam prep providers offer live, online, and self-study options for you to choose.

Step 5: Sit for and Pass a Series-Specific Qualification Exam

Finally, it’s time to put your hard work to the test on exam day. All of the test-taking tips you’ve practiced throughout your life are equally valid when it comes to preparing to be successful for a securities exam. Get plenty of sleep the night before. Make sure you eat a balanced breakfast the morning of the exam. Arrive early and approach the task at hand with confidence. You’ve done the preparation—now it’s time to pass the exam and earn your reward as a newly licensed registered representative.

How to Get Started

You now have the basic steps you need to complete to become a registered representative. For more information on starting your new career, check out FINRA’s Registered Representatives Brochure. You can also find more helpful articles in Kaplan’s Career Corner.

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Posted by Kaplan Financial Education - April 9, 2019
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What Does an Insurance Agent Do?

An insurance agent is defined as a person employed to sell insurance policies to clients. That's just a broad overview of the job, and it doesn’t disclose specific tasks or detail what an insurance agent does on a day-to-day basis. If you’re interested in becoming an insurance agent, but aren’t specifically sure what the job entails, this article gives you an idea of what working as an insurance agent is like.

Insurance Agent Job Description

Insurance agents sell and negotiate life, health, property, or other types of insurance to match the needs of their clients. As an insurance agent, you may work for an insurance company, refer clients to independent brokers, or work as an independent broker.

Marketing also plays a large part in the day-to-day duties of an insurance agent. Successful insurance agents implement marketing strategies to promote new and current insurance policies. Marketing activities are also crucial to bringing new customers to your agency.

As an insurance agent, you develop relationships with prospective clients through networking and referrals. Those relationships are the bedrock of your business. You can develop a long-term base of clients through many channels, including referrals, cold calling, email, social media, and postal mailing. You can also present to groups at work-related gatherings or speak publicly at an insurance-related event. In addition to finding new clients, as an insurance agent, you must maintain relationships with existing clients. Your reputation as an insurance agent depends on you being a reliable first point of contact when your client needs to file a claim or increase their coverage due to major life events, like purchasing a new car or having a child.

Insurance agents must evaluate the needs of their clients and propose plans that will meet the criteria, as well as the clients' financial status. You will develop an understanding of your clients’ needs and financial capacity by scheduling meetings, determining the extent of present coverage and investments, and building long-term goals. In addition to determining client needs, you should also develop a  protection plan by quoting rates for immediate coverage and long-term goals.

Thinking about a career in insurance? Download this free Launching Your Insurance Career eBook.

Additional Responsibilities of an Insurance Agent:

  • Attend meetings, seminars, and programs to learn about new products and services
  • Calculate premiums and establish payment methods
  • Report the progress of initiatives to stakeholders
  • Maintain bookkeeping systems, databases, and records
  • Monitor insurance claims
  • Meet customers’ expectation to ensure satisfaction of insurance coverage
  • Continuously educate yourself on the industry and learn about new products and services
  • Fulfill all policy requirements
  • Help clients settle any claims on their insurance
  • Customize insurance programs to suit individual customer needs
  • Ensure that policy requirements are fulfilled, including completion of the appropriate forms
  • Inspect property in order to examine its overall condition and decide its insurance risk
  • Make sure all paperwork is filled out and filed to put insurance policies in place
  • Assist customers in properly completing insurance applications in order to act as an intermediary between the customer and the insurance company

Qualifications to Become an Insurance Agent:

  • A high school diploma, although many start with a bachelor’s degree
  • Licensure is required to work as an insurance agent
  • Good customer service skills—must be comfortable speaking with others
  • Experience working in a relevant field, such as sales (not a requirement)

Now that you know what an insurance agent does and what is required, learn about the 10 traits that can help you succeed here

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Ready to get started on your insurance career? Kaplan has what you need to prepare for your insurance licensing exams.

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Posted by Kaplan Financial Education - April 9, 2019
Insurance agent meeting with a young couple about insurance

7 Strategies for Passing the Series 7 FINRA Qualifications Exam

To solicit, purchase, and sell all securities products (e.g., corporate securities, municipal fund securities, options, direct participation programs, investment company products, and variable contracts), you need a Series 7 license. To be eligible to earn that license, you need to have passed the Securities Industry Essentials (SIE) exam (either before or after the Series 7 exam) and secured sponsorship from a member firm or self-regulatory agency (SRO) that has also registered you with FINRA. If you’ve met these requirements, you can enroll with FINRA and schedule your exam with Prometric up to 120 days after you’ve been registered. 

With all that out of the way, you’re now ready to prepare for the exam. To ensure you have the best chance of passing the Series 7 FINRA qualifications exam, you need good strategies. Here are seven that can help you pass.

Thinking about a career in securities? Download our free eBook, Launching Your Securities Career, to get tips and advice from 100+ securities professionals.

Strategy 1: Make a Study Plan

You need to spend 80-100 hours studying for the FINRA Series 7 exam if you have a finance background and about 150 if you don’t. The first thing you should do is lay out a study plan that ensures you put those hours in. Give yourself enough time to take breaks from study to let concepts percolate. We strongly recommend including a Series 7 preparation package as part of your plan. Most web sources say the Series 7 pass rate is 65% (FINRA doesn’t release the pass rates), but in a recent Kaplan survey of Kaplan Series 7 students, 85% reported passing the Series 7 qualification exam.

Strategy 2: Set a Routine Early

Set your study routine as soon as possible. A steady, regular study method will increase your retention dramatically compared to frantic cramming at the end. Balance your studying between manuals and practice questions so you don’t burn out on either. Be sure to take a day off to rest your mind when you need to. And, speaking of routines, in the last weeks before the exam, try to get in a good sleep pattern. Anxiety can make sleeping difficult, but having a set sleep schedule some time before will keep you rested.

Strategy 3: Focus on Learning Concepts

The Series 7 exam consists of 125 multiple-choice questions and takes 225 minutes. It focuses on the nature of various securities and financial instruments such as equities, bonds, options, and municipal securities. Almost 75% percent of the questions relate to providing customers with investment information, making suitable recommendations, transferring assets, and maintaining appropriate records. If you’re tempted to focus only on memorizing formulas related to these topics, don’t. Instead, be sure to learn the concepts; they are more important than formulas. A number of the questions will test how you incorporate all your knowledge to make suitable recommendations for a hypothetical client.

Strategy 4: Use Practice Questions to Measure and Improve Comprehension

Because there are different types of questions on the exam, practice questions are your secret weapon for Series 7 exam success. Plan to invest a significant amount of time answering questions to get a better understanding of where your strong and weak points are, and where you need to focus more attention. If your exam prep provider provides a question bank database, take advantage of this valuable study asset as much as you can.

Strategy 5: Take Series 7 Practice Exams

One of the best ways to improve your chance of passing is to take practice exams. Practice exams are different from practice questions because they closely replicate the real exam in terms of degree of difficulty, weighting, and format. Most are updated to address the latest regulations, and you receive a score with diagnostic feedback. The better you perform on these exams, the greater your likelihood of passing the Series 7 exam.

Strategy 6: Stay Calm on Exam Day

Plan to arrive at the testing center more than 30 minutes beforehand. That gives you plenty of time to check in, find where you are supposed to go, and collect your thoughts before the exam starts. During the exam, take the questions one at a time. Everything you need to answer a question correctly is always right there, so you don’t have to second-guess yourself. Nor should you think about how many questions lie ahead—focus on the one at hand, answer it, and move on.

Strategy 7: Read the Whole Question

Our last strategy is one that’s often overlooked because it seems so obvious. But, interestingly, you’d be surprised at how many people don’t read the whole question. That’s because most of us are conditioned to skim through information to find the one little nugget we are looking for as we simultaneously worry about how much time we have. If you approach Series 7 exam questions this way, you are likely to miss something important. So, be sure to read the entire question and all the answer choices. Then read the last sentence of the question again before starting to eliminate answers. Here’s another valuable tip: if you have read the question thoroughly, and there are at least two answer choices you cannot eliminate, consider choosing “all of the above” if it’s an option.

You're Now 7 Steps Closer to Passing the Series 7 FINRA Exam

The Series 7 exam can be tough, but if you follow these strategies, study wisely, and invest in exam prep, you have a great chance of passing.

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Posted by Kaplan Financial Education - April 8, 2019
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Securities Industry Essentials (SIE) Exam Frequently Asked Questions for Candidates

If you’re planning to earn your first securities license in the near future, you’ve likely heard that FINRA recently created an exam called the Securities Industry Essentials (SIE) exam. We are receiving an increasing number of questions about this exam. This article answers the most frequently asked questions, equipping you with the information you need to plan for this next step in your career.

What is the Securities Industry Essentials (SIE) exam?

The SIE exam is FINRA's general industry exam. It tests basic knowledge of products, risks, the structure and function of the securities industry and its regulatory agencies, and regulated and prohibited practices. Although ideal for university students and career changers, anyone can sit for the exam without prior association with a firm.

Do I need to have a sponsoring employer to take the SIE exam?

No. FINRA does not require sponsorship with a firm to sit for the SIE exam. However, to become registered with FINRA and seek a representative level role with an employer, candidates must also pass a revised, specialized knowledge qualification exam (or "top-off"), applicable to their job function with the firm.

Taking the SIE exam? Download the free eBook, A Candidate's Complete Guide to the SIE Exam, for valuable information about the test contents and the securities licensing process.

Can I take the SIE exam while I am still in college?

Yes! With a low exam fee ($60) and no firm sponsorship requirement, the SIE exam is ideal for university students who want to get a head start on a financial services careers and, most importantly, stand out to potential employers by proving their mastery of basic industry knowledge and the ability to pass a high-stakes examination.

When will FINRA implement the SIE exam?

The SIE exam is now available at all Prometric testing centers.

Do I need to take the SIE exam if I already have a securities license?

Based on FINRA Regulatory Notice 17-30, the following individuals are considered to have passed the SIE exam:

  • Individuals who registered as representatives before October 1, 2018, and who continue to maintain those registrations on or after October 1, 2018.
  • Individuals whose registration as a representative was terminated between October 1, 2014 and September 30, 2018, provided they re-register as a representative within four years from the date of their last registration

All other individuals seeking representative-level registration must pass the SIE exam, unless they obtain a waiver.

Is the SIE Exam a paper or computer-based exam?

Like all other securities licensing exams, the SIE is administered by computer at a Prometric testing center.

What topics are covered on the SIE exam?

The range of topics covered on the SIE exam include:

  • Knowledge of Capital Markets
  • Understanding Products and their Risks
  • Understanding Trading, Customer Accounts, and Prohibited Activities
  • Overview of the Regulatory Framework.

How many questions are on the SIE exam?

The SIE exam has 75 multiple-choice questions, plus 10 additional experimental questions. The breakdown is as follows:

Sections % of Exam # of Exam Questions
Knowledge of Capital Markets 16% 12
Understanding Products and their Risks 44% 33
Understanding Trading, Customer Accounts and Prohibited Activities 31% 23
Overview of Regulatory Framework 9% 7
TOTAL 100% 75

 

How can I use the SIE to my advantage in my career?

The SIE gives you a head start on a financial services career. Current or potential employers are more likely to notice you because you can prove you have a grasp of basic industry knowledge and the ability to pass a high-stakes examination.

Do I earn a securities license for passing the SIE exam?

Passing the SIE exam alone does not qualify you for registration with FINRA. You must also pass a revised, specialized knowledge qualification exam (or "top-off") applicable to the desired job function with a firm, and meet other registration requirements. Note that FINRA calls the SIE and the "top-off" exams "corequisites," which means you have to pass both as part of the licensing process, but you can take them in any order. For example, you can take the Series 7 exam before the SIE, but you will still have to take the SIE at some point to be licensed.

What happens after I pass the SIE exam?

To become registered with FINRA and seek a representative level role with an employer, you must also pass a revised, specialized knowledge qualification exam (or "top-off") applicable to your job function with the firm.

If I do not pass the SIE Exam, what is the wait time before I can retake it?

The rules for retaking the SIE exam are the same as for all FINRA series licenses. After your first attempt, you are required to wait 30 days before retaking the test. After your second attempt, you again have to wait 30 days to retake the exam. After your third failing attempt, you are required to wait 180 days before retaking the exam.

How long after passing the SIE exam can I wait to take a top-off exam and earn a securities license?

After passing the SIE exam, you have up to 4 years to pass the representative-level "top-off" exam for registration with FINRA and association with a firm.

How does the SIE exam change the way the existing securities licensing exams are offered today?

The SIE exam acts as a corequisite exam—to become registered with FINRA and seek a representative level role with an employer, candidates must also pass a revised, specialized knowledge qualification exam (or "top-off") applicable to their job function with the firm. FINRA has changed the number of questions required for these new exams from the current exams as you can see in this table:

Registration Category As of October 1, 2018
Investment Company Represent (IR) Series 6: 50 Questions
General Securities Representative (GS) Series 7: 125 Questions
DPP Representative (DR) Series 22: 50 Questions
Securities Trader (TD) Series 57: 50 Questions
Investment Banking Representative (IB) Series 79: 75 Questions
Private Securities Offerings Representative (PR) Series 82: 50 Questions
Research Analyst Series 86 + Series 87: 100 Questions + 50 Questions
Operations Professional (OS) Series 99: 50 Questions

 

These representative-level exams test knowledge relevant to day-to-day activities, responsibilities, and job functions of representatives. Learn the specifics in our article about Series 7 and our other article about the Series 6, 79, and 99 Exams.

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We hope this article answers all of your questions about the SIE Exam and how it affects your securities licensing process. If you're looking for more information, you can access our SIE Information Center. We've also created FAQs for universities and businesses to answer SIE-specific questions.

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Posted by Kaplan Financial Education - April 5, 2019
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RIA vs IAR: What is the Difference?

There are loads of acronyms in the financial services industry. What is an RIA? What is an IAR? Are they used interchangeably? These are frequently asked questions by people who are considering a career in the securities and commodities industry. Read on to find out more about RIAs and IARs, and when you should properly use each term.

What is an RIA (Registered Investment Adviser)?

Although it sounds like an individual job title, a Registered Investment Adviser (RIA) refers to a firm that is registered with the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) or a state’s securities agency. Now, an individual who works for a RIA is an Investment Advisor Representative (IAR).

A quick Google search for RIA will reveal that many people misuse the term, instead referring to a professional designation for individuals who provide investment advice. An individual cannot be an RIA; however, the individual could have her own RIA firm. Even if that is the case, however, she is still an IAR representing her own RIA.

Thinking about a career in securities? Download our free eBook, Launching Your Securities Career, to get tips and advice from 100+ securities professionals.

What is an IAR (Investment Adviser Representative)?

An Investment Adviser Representative (IAR) is an individual who works for an investment advisory company (e.g., RIA, broker-dealer) and provides investment-related advice for a fee. IARs are limited in what advice they can provide based on which licenses they hold.

According to the North American Securities Administrators Association (NASAA), three essential elements characterize an investment adviser:

  • Provides advice or analysis about securities
  • Receives compensation for the advice they provide
  • Engages in regular business of providing advice about securities

Is there a difference between an advisor and an adviser?

No, not really. Registered Investment Adviser (RIA) and Investment Adviser Representative (IAR) both use an “e-r” in adviser because the Investment Advisers Act of 1940 defines both the terms RIA and IAR using adviser with an e-r. If the individual or firm is registered, then adviser is supposed to be spelled with an e-r.

With that being said, advisor with an “o-r” is commonly used in the securities industry. The meaning is the same whether it is spelled adviser or advisor; however, if you are writing out Registered Investment Adviser or Investment Adviser Representative, you should always use the e-r spelling because that is the way the law is written.

Become an Investment Adviser Representative

If you are interested in becoming an Investment Adviser Representative, the first step to getting licensed is passing the Series 65 exam, or the Series 7 and Series 66 exams. Unlike other securities licensing exams, you do not need to be sponsored by a firm or broker-dealer to take the Series 65 exam.

If you have another professional designation, such as the CERTIFIED FINANCIAL PLANNER mark or the Chartered Financial Analyst® charter, you may be able to waive the Series 65 exam. Check with your state for more details.

If you are considering starting your own RIA, check out this article on the important things to consider about being your own boss.

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Posted by Kaplan Financial Education - April 1, 2019
Woman considering the difference between an RIA and an IAR

What Does a CFP® Professional Do?

A CFP® professional works with clients to create holistic long-term plans in order to help them meet their financial goals. CERTIFIED FINANCIAL PLANNER jobs are expected to grow 30% over the next 10 years, according to CNN Money, making it an excellent career option for young financial professionals. But what does a CFP® professional do exactly? Read on to find out.

Where do CFP® professionals work?

Many young CFP® professionals start out working at large financial firms or insurance companies to gain experience and mentoring from more seasoned professionals. Working for a firm makes you more likely to work on a commission-only basis, meaning you will get paid a cut of the financial products your clients buy.

Other CFP® professionals choose to go out on their own and start their own practice. While this is a flexible option with endless potential for growth, it does come with more risk and pressure to build a book of business. Many CFP® professionals with their own practice are fee-only, meaning they charge an hourly rate for providing financial guidance rather than taking a commission.

There are many types of jobs for CFP® professionals. Regardless of which path you choose, you will likely be helping people develop and reach their long-term financial goals.

Get a sneak peak at the beginning of the Kaplan education program to get a feel for whether CFP® certification is the right fit for you by downloading our free eBook. 

How does a CFP® professional help clients?

Financial planning is not a set-it-and-forget-it situation. Client financial goals shift over time when life circumstances change. Therefore, CFP® professionals meet with their clients periodically to ensure no changes need to be made to their plans.

CFP® professionals work with clients on a wide variety of financial goals. When clients are just starting out, often they will have financial needs related to managing student loan debt, figuring out how to merge finances with a loved one, or saving for a large purchase like a house, car, or boat. As clients start settling down in their lives, CFP® professionals can help them financially plan for a growing family, education funds, and life insurance and retirement decisions.

Once clients get to midlife, they may need financial help with tax strategies for higher incomes, estate planning, caring for aging parents, and long-term care options. When clients near retirement age, CFP® professionals can also help with retirement management, as well as preparing a client’s children for planning and managing their inheritance.

What’s the difference between a CFP® Professional and a Financial Planner?

The difference between a financial planner and a CERTIFIED FINANCIAL PLANNER™ is the certification process required to become a CFP® professional. A CERTIFIED FINANCIAL PLANNER must meet CFP Board’s qualifications in order to use the marks after his or her name. CFP Board requires an individual to complete a CFP Board-registered education program and pass the CFP® exam, which is given three times each year. In addition, a CFP® professional must have professional experience (6,000 hours) in relevant personal financial planning activities, or apprenticeship experience (4,000 hours) that meets additional requirements. This experience must be completed within ten years preceding the exam or five years after.

CFP Board also requires candidates to pass a background check and adhere to their ethics standards. This also means CFP® professionals must take an ethics course every two years as part of their CE requirements.

Becoming a CFP® professional is a difficult journey, but it can also be very rewarding once accomplished. Recognized as the highest standard in personal financial planning, earning the CFP® mark gives finance professionals tremendous opportunities in their career.

Become a CERTIFIED FINANCIAL PLANNER

If you think becoming a CFP® professional is for you, the first step is to enroll in a CFP Board-registered education program. If you are interested in what a CFP® certification education course is like, check out our eBook preview of the first Kaplan CFP® certification education course.

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If you’re ready to enroll, get started with Kaplan’s CFP® certification education program now. Choose from our live classroom and self-study options today!

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Posted by Kaplan Financial Education - April 1, 2019
Clients talking to their CERTIFIED FINANCIAL PLANNER

How to Prepare For a Finance Internship Interview

Before you become a finance intern, you first have to interview well enough to have an organization hire you. Internship interviews can be nerve-wracking, but this guide offers advice to help you prepare for the finance internship interview and put yourself in the best possible position to succeed.

Before the Day of the Interview

Brush up on your technical finance skills and concepts. Before the day of your interview, refresh yourself with common finance problems or processes with which you could be tested. Wall Street banks are known for asking intern candidates to orally walk through finance processes. “How do you get from revenue to free cash flow?” “How does $100 of depreciation expense impact the three major financial statements?” You can expect questions as fundamental as what you would learn in an introduction to finance class, or questions that dig into advanced processes that you would learn in high-level college courses. Not every interviewer will demand perfect and instant answers, but they do want to know how familiar you are with the field in which you are applying.

Evaluate yourself. What are you good at? What makes you different from every other candidate who is applying for this internship? What soft skills, personality traits, passions, and values do you bring to the table that others don’t? Write these down. Envision ways you can demonstrate or bring attention to these in the interview—it is critical the interviewer sees what makes you special.

Download the free eBook, Getting There from Here: Career Path Stories from Finance Professionals, to get firsthand accounts of what it's like to have a rewarding career in finance.

Think back. What roles or projects in your previous work experience or school history can relate to what you’ll be doing in your internship? It’s a good idea to write these down ahead of time and bring them to the interview for reference.

Research the company. What is their business model? Who is their executive leadership? What’s been happening in the organization lately? How has their stock price performed over the past five years or the past six months? Showing your interviewer that you know about their company will save them some time in the interview and demonstrate that you came prepared.

Study the industry. Is the internship you are applying for with the finance department of a corporation? Is it with a financial planning or advising firm? Is it with a large bank? Those are all very different internships. By studying the environment, the competition, and the market in which the firm does business, you’ll be more confident and prepared for conversation in the interview. 

Practice answering interview questions. A quick Google search will help you find the most common and tricky internship interview questions. Many people and websites will tell you exactly what to say to “best” answer these questions. Take those for what they’re worth, but remember to answer questions truthfully and with your own personality. That’s what makes you unique! One universally accepted way to answer behavioral or situational questions is to use the STAR technique. When asked a question about times or events in the past, lay out the situation, describe the task at hand you were faced with, detail the actions you took to solve the task, and explain the result of your actions. This is a savvy way to calmly navigate through a tough question and demonstrate competence.

The Day of the Interview

Prepare some questions. Think ahead of time about the company or the position. At the end of the interview, if these have not been addressed, ask your interviewer. Consider questions such as:

  • “Could you elaborate more on your organizational values and culture?”
  • “Will the work I do day-to-day be a series of menial tasks or real, substantive work?”
  • “By the end of my internship, what kind of skills or abilities could I expect to have gained?”

When asking questions, it’s important to be curious and personable. The interviewer will be able to tell if you actually care or not. Having questions for the interviewer shows you are prepared, truly interested in the position, and have the confidence to ask questions on the job.

Dress professionally. This means doing (or not doing) all the things you’ve heard a hundred times...iron your clothes, don’t chew gum, sit up straight, leave your phone in the car, don’t go overboard on cologne or perfume. These small things may seem trivial, but they can sometimes make the difference between a good first impression and a bad one.

Brand yourself appropriately. Remember that every second you are in the employer’s facility, you are essentially building your reputation. Someone is always watching, ready to give feedback to the hiring manager. Make sure you are professional, kind, and respectful—from the front door to the lobby to the interview and back out the door.

During the Interview

Relax and have confidence in yourself! Have some fun and remember to smile. Realize that your goal in the interview is to make it as hard as possible for them to not hire you. You prepared yourself, you practiced, and now it is the time to perform. Stay in the moment and take time to give thoughtful responses. Do your best, and you’ll be just fine. 

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There are additional things you can do besides acing your interview. Get even more information about getting a finance internship here.

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Posted by Kaplan Financial Education - April 1, 2019
Woman being interviewed for a finance position

How to Pass the Life and Health Insurance Exam

In order to get your life and health license, you must first pass the licensing exam in the state in which you want to sell insurance. The process to get licensed itself varies by state, as does the passing score and pass rate. However, the exam structure and life and health insurance content topics are generally the same for most states, as are the best practices for preparing to pass the life and health insurance exam. We recommend you follow these tips on how to pass the life and health exam to ensure your success.

Set and Adhere to a Study Calendar

The average insurance exam-taker spends about 35 to 40 hours studying to pass the life and health insurance licensing exam. In order to better absorb the information, it is recommended that you study for the exam over the course of a few weeks rather than simply cramming during the week of the exam. We recommend setting a study calendar for yourself and sticking to it.

If you take a course with Kaplan, you can simply plug your exam date into our study calendar tool, and we’ll set a plan to keep you on track. Regardless, you can divide up the work you need to do to be ready for exam day into digestible daily study lessons.

Thinking about a career in insurance? Download our free ebook, Launching Your Insurance Career with Confidence, for advice and tips from 100+ insurance professionals.

Concentrate on the State Exam Outline

You will want to print out the State Exam Outline for General Lines Life and Health Agent so you understand what material will be covered under each of these topics, as well as how it will be weighted on the exam. The State Exam Outline lets you know how many questions are included in each section of the test. This is very important. It is recommended that you concentrate on the sections with the most questions so you can attain mastery of the key topics first and then move on to the less-tested areas.

Utilize Practice Exams

Be sure to utilize life and health insurance practice exams in your studies. Practice exams will help you gauge how well you have absorbed the information you’ve read, as well as determine which areas still need your attention. We recommend you take at least one practice exam while mimicking testing conditions. This will help you determine whether your pacing is right to get through the exam in the allotted time.

Take an Exam Prep Review Course

While not all states require it, it is a good idea to take a prelicensing education course for your life and health insurance licensing exam. Not only will it help you make sense of the material, but it will help you prioritize and stay on track with your study calendar. With Kaplan, you can choose from traditional live classes, online courses, or printed books for self-study. No matter which study option you choose, you’ll receive the License Exam Manual (LEM), State Law Supplement, a QBank containing hundreds of practice questions, and access to an expert instructor.

Know the Exam Process

Not knowing what to expect on exam day can trip up students who are otherwise well prepared. The testing center can feel a little intimidating, so it’s good to have an idea of what will happen so you aren’t caught off guard. 

You should expect to put all of your belongings in a locker before you get assigned to a testing cubicle. When you get to your assigned test spot, an employee will explain the expected conduct to you. They are very alert to any suspicious signs of cheating, so be sure to follow their directions carefully. Learn more about the exam process here.

The life and health insurance exam can be challenging; however, you can pass on your first try by following these recommendations. Be sure to check out this video from Kaplan’s insurance experts, Julie Ramsey and Mary Orn, with more insurance licensing exam study tips.

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If you are interested in Life and Health insurance exam prep from Kaplan, you can choose from our exam prep options here. We have a study package for every type of learner!

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Posted by Kaplan Financial Education - March 29, 2019
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What Does an Insurance Claims Adjuster Do?

Becoming an insurance claims adjuster is sometimes overlooked as a potential profession when someone is considering an insurance career. Insurance claims adjuster jobs can be a great option though; the need for adjusters remains consistent over time as catastrophes and accidents happen every day. Exactly what do insurance claims adjusters do in their day-to-day work? Read on to find out or learn how to become a claims adjuster.

Types of Insurance Claims Adjusters

There are a few different types of insurance claims adjusters, and each would influence what your day-to-day work would be like.

Staff Adjuster: A staff adjuster works full-time for one insurance adjuster firm exclusively. Generally, these positions mean that you are salaried and receive benefits from the firm, such as pension, life and health insurance, and continuing education training. Staff adjusters respond to claims for the one insurance company they work for. Often, these are car accident claims.

Independent Adjuster: Independent adjusters work as contractors for multiple insurance firms or third-party administrators. They often work with catastrophe claims and will travel to the impacted areas after major weather events or emergencies.

Public Adjuster: Public insurance adjusters work directly on behalf of policyholders. They help businesses or individuals file insurance claims if a proposed settlement seems unfit from an insurer. Generally, public adjusters are also contract workers rather than salaried.

Thinking about a career in insurance? Download our free ebook, Launching Your Insurance Career with Confidence, for advice and tips from 100+ insurance professionals.

Claims Adjusting is Investigative Work

Regardless of what type of insurance claims adjuster you are, you will be doing investigative work. Once an insurance claim is filed, a claims adjuster is called in to take over the process. They gather information and details to work out what happened in the incident and find a fair settlement price. Some of the information a claims adjuster collects includes police reports, witness statements, photos of an incident, or property damage. If needed, a claims adjuster will conduct interviews with everyone involved in an incident.

Different types of adjusters have different goals. A public adjuster, for example, wants to get the highest possible amount paid to their claimant client, whereas a staff adjuster or independent adjuster for an insurance company works in the interest of the insurance company.

What Hours Do Claims Adjusters Work?

The hours claims adjusters work vary considerably. A staff adjuster for an insurance company may work regular 9 to 5 hours and rarely on weekends; independent or public adjusters are more likely to work irregular hours to accommodate client schedules and do investigative work.

Independent and public adjusters, in particular, may have to work well over 40 hours a week during catastrophic events. However, there will also be times during the year when their workload is much less. As a contract adjuster, they have more control over how much they want to work than a staff adjuster.

Getting Started as an Insurance Adjuster

To become an insurance adjuster, you will need a minimum education of a high school diploma or GED equivalent. While some insurance companies may require a bachelor’s or associate’s degree, it is not required to get into the profession in all cases.

In some states, you will also need to be licensed. Even if you don’t live in a state requiring a license, you may find it makes sense to get an out-of-state license so you are able to work throughout the country. If you want to do insurance claims adjusting after weather disasters or catastrophes, this will make the most sense for you. If you get licensed, you will need to maintain that license with continuing education. Each state has unique requirements, so it’s best that you consult your state website for details.

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If you think this sounds like the right career for you, find out more about how to become an insurance claims adjuster. If you are interested in enrolling in insurance adjuster licensing exam prep, check out our adjuster licensing online course through Texas now.

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Posted by Kaplan Financial Education - March 29, 2019
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5 Career Change Tips: How to Change Careers Successfully

If you are burned-out, bored, or fed up with your career, it could be a sign that you are ready for a change. Before you jump into a big career change, we advise you to work your way through these 5 tips for a smooth and successful transition.

1. Ask Yourself Why You Want to Make a Career Change

Before diving into a new career, it is important to ask yourself why you want to make a career change. Create a list of qualities you like and did not like in your current and past jobs. Jot down what environments you like best and what motivates you. Do you like working in teams or on your own? Do you prefer getting into a routine groove or constantly tackling new projects? What are you looking for in an employer? From there, you should have a good list of things you want (and want to avoid) in a new career.

2. Research New Career Options

Take your list of qualities you want in a job and research careers that match what you are looking for. Research the marketplace to identify emerging and growing industries to make sure there will be opportunities and job security in your new career. Take advantage of the Department of Labor’s free Occupational Outlook Handbook to research the projected growth for different occupations over the next ten years. Check out job boards on popular sites like Monster, Indeed, and Glassdoor to see what is in demand as well. In the financial services industry, familiarize yourself with careers like financial planning, insurance, and securities

Download the free eBook, Getting There from Here: Career Path Stories from Finance Professionals, to get firsthand accounts of what it's like to have a rewarding career in finance.

3. Conduct Informational Interviews and Volunteer

Discover if a job is truly what you want to do in your next career by conducting information interviews with people in the industry. Utilize your network of contacts, LinkedIn, and online research to find folks who may be willing to talk with you. You could even offer to volunteer or do some part-time work with them to see if this is an industry you would like to enter.  Better to try on a new career before you jump right in!

4. Build Relationships

Breaking into a new career field can be difficult without contacts in the relevant industry. Building mutually beneficial relationships with employers, industry professionals, and recruiters can help you transition into your new career. There are many ways to build relationships – both in person and online. Look for relevant networking and Meetup groups and attend their events. Join relevant LinkedIn groups and be sure to participate in discussions. This will not only help you meet contacts, but you can also provide resources for them as well to foster a more reciprocal relationship.

5. Market Your Transferrable Skills

Often, people trying to change careers get discouraged because of their lack of experience in the industry. It’s important to market your transferrable skills both in your written materials like your cover letter and resume and in interviews. Do research on what skills are necessary for your new career path and evaluate what transferable skills and experience you already have. You may be pleasantly surprised with how qualified you are for your new career.

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Looking for more information about changing careers? Visit Kaplan Financial Education’s Resource Center for more information and inspiration to get started. Should you choose to join the insurance or financial services industries, visit our website or call our team at 800.824.8742 to enroll in an upcoming program.

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Posted by Kaplan Financial Education - March 29, 2019
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CFP® Mark vs CFA® Charter: Which is Right for You?

The CFP® mark and CFA® charter are both the most prestigious designations in their respective fields. If you are just starting out in a finance career, you may be wavering between these two designations. Let’s explore the key differences between the two paths to give you a better idea of what makes the most sense for you and your career.

Governing Bodies

Each designation has a governing body, CFP Board and CFA Institute, that upholds the standards of excellence for competent and ethical practices. These governing bodies create the exams and determine the standards required to pass with input from current professionals in the industry.

Exam Differences

To obtain the CFP® mark, you have to pass one exam. The exam is offered three times per year in March, July, and November. The overall pass rate for the November 2016 CFP® exam was 63.2%.

The CFA charter, in contrast, requires you to pass three exams. CFA Level I is offered twice per year in December and June, while Levels II and III are only offered annually in June. The CFA Level I exam pass rate in December 2016 was 43%.

Get a sneak peak at the beginning of the Kaplan education program to get a feel for whether CFP® certification is right for you by downloading our free eBook. 

Requirements for the CFP® Mark and CFA® Charter

There are a number of requirements beyond passing the exam(s) to obtain both designations. To earn the CFP® mark, you need a bachelor’s degree. You also need professional experience (6,000 hours) in relevant personal financial planning activities, or apprenticeship experience (4,000 hours) that meets additional requirements. The experience component can be completed within ten years preceding the exam or five years following the exam. You also must complete the required education prior to taking the CFP® exam and adhere to CFP Board’s ethical standards.

The CFA charter also requires you to obtain a bachelor’s degree and have four years of professional experience. The experience component can be completed before, during, or after completing the CFA Program. Unlike with the CFP® exam, there is no education requirement for the CFA exams (although passing the exams without studying is nearly impossible). In addition, you must join and maintain membership to CFA Institute to be considered a CFA charterholder.

Exam Topic Areas

There are eight principal knowledge topic categories covered on the CFP® exam. According to CFP Board, all aspects of the CFP® exam are guided by CFP® professionals, including the determination of content coverage; the writing, reviewing, and approving of exam questions; and the scoring and passing criteria. The topics covered include: professional conduct and regulation, general financial planning principles, education planning, risk management and insurance planning, investment planning, tax planning, retirement savings and income planning, and estate planning. The topic area weights vary by exam cycle.

The Candidate Body of Knowledge (CBOK) represents the core knowledge, skills, and abilities tested on the CFA exam. Thousands of investment professionals have input into the CBOK to ensure it represents the most important aspects of the career. Ethics and professional standards is one of the most important topic areas throughout the program. The other nine topic areas include quantitative methods, economics, financial reporting and analysis, corporate finance, equity investments, fixed income, derivatives, alternative investments, and portfolio management and wealth planning. The topic area weights vary by level and by exam cycle. Some of the topics are also combined at times for testing purposes.

Time Commitment

It generally takes candidates about one year to complete the CFP® certification program, assuming they pass the exam on the first try. The required education for CFP® certification takes about nine months to complete. This allows some time to review the education and prepare for the exam.

The CFA charter can be completed in two and a half years; however, the average candidates gets through the program in four years, according to CFA Institute. It is expected that CFA candidates study for a minimum of 300 hours per exam level.

Common Careers

There are many career options available to both CFP® professionals and CFA charterholders. CFP® certification is a common path for professionals interested in becoming financial planners or financial advisors. If you are interested in specializing in wealth or estate planning, there are niche careers in those areas as well. The CFP® mark can also help you get into a career as a trading and research associate, financial consultant, financial representative, or a financial analyst. If you want to become a branch manager at a financial firm, the CFP® mark can help you achieve that level in your organization.

The CFA charter opens up opportunities for career advancement in investment and finance fields. CFA charterholders often go on to become portfolio managers, research analysts, consultants, corporate financial analysts, and even chief-level executives. You may opt to earn the FRM® designation as well and become a financial risk manager. The CFA charter can also help you gain employment as a relationship manager, financial advisor, investment banking analyst, strategist, or trader.

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If you are ready to enroll in an exam prep program, visit Kaplan Financial Education for CFP® certification education or Kaplan Schweser for CFA exam prep

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Posted by Kaplan Financial Education - March 29, 2019
Professionally dressed man at a fork in the road trying to decide between the CFP certificate and the CFA charter

CFP® Certification Myths Busted

Financial professionals already know the benefits of earning the CERTIFIED FINANCIAL PLANNER™ mark. Increased earnings, higher client satisfaction, additional referrals, and more desirable clients are just some of the ways CFP® certification can enhance your career.

Unfortunately, there are a lot of myths out there about what needs to be done to get your CFP® mark and sometimes these misconceptions prevent financial professionals from starting the certification process. This article busts some common myths about CFP® certification so you have all the facts before deciding whether or not to become a CFP® professional.

Myth #1: You must complete a bachelor’s degree before you can enroll in CFP® certification.

You actually have five years after passing the CFP® exam to get your bachelor’s degree. You only need to have completed the required education coursework through a program registered with CFP Board, which addresses major personal financial planning areas identified by CFP Board’s most recent job analysis.

Myth #2: You must get an advanced degree in financial planning to become a CFP® professional.

This is also not true! You just need to complete the required education to sit for the CFP® exam and hold a qualified bachelor’s degree (or higher) within five years of passing the CFP® certification exam. 

Myth #3: I don’t have any relevant experience, so I can’t take the CFP® exam.

Professional experience (6,000 hours) in relevant personal financial planning activities, or apprenticeship experience (4,000 hours) is required to satisfy the experience requirement of CFP® certification. This can all take place after you pass the CFP® exam though. Once you pass the exam, you have five years to fulfill this requirement. You CAN submit completed professional experience to CFP Board for review prior to passing the CFP® exam, but it is certainly not required.

Is CFP® certification right for you? Get a preview of our required education materials in this free download.

Myth #4: If I change jobs, I will lose my CFP® mark.

Once you pass the CFP® certification exam, the designation belongs to you as an individual. You can remain a CFP® professional if you switch employers as long as you complete your continuing education and certification application every two years and pay your annual certification fee of $325. 

Myth #5: My business will suffer while I am completing the required education for the CFP® exam.

While it will be a busy time, you can immediately incorporate your education into your daily practice. Seventy-five percent of CFP® professionals say that their CFP® mark education directly contributes to their success. 1  There are also programs where you can study for the CFP® exam at your own pace.  At Kaplan, you can choose the EssentialPlus or Essential Package, which both allow you to set your own study calendar. Eight-four percent of students who start our CFP® certification programs finish!

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Posted by Kaplan Financial Education - March 29, 2019
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CERTIFIED FINANCIAL PLANNERTM Career At-a-Glance

Are you looking to advance your career by getting your CFP®certification or are you trying to break into the financial planning industry? If you are looking for more information about the profession, you are in the right place. Learn more about what the day-to-day of a financial planning professional is like, as well as expected job growth over the next decade below.

What Do CERTIFIED FINANCIAL PLANNERS™ Do?

Financial advisors and CFP® professionals help clients with investment decisions, taxes, and selecting insurance policies and retirement plans. While no two days will ever be the same, much of the job involves meeting with clients, analyzing financial information, and researching new opportunities.

Typical job duties for financial advisors include:

  • Meet with clients to discuss and set financial and investment goals
  • Explain the kinds of financial services and investments  they provide to clients
  • Assess clients’ financial health by examining assets, liabilities, income, taxes, investment, and estate plans
  • Help clients plan financially for specific events like college or retirement
  • Monitor accounts and recommend or select investments for clients
  • Research new investment opportunities

Important Skill Sets for CERTIFIED FINANCIAL PLANNERS™

CFP® professionals are often thought of as number crunchers, but the reality is that they need to have strong relationship and communication skills to successfully attract and retain clients. Some important skills for CFP® professionals include:

  • Communication Skills: While number crunching is important, a financial advisor needs to be able to communicate and present their knowledge and recommendations to clients in meetings, writing, and over the phone. 
  • Sales and Marketing: Financial planners need to be able to market their skills and knowledge to potential clients. It is important for advisors to have the ability to convey how financial advising can benefit their clients’ long-term financial needs. 
  • Relationship Management: Being a financial planner involves a great deal of listening and asking the right questions. It is also important for financial advisors to understand the emotions behind decision-making and work to educate and counsel clients effectively.
  • Self-Motivation: To succeed in this industry, a financial advisor must take initiative, recognize opportunities, and continually follow up with prospective and current clients. There is a lot of competition in financial services and going above and beyond what is expected is the norm.
  • Long-Term Thinking: To successfully maintain clients long-term, it is important to continually anticipate future situations and the needs of your clients.

Is CFP® certification right for you? Get a preview of our required education materials in this free download.

Job Outlook for Financial Planning Industry

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics Occupational Outlook Handbook, employment of financial planners is expected to increase by 27% from 2012 to 2022. This is significantly higher than average for all occupations, which is just 10%. 

Decreases in funds for corporate and state pensions are expected to contribute to the growth of the industry as more individuals will require financial planning.

Financial planners who obtain the CERTIFIED FINANCIAL PLANNER™ certification will likely obtain the best job prospects over the next decade. A recent CFP Board study  revealed that more than 69% of surveyed consumers said they would insist that their financial planner have the CFP® certification, compared to 49% who would insist on CPA certification, 34% CFA certification and 31% CPA-PFS certification.

How Much Do CERTIFIED FINANCIAL PLANNERS™ Make?

According to CNN Money, the median pay for a CFP® professional is $89,500 annually with the top pay at $171,000. The median pay for a professional in the larger umbrella of personal financial advisors is $67,620 annually or $32.46 per hour.

Advisors who work for financial investment firms or planning firms, or who are self-employed, generally charge their clients a percentage of the assets they manage. They may also charge an hourly fee or get fees for stock and online insurance policies purchased. In addition, advisors often get commissions for financial products sold.

How Do You Become a CERTIFIED FINANCIAL PLANNER™?

To become a CERTIFIED FINANCIAL PLANNER™ , you must complete the required education, pass the certification exam, and meet the experience and ethics requirements. For more details, visit our How to Become a CFP® Professional article.

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Looking for more information on CFP® certification? Kaplan Financial Education offers CFP® certification education and exam prep review study solutions for the CFP® exam. Check out our courses for CFP® certification or call 800.237.9990 Option 2 for more information.

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Posted by Kaplan Financial Education - March 29, 2019
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How to Get Your Florida Insurance License

Looking to earn your insurance license? The licensing process varies state by state. These are the steps to earning your insurance license in Florida.

Step 1: Complete the Florida Prelicensing Education

Regardless of the type of insurance license you are looking to earn, you will be required to complete a specific number of state-approved education credit hours. The number of hours varies depending on the license you are looking to obtain. You can get the details on our State Requirements page. Upon completion of your course, you will receive a certificate.

Thinking about a career in insurance? Download our free ebook, Launching Your Insurance Career with Confidence, for advice and tips from 100+ insurance professionals.

Step 2: Submit the Florida License Application

Once you’ve completed the required education, it’s time to apply for your Florida insurance license. There is an application fee of $50 and a License ID fee of $5, giving you a total cost of $55. You can complete the license application on Florida’s Division of Insurance Agent and Agency Services webpage.

Step 3: Complete Fingerprinting and Background Check

Prior to earning your license, the state of Florida requires that state licensing applicants submit fingerprints and complete a background check. Florida uses MorphoTrust USA to complete fingerprinting. There is a $45.80 fee (plus tax) associated with the fingerprinting process. MorphoTrust USA submits your fingerprints automatically to the Florida Department of Law Enforcement.

Step 4: Prepare and Sit for the Insurance Licensing Exam

In Florida, Life, Accident, & Health and Property & Casualty are bundled together. So you would need to sit for the exam that matches the insurance lines you want to carry. Florida insurance licensing exams are proctored, meaning there is a designated person overseeing you while you take the exam. To increase your odds of success on your insurance licensing exam, trust your preparation to Kaplan Financial Education.

Step 5: Pass License Application Review

After passing the exam and submitting your application, your background check and application will be reviewed by the state. If approved, your license will be issued. If there are issues revealed in your background check, the state may reach out with questions. You will be notified of approval in your MyProfile account on the FL Division of Insurance Agent and Agency Services website.

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Posted by Kaplan Financial Education - March 22, 2019
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How to Get Your Colorado Insurance License

You live in Colorado, and you’ve been researching a career in insurance. You’ve reviewed the basics and have decided to become an insurance agent. Here are the 5 steps for earning your license in your home state.

Step 1: Familiarize Yourself with the Licensing Candidate Handbook

What does a career in insurance in Colorado require? What education do you need? Do you have to be a college graduate? Are you an insurance agent in another state and would also like to be licensed in Colorado? Can other coursework count toward your prelicensing education? Find answers to these questions and more in the Colorado Insurance Licensing Candidate Handbook. It offers a wealth of information on the specifics of insurance licensure in Colorado, including all the education requirements, the costs, and the procedures for taking the exam.

Thinking about a career in insurance? Download our free ebook, Launching Your Insurance Career with Confidence, for advice and tips from 100+ insurance professionals.

Step 2: Complete all Prelicensing Education Requirements

You’ll need to complete prelicensing education before taking the exam for your license. This education helps you prepare for the exam and your future career. You’ll need to take 50 hours each (10 hours of which must be Colorado-specific) for the following types of insurance: life, accident and health, property and casualty, and personal lines. All training is good for up to one year after you complete your courses.

After you complete your education, the training school will inform Pearson Vue, the exam provider. However, hang onto your training school code, because you’ll need it to make a reservation for your exam.

Step 3: Schedule Your Exam, Pay the Fee, and Prepare Yourself

To take the exam, you must make a reservation with Pearson Vue, which you can do online at www.pearsonvue.com/co/insurance. Simply create an account and follow the step-by-step instructions to make your exam reservation. You’ll need to make the reservation at least 24 hours before the exam. If you’re paying by electronic check, you’ll need to do it at least 5 days in advance.

The fee is $48 for an individual exam. You’ll need to pay the fees when you register and provide the code for the training center you used for your prelicensing education. In preparation for the exam, you should study and practice. The Colorado Insurance Licensing Candidate Handbook has information about how to pay for the exams, and the Colorado Division of Insurance Producer Information and Instructions website has a link to exam content outlines.

Step 4: Take the Exam and Pass

On the day of the exam, report to the exam center 30 minutes before the scheduled start time. Be sure to have two forms of current ID with a signature, such as a driver’s license, passport, military ID, state-issued ID card, and so on. You’ll be asked to sign a Candidate Rules Agreement form, and you’ll be photographed for your score report. Also, if you’re nervous, you have the opportunity to take a tutorial that will not cut into your exam time.

After you complete your exam, you’ll be given a score report. If you passed, and you meet all other requirements, you’re eligible for your license.

Step 5: Apply for Your License

To apply, go to the National Insurance Producer Registry (NIPR) website. The cost of the license for a Colorado resident is $89 (plus a $5 NIPR transaction fee) for each line of authority. More details about fees can be found on the NIPR fees page.

As You Pursue Your New Career

As you follow these steps for successfully earning your Colorado insurance license, keep in mind that you will also have continuing education requirements to meet after you’ve earned your license. You’ll also need to renew your license, so be sure to keep up with the latest information on the Colorado Division of Insurance Producer Information and Instructions web page.

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Posted by Kaplan Financial Education - March 22, 2019
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How to Get a Wisconsin Insurance License

After doing some research and reviewing the basics, you’ve decided to earn your license and become an insurance agent in Wisconsin. Here are the 5 steps for earning your license.

Step 1: Familiarize Yourself with the Licensing Information Handbook

What does an insurance career in Wisconsin entail? What education do you need? Do you have to be a college graduate? Are you an insurance agent in another state and would also like to be licensed in Wisconsin? Can other coursework count toward your prelicensing?

The Licensing Information Handbook from the Wisconsin Office of the Commissioner of Insurance has answers to these questions and more. You’ll find a wealth of information on the specifics of insurance licensure in Wisconsin, such as the three main types of license: intermediary, navigator, and counselor. This handbook will help you know what to expect as you go through the process.

Also helpful is this FAQ from the Office of the Commissioner of Insurance. This goes into more detail about the different types of licenses and what they enable you to do. Most likely, you’ll be trying to get an intermediary license, because that’s the one for agents and producers.

Thinking about a career in insurance? Download our free ebook, Launching Your Insurance Career with Confidence, for advice and tips from 100+ insurance professionals.

Step 2: Complete all Prelicensing Education Requirements

Before you can apply for your Wisconsin insurance license or take the exam, you need to complete prelicensing education: classroom, self-study, or a combination of both. There are different requirements for the different types of licenses, but all require 8 hours of education on the principles of insurance, general Wisconsin insurance laws, and ethics. The intermediary license requires 12 additional hours for the major and limited insurance lines: life, accident and health, property, casualty, personal, variable life/variable annuity, credit, and title. You can get more details here.

After you finish your courses, you will receive a certificate of completion from your education provider. Hang onto it—you’ll need to bring it with you when you take your licensing exam.

Step 3: Get Fingerprinted, Register for Your Exam and Study

In Wisconsin, all insurance license applicants must be fingerprinted before licensing. Giving your fingerprints will also initiate a background check. Make a fingerprint reservation with Fieldprint for the digital fingerprint. Fingerprint information is valid for 180 days.

You can’t take the exam without a reservation. Prometrics is the exam provider for Wisconsin, and you can take the exam in any of their locations in the US. To register for the line or lines of authority you have chosen, visit the Prometrics registration page for Wisconsin. Create an account and follow the step-by-step instructions to make your exam reservation. You can also call 866.370.3411, or fax or mail your application. More details about the different ways to register are available in the Licensing Information Handbook.

The fee for the exam is $75 for each line of authority. Also, when you register, be sure you use the same name that’s on the government-issued ID you plan to use at the testing center.

In preparation for the exam, you should study and practice. Prometrics offers content outlines for each test here, as well as practice exams here.

Step 4: Take the Exam and Pass

On the day of the exam, report to the exam center 30 minutes before the scheduled start time. Be sure to have your prelicensing education certificate of completion and a government ID with a photo and signature, such as a driver’s license, passport, military ID, state-issued ID card, and so on. After you show your ID and get settled, the exam will start.

At the end of the exam, you will see a completion notice on screen. A copy of your score report will be sent to your email address. The report indicates your overall score and grade, including the percentage of questions you answered correctly and whether you passed or failed. If you failed, you can take the exam again, but you’ll have to pay the fee again.

Step 5: Apply for Your License

Once you pass the exam, you have 180 days to apply for your license. If you want to apply for your license online, you can do it 48 to 72 hours after you pass by visiting the NIPR website. The application fee is $10, and there’s an additional NIPR fee of $5. The state of Wisconsin has some helpful tips you can use when applying. Generally, applications are processed 2 weeks after they’re received. You’ll receive an email notice from the licensing department with verification.

As You Pursue Your New Career

As you follow these 5 steps for successfully earning your Wisconsin insurance license, keep in mind that you will also have continuing education requirements. You’ll need to renew your license every two years, so be sure you keep up with the latest information at the Wisconsin Office of the Commissioner of Insurance.

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Posted by Kaplan Financial Education - March 22, 2019
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How to Get Your Pennsylvania Insurance License

After doing some research and reviewing the basics, you know you want to become an insurance agent in Pennsylvania. Here are the 4 steps for earning your license.

Step 1: Complete all Pre-Licensing Education Requirements

Before you can apply for your Pennsylvania insurance license or take the exam, you need to complete prelicensing education. This education helps you prepare for the exam and your future career. The requirement is for 24 hours of prelicensing education courses, with a minimum of 3 hours of ethics. The courses you need to take will depend on the type of insurance license you want to earn. The types of insurance covered in the education include accident and health, casualty and allied lines, life, motor vehicle physical damage appraiser, personal lines, title, and more.

You can learn more about the courses, who provides them, and where you can take them at Sircon. Click on “look up education courses/credits,” select “approved courses inquiry,” choose Pennsylvania as your state, and click the “submit” button.

Next, change the education type to “prelicensing education,” select your preferred instruction method or leave blank, and click the “submit” button. When you click the provider’s name, you will get contact information and a link to the courses they provide. 

After you finish your courses, you will receive a certificate of completion from your education provider. Hang onto it—you’ll need to bring it with you when you take your licensing exam.

Thinking about a career in insurance? Download our free ebook, Launching Your Insurance Career with Confidence, for advice and tips from 100+ insurance professionals.

Step 2: Register for Your Exam, Pay the Fee, and Prepare Yourself

You can’t take the exam without a reservation. PSI is the exam provider. After you have completed the prelicensing education requirements, register for the insurance examination for the type you have chosen at https://candidate.psiexams.com or by calling 800.733.9267.

The fees for the exam vary depending on the topic of the exam, but most are $43. In preparation for the exam, you should study and practice. The PSI Learning Academy has information and practice exams online.

Step 3: Take the Exam and Pass

On the day of the exam, report to the exam center 30 minutes before the scheduled start time. Be sure to have to your prelicensing education certificate of completion and a government ID with a photo and signature, such as a driver’s license, passport, military ID, state-issued ID card, and so on. You’ll also have your photograph taken at the testing site.

After you complete your exam, you’ll be given a Pass or Fail score. If you pass, your score report will include an application for your license, and you can apply for it right there. For that reason, it’s a good idea to bring checks, money orders, or a credit card with you when you take the exam. If you fail, you’ll get a report that indicates your strengths and weaknesses by exam portion.

Step 4: Apply for Your License and Get Fingerprinted

After passing the exam, you have the option to apply for your license and get fingerprinted at the testing center. You will need to pay the license application fee of $55 and a fingerprinting fee of $22.60 at this time. Completing the paper application found at https://www.insurance.pa.gov/Pages/default.aspx before you take your exam and bringing it with you to use as a reference can speed along this process.

You may also choose to apply online using your own computer. You will still need a fingerprint scan, so you’ll have to register online via the IdentoGO website at https://uenroll.identogo.com, or you can call 844.321.2101. You’ll get a registration number you can take with you when you go to the IdentoGO site for fingerprinting. 

After you complete your application, you can look up its status at www.insurance.pa.gov. Once it’s been issued, you can print it right from the website.

As You Pursue Your New Career

As you follow these 4 steps for successfully earning your Pennsylvania insurance license, keep in mind that you will also have continuing education requirements. You’ll need to renew your license every two years, so be sure you keep up with the latest information at www.insurance.pa.gov

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Posted by Kaplan Financial Education - March 22, 2019
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How to Get a South Dakota Insurance License

After doing some research and reviewing the basics, you’ve decided to become an insurance agent in South Dakota. Here are the 5 steps for earning your license.

Step 1: Familiarize Yourself with the Licensing information Handbook

What does an insurance career in South Dakota entail? What education do you need? Do you have to be a college graduate? Are you an insurance agent in another state and would also like to be licensed in South Dakota? Are you moving to South Dakota soon and want to be licensed when you arrive? Can other coursework count toward your prelicensing? Is it possible to take exams for more than one line of insurance at one time?

The Licensing Information Handbook from the South Dakota Division of Insurance has answers to these questions and more. You’ll find a wealth of information on the specifics of insurance licensure in South Dakota, including the different lines. Of note are bail bondsman and crop—these types of insurance aren’t found in every state.

Thinking about a career in insurance? Download our free ebook, Launching Your Insurance Career with Confidence, for advice and tips from 100+ insurance professionals.

Step 2: Take a Prelicensing Course

There are no set prelicensing education requirements in the state of South Dakota. However, you have a better chance of passing the licensing exam if you take a course. The Division of Insurance has a list of approved vendors for training courses on their website.

Step 3: Register for Your Exam and Study

Pearson Vue is the exam provider for South Dakota, and you can take the exam in any of their locations in the US. To register for the line or lines of authority you have chosen, and to find out the exam fee, visit the the Pearson Vue registration page for South Dakota. Create an account and follow the step-by-step instructions to make your exam reservation. More details about the different ways to register are available in the Licensing Information Handbook. When you register, be sure you use the same name that’s on the official government-issued ID (with photo and signature) that you’ll use for identification when you arrive at the testing center.

In preparation for the exam, you should study and practice. The Licensing Information Handbook has content outlines for each test that you can study, along with with information about the format of the test. You can also purchase more in-depth study materials from approved vendors, such as Kaplan Financial Education.

Step 4: Take the Exam and Pass

On the day of the exam, report to the exam center 30 minutes before the scheduled start time. Be sure to have your prelicensing education certificate of completion and a government ID with a photo and signature, such as a driver’s license, passport, military ID, state-issued ID card, and so on. After you show your ID and get settled, the exam will start.

At the end of the exam, you will see a completion notice on screen. A copy of your score report will be sent to your email address. The report indicates your overall score and grade, including the percentage of questions you answered correctly, and whether you passed or failed. If you failed, you can take the exam again, but you’ll have to pay the fee again.

Step 5: Apply for Your License

After passing your exam, you can apply for your license online at Sircon or at National Insurance Producers Registry. After the Division of Insurance has verified that you passed, and there’s nothing in your background to prevent you from being licensed, you’ll be issued your license. After that, you can print the license from the Sircon website.

As You Pursue Your New Career

As you follow these 5 steps for successfully earning your South Dakota insurance license, keep in mind that you will also have continuing education requirements. You’ll need to renew your license every two years, so keep up with the latest information at the South Dakota Division of Insurance.

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Posted by Kaplan Financial Education - March 22, 2019
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How to Get an Illinois Insurance License

You live in Illinois, and you’ve been researching a career in insurance. You’ve reviewed the basics and have decided to become an insurance agent. Here are the 5 steps for earning your license in your home state.

Step 1: Familiarize Yourself with the Licensing Candidate Handbook

What does a career in insurance in Illinois require? What education do you need? Do you have to be a college graduate? Are you an insurance agent in another state and would also like to be licensed in Illinois? Can other coursework count toward your education? Are there licenses that don’t require education? The Illinois Insurance Licensing Candidate Handbook offers a wealth of information on the specifics of insurance licensure in Illinois, including all the education requirements, the costs, and the procedures for taking the exam.

Thinking about a career in insurance? Download our free ebook, Launching Your Insurance Career with Confidence, for advice and tips from 100+ insurance professionals.

Step 2: Complete all Prelicensing Education Requirements

You’ll need to complete prelicensing education before taking the exam for your license. This education helps you prepare for the exam and your future career. You’ll need to take 20 hours each for the following types of insurance: life, accident/health, fire (property), casualty, and personal lines. Of the 20 hours for each type, you’ll need 7.5 hours of classroom training.

After you complete your education, you will receive a certificate of completion from your education provider. Hang onto it, because you must present it to the Illinois Department of Insurance before they issue your license. These certificates are good for up to one year after you complete your courses. This means you’ll have to take the exam and pass during this period.

Step 3: Schedule Your Exam, Pay the Fee, and Prepare Yourself

You can’t take the exam without a reservation. Pearson Vue is the exam provider, and you can make an online reservation at www.pearsonvue.com/il/insurance. Simply create an account and follow the step-by-step instructions to make your exam reservation.

The fees are $102 for an individual exam, and it includes the states administration fee of $50. However, you can schedule two exams back-to-back and still pay just $102. You’ll need to pay the fees when you register. In preparation for the exam, you should study and practice. The Illinois Insurance Licensing Candidate Handbook has information about how to pay for the exams and how you can obtain practice tests for the different types of insurance.

Step 4: Take the Exam and Pass

On the day of the exam, report to the exam center 30 minutes before the scheduled start time. Be sure to have two forms of current ID with a signature, such as a driver’s license, passport, military ID, state-issued ID card, and so on. You should also bring your certificate or certificates of completion for your prelicensing education. You’ll also be asked to sign a Candidate Rules Agreement form. Also, if you’re nervous, you have the opportunity to take a tutorial that will not cut into your exam time.

After you complete your exam, you’ll be given a Pass or Fail score. If you pass, your score report will include an application for your license. You’ll need to wait 5 days before applying. If you fail, you can take the exam again, but you’ll have to wait 7 days before you can reschedule.

Step 5: Apply for Your License

To apply, go to the National Insurance Producer Registry (NIPR) website. The cost of the license for an Illinois resident is $90 for two years. More information is available at www.insurance.illinois.gov.

As You Pursue Your New Career

As you follow these 5 steps for successfully earning your Illinois insurance license, keep in mind that you will also have continuing education requirements. You’ll need to renew your license every two years, so be sure to keep up with the latest information at www.insurance.illinois.gov.

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Posted by Kaplan Financial Education - March 22, 2019
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How to Get a Tennessee Insurance License

Are you thinking about earning a Tennessee insurance license, and you’re wondering what the process looks like? Every state has different requirements for licensing. Here are the steps you need to follow to earn an insurance license in Tennessee.

Step 1: Complete the Required Prelicensing Education

To earn your Tennessee insurance license, you must first complete the required number of hours of education from a state-approved provider. The number of hours you will need depends on the specific insurance license you are trying to earn. See our state requirements page for the latest breakdown of hours required per license.

When you complete the course, you will receive a certificate. Within six months of receiving that certificate, you must sit for and pass the state exam, or you will need to complete the education again.

Thinking about a career in insurance? Download our free ebook, Launching Your Insurance Career with Confidence, for advice and tips from 100+ insurance professionals.

Step 2: Pass a Tennessee Insurance Licensing Exam

Once you’ve completed the required education, you can schedule and sit for your Tennessee insurance licensing exam. The exam you sit for will depend on the specific license you are trying to earn. Tennessee insurance exams are administered by Pearson VUE. You can schedule your  exam on their website, or by calling 800.274.4957.

If you need help preparing for the exam, consider taking advantage of one of Kaplan’s Tennessee insurance exam prep resources to increase your odds of success.

Step 3: Get Fingerprinted

The state of Tennessee requires that all candidates for insurance licensure submit fingerprints as part of a criminal background check. You can schedule your fingerprinting with Identogo.

Step 4: Apply for Your Tennessee Insurance License

After you’ve passed your Tennessee insurance licensing exam, you will need to submit your license application to the Tennessee Department of Commerce & Insurance, through the National Insurance Producer Registry.

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Posted by Kaplan Financial Education - March 22, 2019
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How to Get a Michigan Insurance License

The process for getting an insurance license varies by state. Follow these three steps to get your insurance license in Michigan.

Step 1: Complete your prelicensing education requirements.

To earn a life, accident and health, property, casualty, or personal lines insurance license in Michigan, you must complete a fixed number of prelicensing education hours. Check out the Michigan state requirements page for an up-to-date breakdown of the number of hours required for the license you are trying to earn.

Once you complete your education and pass the class exam, you’ll receive a school certificate. The certificate is valid for 12 months from the date you complete the course, so you are required to sit for and pass the exam within that time period.

After you complete the course material, but before you take the exam with PSI, you must file an Electronic Resident Licensing (ERL) application through the National Insurance Producer Registry (NIPR) website at https://www.nipr.com/. There is a $10 application/license fee is $10.00, and an additional $5.00 transaction fee. Your application will be valid for 6 months from entry into the database.

The ERL application is required even though candidates no longer need the NIPR confirmation page as part of the acceptance criteria to take an examination with PSI.

Thinking about a career in insurance? Download our free ebook, Launching Your Insurance Career with Confidence, for advice and tips from 100+ insurance professionals.

Step 2: Schedule and pass the required insurance license exam.

After you complete your required education, you are able to take your Michigan insurance license exam. The state of Michigan’s insurance licensing exams are offered by PSI. You can schedule an exam on PSI’s website, or by calling 800.733.9267. You will need to pay the exam fee at the time of registration.  

To further prepare yourself for the exam, take advantage of Kaplan’s insurance licensing exam prep education.

Step 3: Apply for your Michigan insurance license through the National Insurance Producer Registry.

Once you have passed the Michigan insurance licensing exam, you will need to submit your license application. You can apply through the National Insurance Producer Registry website, which is found here: http://www.nipr.com/.

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Posted by Kaplan Financial Education - March 22, 2019
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How to Get a Minnesota Insurance License

The process of earning your insurance license can sometimes be confusing. Because every state’s licensing requirements are a little different, the steps you need to take to become licensed can vary from state to state. If you’re planning to earn your license in Minnesota, follow these four steps:

Step 1: Complete the Required Prelicensing Education

To earn a Minnesota insurance license, regardless of license type, you are required to complete a certain number of hours of education. We’ve outlined the specific hourly requirements for each license type on our Minnesota State Requirements page.

To pass the prelicensing course, you will need to pass a course exam. When you have passed the exam, you will receive a school certificate. Hold on to that certificate because you will need to present it when you sit for your state licensing exam.   

Thinking about a career in insurance? Download our free ebook, Launching Your Insurance Career with Confidence, for advice and tips from 100+ insurance professionals.

 

Step 2: Schedule and Pass the Required Minnesota Insurance Licensing Exam

Once your required education is complete, you are approved to sit for your state exam. Minnesota’s exam provider is Pearson VUE. You need to contact Pearson VUE directly to schedule your exam. They can be reached at  home.pearsonvue.com/mncommerce or 833-273-1946.

To ensure you’re prepared for the exam, consider taking advantage of Kaplan’s Minnesota insurance licensing exam prep education.

Step 3: Fingerprints and Background Check

Fingerprinting is required as part of your criminal background check. It is part of the exam process, and the service is provided at the testing center. You pay a required fee, and your prints are sent to the state for approval, which could take up to four weeks.

Scheduling with Idemia (electronic fingerprinting at a test center):

Go to pearsonwest.ibtfingerprint.com, or call Idemia at (866) 761-8069 (Monday through Friday, 8:00 AM to 5:00 PM Central time) to make a fingerprint reservation as close to the start time of your examination as possible. (It does not need to be the exact same time. As long as you have made a fingerprint reservation, the test center will be able to process your prints when you arrive for your exam.) Use your full legal name, as it appears on your government-issued ID, when you make your fingerprint reservation, and be sure to select the correct license type. Write down the confirmation number; you will need it on the day of your appointment.

Step 4: Apply for a Minnesota Insurance License

You’ve cleared some major milestones passing your course and state exam. Now it’s time to follow through and apply for your license. You can submit your producer license application online at Sircon.

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Are you ready to get started on the path to earning an insurance license in Minnesota? Browse our Minnesota insurance exam prep study solutions today. You’ll find online and live class options to fit your preferred schedule and learning style.

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Posted by Kaplan Financial Education - March 22, 2019
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How to Get a California Insurance License

If you’re considering earning your insurance license in California, you may be wondering where to start. No two states’ requirements are completely alike, so it’s important to know the licensing process for your state. Individuals seeking to earn a real estate license in California must follow these 4 steps:

Step 1: Complete the Required Prelicensing Education

First things first, you need to complete the required education. For each license type, there is a specific number of hours of prelicensing education you must receive from a state-approved education provider. Our California state requirements page outlines the specific hourly requirements for each specific license type.

When you have completed the course, you will receive a Certificate of Completion. You must submit the original certificate with your license application (see below). You should also make a duplicate copy of the certificate for your own records. Your certificate is valid for three (3) years.

Thinking about a career in insurance? Download our free ebook, Launching Your Insurance Career with Confidence, for advice and tips from 100+ insurance professionals.

Step 2: Submit Your Fingerprints for Background Check

California requires all insurance license applicants to be fingerprinted, either before the exam or on the day of the exam. If you choose to get your fingerprints taken on the day of the exam, you can have it done at the exam site. You pay a required fee, and your prints are sent to the state for approval, which could take up to four weeks.

Step 3: Sit for and Pass the California State Licensing Exam

Now that you’ve completed your education, you are approved to sit for your state exam. California uses PSI to administer their insurance licensing exams. You need to contact PSI directly to schedule your exam. They can be reached at www.psiexams.com or 800.392.6422.

To make sure you are prepared for success on the exam, consider taking advantage of Kaplan’s California insurance licensing exam prep education.

Step 4: Apply for a California Insurance License

Congratulations! If you’ve made it this far, you are now ready to apply for your California license. You can submit your insurance license application online with the California Department of Insurance

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Ready to take the first step on your journey to a California insurance career? Check out our California insurance exam prep study solutions today. We offer online and live class options to suit your life and learning style.

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Posted by Kaplan Financial Education - March 22, 2019
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How to Get a New York Insurance License

The process for getting an insurance license can be confusing to someone just entering the industry. Every state handles licensing a little differently, so it’s important to be mindful that you are following the directions from the state in which you want to get licensed. Follow these three steps to get your insurance license in New York.

Step 1: Complete your prelicensing education requirements.

To get an insurance license in New York, you must complete prelicensing education hours. The number of hours varies by license. Check out the state requirements page for an up-to-date breakdown of the number of hours required for your license.

Once you complete your education and pass the class exam, you’ll receive a school certificate. Although you will not be required to show a completion certificate of your education at the exam, you will need it to complete your license application.

Thinking about a career in insurance? Download our free ebook, Launching Your Insurance Career with Confidence, for advice and tips from 100+ insurance professionals.

Step 2: Schedule and pass the required insurance license exam.

Once you’ve completed your required education, you are able to take your New York insurance license exam. To schedule an exam, you’ll need to go through PSI directly. To further prepare yourself for the exam, take advantage of Kaplan’s insurance licensing exam prep education.

Step 3: Apply for a New York insurance license through the New York Department of Financial Services.

Once you’ve passed the insurance licensing exam in New York, you will need to submit your license application to the Department of Financial Services, along with any required paperwork. You will need to wait 48 hours after passing the exam to apply to allow enough time for exam processing.
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Ready to get started with your New York insurance licensing education requirements? Check out our New York insurance exam prep study solutions now. We’ve got live and online class options for any learning style.

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Posted by Kaplan Financial Education - March 22, 2019
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Overcoming Test Anxiety for NASAA and FINRA Exams

Most people experience some anxiety before taking a big exam; however, when worry and self-doubt start interfering with your test-taking abilities, you may be experiencing test anxiety. Trying to pass a FINRA exam is stressful enough without this added burden. Reviewing test-taking strategies, setting a study schedule and getting into a healthy routine will help you ease some of your anxiety around the test. The more you prepare yourself for the material and for the exam process in general, the less intimidating the test will be.

That said, there are a number of things you can do in your preparations to build confidence and ease your mind. These tips were put together by our expert securities instructors to overcome test anxiety.

Get Into a Study Routine Early

As soon as you have decided to take the test, get into a study routine. A steady, regular study method gives you confidence and lets the material “ripen” in your mind. Exam preparation packages can go a long way toward helping you establish good study habits. Your retention will increase dramatically with regular studying compared to a frantic push at the end. Balance your studying between the License Exam Manual and Question Bank so you don’t burn out of either. Be sure to take a day off to rest your mind when you need to. 

Get into a Good Sleep Routine

Getting a good night’s sleep before the exam is important to reducing anxiety and being at your best. Anxiety can obviously interfere with sleep, making it a vicious cycle. Getting into a good sleep routine a few weeks before the exam can help you sleep well the night before the exam. Experts recommend avoiding electronics, alcohol, and late-night eating right before bed—they can all keep you from falling or staying asleep. Figure out what works for you and stick to the routine.

Learn the Exam Process

The more you know about what to expect on the day of your FINRA exam, the fewer surprises you will encounter. This will allow you to solely focus on the exam content itself. Check out this article about what happens on the day of your FINRA exam.

Find the Testing Center

If you have not been to the testing center before, you may want to make a trial run so you know exactly where you’re going. If the testing center is inside an office building, make the extra effort to park your car and go inside to find it. This will give you confidence that you know exactly where to go on exam day.

Taking the SIE exam? Download the free eBook, A Candidate's Complete Guide to the SIE Exam, for valuable information about the test contents and the securities licensing process.

Disable the Timer Feature on Kaplan Practice Exams

If ticking time provokes your anxiety, you can disable the timer feature when you practice with Kaplan. Contact the Kaplan Student Support team at contactus@kaplan.com, and they will disable the timer feature for you.

Request Special Accommodations from FINRA

Upon a formal request for special accommodations, FINRA does offer services that include extra examination administration time and private testing rooms. Visit FINRA’s accommodations page for more information about how to apply and what accommodations are available. Be sure to complete the application process in advance. It takes 2 to 3 business days for FINRA to process your request and offer you accommodations.

On Exam Day, Get There Early

Plan to arrive at the testing center 30 minutes early. Being early means you’ll have plenty of time to check in and find where you are supposed to go. It will also give you some time to collect your thoughts before the exam starts.

Take a Break During the Exam

Plan on taking a short break during the exam and walk to the restroom to refresh. A splash of cool water and a little alone time will allow you to breathe and regather your thoughts. Ask the test center how to do it. Spending 3 to 5 minutes on a break during the middle of the exam will allow you to focus on the last half of the test and finish strong. Even the pros get a halftime!

Take Deep Breaths

A normal reaction to stress is to take shallow breaths. Therefore, to relax a bit, take a few deep breaths. Hold each breath for 3 to 5 seconds and then let it out slowly. Occasionally breathing like this during the exam will help slow your heart rate and calm your thoughts.

Take the Questions One Bite at a Time

Remember the old adage: “How do you eat an elephant?” Answer: “One bite at a time.” If, during the actual test, you consider it as an elephant, which you can eat one question at a time, you will relax. You can do a one-question exam, right? Do your best on each question as it comes up. Then move to the next...one bite at a time.

Keep Your Customers’ Best Interests in Mind

There will be questions posed to you during the exam that you have never seen before, and you should expect that. Always approach questions with your customers’ best interests in mind. It will help you sleuth out the correct answers to the questions.

Avoid Changing Answers and Second-Guessing Yourself

FINRA isn't trying to trick or fool anybody. Everything you need to answer a question correctly is always right there. Generally, when you change answers, it's because you are reading (or attempting to read) between the lines. Trust your gut and keep moving forward.

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If you are looking for exam prep help, consider a Securities Study Package from Kaplan Financial Education. Choose from our live, online, and self-study options. 

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Posted by Kaplan Financial Education - March 22, 2019
Anxious woman staring at a pile of books as she prepares to study for a securities exam

What to Expect on the Day of Your Securities Exam

So, you're on the last mile of exam prep and will be taking a securities license exam soon. Good for you! After you schedule your exam with Prometric, make sure all your hard work studying pays off by understanding what to expect on the day of the exam. This will go a long way to reducing test anxiety.

When to Arrive

Be sure to show up about 30 minutes early for your exam time. It is a good idea to map out where the testing center is and figure out how long it will take you to get there. If you arrive late for your scheduled appointment time, you may have to deduct the amount of time you were late from your test time. If you do not want to take the test at a reduced time, FINRA will charge a cancellation fee or you could be required to pay for a new enrollment to reschedule your appointment. FINRA does have a separate inclement weather policy should the weather make it unsafe to travel to the testing center.

What to Bring and What Not to Bring

At all testing centers, you will be required to show one form of valid government-issued ID containing a photo and signature. Your photo and signature will also be taken there on the spot. Depending on your testing center, you may need to provide an electronic fingerprint or digital palm scan and go through a metal detector wand test as well. They will also ask you to turn your pockets completely inside out to ensure they have been emptied of all personal belongings.

After check-in, you must put all personal items in a storage locker. For greater peace of mind, do NOT wear or bring anything valuable to the exam. Cell phones, handheld computers, and other communication devices or electronics are prohibited from being taken into a testing room or being used during bathroom breaks. Once your belongings are stored away, you will then be escorted into the testing lab with only your picture ID and locker key. The testing center will provide you with a four-function calculator, two dry-erase boards, and dry erase pens for notes and calculations and they will explain the testing protocol to you.

Taking the SIE exam? Download the free eBook, A Candidate's Complete Guide to the SIE Exam, for valuable information about the test contents and the securities licensing process.

In the Securities Exam Testing Room

There may be cameras present in the testing room. You are expected to be quiet; any suspicious signs of cheating will disqualify you from the exam. Any violation of FINRA Test Center Rules of Conduct could lead to disciplinary action by FINRA, another self-regulatory organization, or the SEC; and could even result in the candidate being banned from employment or association with any securities dealer.

There will be a computer provided in your testing cubicle. Prior to the exam, you will participate in a tutorial presentation. This presentation will explain the functions of the computer, provide a sample multiple-choice question, and give directions on how to select an answer. If you want to find out how the testing process works now, you can take the FINRA tutorial for Qualification Exams here.

Then the exam will begin!

After the Securities Licensing Exam

Once you complete the exam, your unofficial results will be displayed on the computer screen explaining whether you passed or failed. It also will provide a score profile indicating your performance on the major areas of the exam. You will also get a printout of your results from the exam center. FINRA will post your official results with the Central Registration Depository (Web CRD) or report it to your regulator within three business days following your exam.

Your exam results are final – no adjustments or special considerations will be made to your score. The exam and the exam questions are not available for review following the exam for security reasons.

If you fail the exam, there will be a waiting period before you can take the exam, per FINRA Rule 1070(e). Generally, you can retake the exam after 30 days of the previous exam. If you fail the exam three or more times in succession, you will have to wait 180 calendar days to attempt the exam again.

Have Other Questions?

Check out FINRA’s Exam Day page to learn more about what you should expect going into the exam.

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Ensure you're prepared for your next Series exam with Kaplan's securities license exam prep solutions. We have study options to suit all learning styles. Get started today. 

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Posted by Kaplan Financial Education - March 18, 2019
Man holding the door as he prepares to enter the FINRA securities licensing exam testing center

Securities Industry Careers At a Glance

Are you considering a career in the securities industry? If you are looking for more information about the profession, you are in the right place. Find out more about what the day-to-day of a securities industry professional is like, as well as the expected job growth over the next decade below. 

What Do Securities Industry Professionals Do?

Securities industry professionals typically provide a wide range of products for their clients. Typical job duties of brokers include:

  • Contact prospective clients to explain their service offerings
  • Provide financial advice on purchase or sale of certain securities
  • Buy and sell securities, like stocks and bonds
  • Monitor financial markets and the performance of individual securities
  • Report performance of securities products to clients
  • Evaluate agreement costs and revenues

Thinking about a career in securities? Download our free eBook, Launching Your Securities Career, to get tips and advice from 100+ securities professionals.

Important Skill Sets for the Securities Industry

The securities industry can be fast-paced and demanding, so it is important for securities professionals to have the following skill sets:

  • Analysis: Securities professionals must be able analyze risks and benefits of all securities options for clients quickly and effectively.
  • Sales and marketing: Securities professionals need to be able to market their skills and knowledge to potential clients, compellingly conveying how their products can benefit their clients’ long-term financial needs.
  • Emotional control: The stock market is unpredictable and all investment decisions come with risk. It is important for securities industry professionals to be able to keep their emotions, as well as their clients’ emotions, in check.
  • Relationship building: While understanding securities products is important, being able to build relationships with clients is ultimately what will make securities professionals successful. Building up a book of clients requires building trust, communicating effectively, and listening to clients.
  • Self-motivation: To succeed in the securities industry, it is imperative to take initiative, recognize opportunities, and continually follow up with prospective and current clients. There is a lot of competition in financial services and going above and beyond what is expected is the norm.

Job Outlook for Securities Industry

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, securities, commodities, and financial services sales agent jobs are expected to grow 6% between 2016-2026, which is about average for all occupations.

Employment growth is expected to be even stronger for commodities brokers and traders than other financial services sales agents because the market has increased in recent years because of large group investors, like retirement funds, entering the market.

How Much Do Securities Industry Professionals Make?

The median annual wage for the securities, commodities, and financial service sales industry was $63,780 in May 2017, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. The top 10 percent earned more than $208,000 while the lowest 10 percent earned less than $33,060.

Many brokers earn a commission based on the value of the products they sell. Most firms pay brokers a minimum salary in addition to their commissions. Trainee brokers may earn a salary until they develop a client base with the salary gradually decreasing in favor of commissions.

How to Get Started in the Securities Industry

In order to get started in the securities industry, for most securities licenses, you will need to take and pass the Securities Industry Essentials Exam, secure firm sponsorship and pass a securities “top off” licensing exam. Exam preparation packages can help you get ready for your exams.

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Looking for more information on Securities licensing and exams? Kaplan Financial Education offers securities licensing study solutions for many of the series exams. Check out our website or call 800.824.8742 for more information. 

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Posted by Kaplan Financial Education - March 18, 2019
Silhouettes of securities professionals in front of a backdrop of investment performance

An Overview of Property and Casualty Insurance

Are you preparing for your state's property and casualty licensing exam? Or perhaps you're thinking of adding it to your portfolio. Here's what you need to know about this type of insurance.

Property Insurance

Property insurance is relatively simple to define. It includes many types of insurance designed to cover property losses—the risks that we will suffer financial losses because things we own are damaged or destroyed.

There are three basic types of property loss:

  • Loss of or damage to the article itself: Examples of this type of loss are the theft of a valuable painting or damage to an automobile caused by an accident.
  • Loss of income from the use of the article: For example, suppose a hotel burns to the ground. In the year required to rebuild, the hotel loses more than $2 million in room rentals. This loss of income that arises from the damage to the hotel is a type of property loss.
  • The extra expense incurred due to the loss of the article: Suppose a large fire destroys a city newspaper building. To continue publishing, its owners rent another press at one-third additional cost. The extra expenses required to remain in business following a loss is a type of property loss.

Some types of insurance generally considered to be property insurance include the following:

  • Dwelling
  • Homeowners
  • Commercial property
  • Crime
  • Equipment breakdown protection (also known as boiler and machinery)
  • Inland marine
  • Ocean marine

Thinking about a career in insurance? Download our free ebook, Launching Your Insurance Career with Confidence, for advice and tips from 100+ insurance professionals.

Casualty Insurance

Casualty insurance is more difficult to define because it includes a wide variety of basically unrelated insurance products.

One of the most important types of casualty insurance is liability insurance. Liability losses are losses that occur as a result of the insured’s interactions with others or their property. Probably the best example of this would be an auto accident. Let’s say Arthur is backing out of his driveway and hits Beatrice’s parked car, resulting in $600 of damage. Because Arthur was at fault, he is legally responsible, or liable, for those damages, and he must pay to have Beatrice’s car repaired. Liability insurance would protect Arthur from having to pay for those damages out of his own pocket.

To be legally liable, the individual must generally be guilty of negligence—the failure to use proper care in personal actions. If negligence results in harm to another, the individual is liable for the resulting damages.

People in the insurance industry often call liability losses third-party losses.

The insured is the first party. The insurance company is the second party. The person to whom the insured is liable for damages is the third party.

Just as you can purchase property insurance to protect yourself from financial loss if your property is damaged, you can purchase liability insurance to protect yourself from financial loss if you become legally liable for injury to another or damage to another’s property.

Although insurance for liability risks is an important casualty coverage, there are many other types of insurance that have traditionally been considered casualty insurance. Casualty insurance can also include the following types of insurance:

  • Aviation
  • Auto
  • Workers’ compensation
  • Surety bonds

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Interested in getting your property and/or casualty insurance license? Or do you want to learn more about the basics of property and casualty insurance for CE credit? Check out our insurance license study options for your state here or our Property and Casualty Principles, 4th Edition insurance continuing education course for your state here.

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Posted by Kaplan Financial Education - March 15, 2019
Buildings that would require property insurance

What to Expect on Insurance License Exam Day

So, you've followed our tips for how to pass your insurance license exam and are about to take it, Congratulations! Do you know what to expect on test day? We have the inside scoop on the testing process so you are not tripped up on exam day. 

To take your insurance exam, you will need to schedule it with one of your state’s approved testing centers. Every state uses test providers, which are companies hired by the state insurance commissioner and/or the state securities administrator to conduct insurance license exams. Do not be alarmed if you encounter others who are at the testing center for a completely different test. These locations may offer many different types of tests beyond insurance in fields like securities, nursing, and contracting.

Thinking about a career in insurance? Download our free ebook, Launching Your Insurance Career with Confidence, for advice and tips from 100+ insurance professionals.

Insurance License Exam Day Arrival

Be sure to show up a little earlier than your testing time. It is a good idea to research ahead of time where the center is and how long it will take you to get there, so you can plan accordingly. If you are late, you may not be allowed to take the exam.

Check-in

When you arrive at the test center on the day of the pre-arranged exam, you must check in before your exam time. You will need to present a picture ID (ie. state driver’s license, state ID card, passport). In some states, you must also present a Certification of Completion form indicating that you have successfully completed a licensing course from a provider like Kaplan.

After check-in, you must place everything from your pockets, including jewelry, watches, and purses in a locker. For greater peace of mind, do NOT wear or bring anything valuable to the exam. After you lock your belongings in a locker, you will be escorted into the testing room with only your picture ID and locker key and placed in an assigned testing cubicle. A testing employee will explain the expected conduct during the exam to you.

In the Testing Room

There may be cameras present in the testing room. You are expected to be quiet; any suspicious signs of cheating will disqualify you from the exam. If cheating is suspected for any reason, a testing employee will remove you from the room and you may face disciplinary action from the state administrator. If you need to use the public facilities during the exam, you will have to use your ID to leave and return to the testing room.

There will be a computer provided in your testing cubicle. Prior to the exam, you will participate in a tutorial presentation. This presentation will explain the functions of the computer, provide a sample multiple-choice question, and give directions on how to select an answer. Then the exam will begin!

Results

Once you complete the exam, you will receive a piece of paper with the results. If you pass, you will receive a piece of paper explaining how to apply for your license with the state. You may have to wait a few days for the testing center to report that you passed before you can apply for your license. If you fail, you will get a diagnostic report so you know what areas to study for next time. If you studied on your own, you can increase the odds of passing the second time around by looking into an exam preparation package.

That’s all there is to it! If you have other questions or are looking for more exam-related information, please visit our Insurance Licensing FAQ page here.

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Ensure you are prepared for the insurance licensing exam with Kaplan’s insurance license exam prep solutions . We have study options to suit all learning styles! Get started today.

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Posted by Kaplan Financial Education - March 7, 2019
pushpin on a calendar representing insurance licensing exam day

What Does a Life Insurance Agent Do?

As someone considering a career in the insurance industry, you may be wondering what different types of insurance agents do. This article explores the day-to-day work of a life insurance agent to help you get a better feel for whether this is a good career move for you.

Life insurance agents have the important job of helping people prepare for unexpected circumstances. The main tasks of a life insurance agent are to: 1) sell life insurance policies and annuities to clients; and 2) to work with clients and beneficiaries to process insurance claims promptly. Being a life insurance agent involves a lot of selling, which means an interest in and knack for marketing is a must.

A typical day for a life insurance agent involves actively pursuing potential clients by phone, mail, email, or social media; making presentations to clients or groups; and meeting with clients to discuss long-term goals and coverage options. There is a lot of paperwork required in the insurance industry; processing changes in beneficiary and policy loan applications and updating records are frequent job tasks. You’ll also do a fair amount of crunching numbers to determine rates when helping clients find the best products to suit their needs.

Thinking about a career in insurance? Download our free ebook, Launching Your Insurance Career with Confidence, for advice and tips from 100+ insurance professionals.

It is not enough to pass a life insurance licensing exam or a life and health licensing exam. A life insurance agent must stay up-to-date on regulation changes and industry updates. For this reason, it is important for life insurance agents to participate in education opportunities (including mandatory continuing education for license renewal), read professional publications, maintain personal networks, and participate in professional organizations. Successful life insurance agents will also be actively involved in their community—it helps build their reputation locally and network for prospective clients.

Captive Life Insurance Agent vs. Independent Life Insurance Agent

There are two different routes for employment that a life insurance agent can go: become a captive agent or an independent life insurance agent (non-captive agent). A captive insurance agent works for one insurance company and exclusively sells that company’s products. An independent life insurance agent works for a brokerage and is able to sell multiple companies’ products.

There are benefits and challenges to both career paths. Being a captive agent for an insurance group or firm generally means your office expenses are paid for, and you receive benefits like a pension, life and health insurance, continuing education training, and credit union membership. Some captive agents are even salary-based. The downside to being a captive agent is the limitations of what you can sell. You may also find you have to meet quotas of selling certain policies for the company. An independent life insurance agent has more product offerings available and is able to work with clients to ensure the product they are selling most closely aligns with the client’s needs. You will be required to use your own resources to start the business and market it though.

Important Skills for Success

Regardless of whether you become a captive or non-captive agent, there are some key skills you will need to be a successful life insurance agent. Agents need to have excellent interpersonal skills and be comfortable with people from all walks of life and in various emotional states. A life insurance agent will meet with beneficiaries upon death and will need to help them process their claim as promptly and smoothly as possible. Communication skills are also important in this career. Not only is it important to understand the ins and outs of all products you sell, but you need to be able to explain them in a way that is easy to understand in order to be successful. You can learn more about the traits that make an insurance agent successful, and that includes life insurance sales, here.

Being tech savvy is becoming increasingly important for success as well. Many prospective clients will find you via your website, review sites, and social media. It is important that you have a good web presence and are willing to adopt the next important platform. All insurance agents must be self-starters who are determined to succeed. Building a book of business takes time and dedication, and it requires hearing ‘no’ a lot to get to a ‘yes.’

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Does this career sound like a good fit for you? If so, check out our article on how to become an insurance agent. If you are ready to start studying for your life only or life and health insurance license, explore some of our insurance exam prep study options .

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Posted by Kaplan Financial Education - March 7, 2019
Life insurance agent considering all factors affecting a policy

How to Become an Insurance Claims Adjuster

While most people think of insurance agents when they think of an insurance career, there are many other options available to you. Among the insurance career “hidden gems” is the insurance claims adjuster industry. Insurance claims adjusters are high in demand because claims remain steady, but a large generation of adjusters are retiring out of the industry. If you have a good work ethic, have a knack for working with numbers and people, and enjoy variety in your work day, becoming an insurance claims adjuster might be right for you. Learn more about the process of becoming an insurance claims adjuster in this article.

Step 1. Complete Your Education

In order to become a claims adjuster, you must have a high school diploma or GED equivalent. Some employers prefer an associate’s or bachelor’s degree, but it is not required for claims adjuster licensing.

Thinking about a career in insurance? Download our free ebook, Launching Your Insurance Career with Confidence, for advice and tips from 100+ insurance professionals.

Step 2. Determine Your Insurance Adjuster Career Interests

There are a few different routes for employment that an insurance claims adjuster can use: become a staff adjuster, independent adjuster, or a public adjuster. A staff adjuster works full-time for one insurance adjuster firm exclusively. An independent insurance adjuster handles claims for multiple firms. A public insurance adjuster, conversely, is paid directly by the policyholder.

Being a staff adjuster for an insurance group or firm generally means you are salaried, and you’ll receive benefits like a pension, life and health insurance, and continuing education training.

An independent insurance adjuster works as a contractor for multiple insurance firms or third-party administrators. These people are sometimes referred to as “catastrophe claims adjusters” because they are the ones on the ground after major weather events and emergencies.

Public insurance adjusters work on behalf of policyholders directly. They will help businesses or individuals file an insurance claim if a proposed settlement from an insurer is seen as unfit.

While being a staff adjuster is a steady 40-hour-per-week job, the independent and public routes offer more flexibility. If it’s the busy season, you could work well over 40 hours per week, but you could work considerably fewer hours during less busy times.

Step 3. Complete an Insurance Licensing Course and Exam

Depending on what state you live in, you may need to take a course and pass a licensing exam to become an insurance claims adjuster. Some states have minimal requirements, while others require completing an insurance licensing course and passing a licensing exam. If you live in a state that requires adjusters to be licensed, you should get your home state license before thinking about other licenses. If you do have to take an exam, an insurance certification study package can help.

If you live in a state that does not require an adjuster license, you can legally adjust claims without taking a licensing exam. However, many adjusters want to get out-of-state licenses that will enable them to work throughout the country. To do this, you can get a DHS (Designated Home State) license. What this means is an individual residing in a state that does not require an adjuster license or does not offer their own adjuster licensing exam may choose to designate another state as their resident or “home” state under the Designated Home State (DHS) process. Nonresident licensure is then based on that qualification.

Step 4. Maintain Licensure (Continuing Education)

States that require licenses likely also require continuing education credits for adjuster license renewal. Continuing education (CE) credits can be earned from live or online courses. Occasionally, CE can also be earned from employee-provided training sessions, or by publishing articles or giving lectures related to the insurance claims industry. Check with your state to find out what CE is required and how you can fulfill the requirements in your state.

If you like investigative work, crunching numbers, and negotiating settlements, you could have a bright future as an insurance claims adjuster. Regardless of whether you are interested in a steady 9 to 5 job, or would prefer to choose when and how much you work, there’s an insurance claims career path that is right for you.

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If you are interested in enrolling in insurance adjuster licensing exam prep, check out our adjuster licensing online course through Texas now.

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Posted by Kaplan Financial Education - March 7, 2019
Claims adjuster reviewing damage to a vehicle

Top Ten Traits of Successful Insurance Agents

There are many advantages of going into the insurance industry. An insurance agent has flexible hours, independence, and gets to help clients solve problems. It is not a career for everyone though. It takes a certain type of person to thrive in this unstructured, fast-paced industry. In this article, we count down the top 10 traits that the majority of successful insurance professionals share.

10. Problem-solver

Do you enjoy coming up with creative solutions to problems? Much of this job is helping clients find the right insurance policies for their needs. If you get a sense of accomplishment from finding the right solution for a client, this career might be for you. 

9. Self-motivated

Are you someone that can get yourself going every day without a ton of structure? To succeed in insurance sales, one must be a self-starter. The role an insurance agent means working more than just 9:00 to 5:00. It takes a lot of internal motivation to stay on track. Persistence and follow-up are keys to success. 

Thinking about a career in insurance? Download our free ebook, Launching Your Insurance Career with Confidence, for advice and tips from 100+ insurance professionals.

8. Honest

This might seem obvious, but unethical insurance agents rarely stay in business very long. Telling the truth to clients is what will win respect and trust, which will result in higher retention of clients.

7. Sense of urgency

A great work ethic is required to be a top producing insurance agent. You must have the tenacity to pursue every lead and stay on top of follow-ups.

6. Reslience

If you are deterred easily by rejection, this career may not be for you. An insurance agent must be prepared to hear no often and not be fazed by it. It takes a great deal of patience to achieve success in this industry.

Thinking about a career in insurance? Download this free Launching Your Insurance Career eBook.

5. Passionate

To be a good insurance agent, it is important to be upbeat and engaging with clients. The more energy and enthusiasm you show for helping clients, the more you will connect with them.

4. Communication Skills

Insurance is difficult for the average person to understand. Insurance agents who can easily explain coverage options in easy to digest ways are going to have much greater success than those who cannot.

3. Good Listener

The key to being a good insurance agent is putting the needs of the client first. In order to do this, it is essential an agent listen carefully to what their prospective clients need and clearly demonstrate their interest in providing a proper solution. No one wants a stereotypical salesperson that won’t stop talking.

2. Networking Skills

Do you have a large network? Are you comfortable asking friends, family, and clients for referrals? In order to grow your book of business, asking for referrals and networking will need to be second nature to you.

1. Love of Learning

The insurance industry changes all the time, and it is essential to stay-up-to-date on policies and state regulations and meet continuing education requirements. Good insurance agents love learning and want to understand the tax and legal aspects of the products they sell, as well as how they fit into a client’s financial portfolio.

Ready to Get Started?

You’ll get out of your career whatever you put into it. There is a certain level of commitment needed (time, money, energy) to make any business venture successful. Insurance is really no different. If you are passionate about insurance and have similar traits to those outlined here, you have a great shot at having a long and successful insurance career. 

 

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Posted by Kaplan Financial Education - March 7, 2019
graphic depiction of all of the ingredients of a successful insurance agent

Advice for Aspiring Insurance Professionals

Making the decision to enter the insurance industry is not a career move to be made lightly. We recently sat down with David Gorecki, who has over 35 years of experience in the financial services industry and 10 years of experience as a Kaplan instructor, to ask him what advice he has for aspiring insurance agents

Q. What skills do you think someone needs to have a successful career in insurance?

A. It is important for a person in this industry to realize that insurance is a career – not a job. It is going to be a rough 3-5 years to build up a book of clients. A clock puncher will not be successful in this industry. A career does not have a time clock. It’s a 24/7 job and you should want to do all that needs to be done in order to be successful. It is important to think of this career as climbing a mountain for the first 3-5 years. You will hit some steep points before you hit the top of the mountain. Once you hit the top of the mountain, you will have built up clients that continually bring in renewals. It is quite a journey to get there though.

It is important for people to do a personal assessment and find out whether sales will be a career they enjoy. This list of characteristics needed to be a successful insurance agent can help you make that determination. No one should enter this career without a great deal of understanding for what they are getting into. Interviewing veterans in the industry will help a prospective insurance professional get a realistic picture of the job and whether it would be a good fit. 

Thinking about a career in insurance? Download this free Launching Your Insurance Career eBook.

Q. What are the main career paths for someone getting an insurance license?

A. There are two main paths: become a multi-line insurance agent, either a broker for multiple agencies or captive for one agency, or become a financial advisor. With insurance, the focus is on protecting people. With investment, the focus is on making someone more money. Some insurance firms will have agents get their life, accident, and health license on day one so they are trained to sell life insurance first. Then they will require securities licenses later. Other firms that focus on investment will have you get all your licenses before you can start.

One of the biggest fears going into this industry is commission sales. I tell the students that there are two ways to get paid: one is for someone to decide how much you’re worth (salary) and the other is to decide what you’re worth (commission). You have to understand that and how to deal with commission to make it in this industry.

Q. What advice do you have for someone who is thinking about pursuing a career in insurance?

A. The best thing anyone can do is go talk to three insurance industry veterans and interview them. Ask them not only the broad questions like ‘why did you choose this career?’ but the hidden questions like ‘how long did you struggle?’ ‘How poor were you when you started your career?’ ‘How many times did you want to quit in your first year?’ ‘How did you cope with rejection?’ I make students do this all the time. When I worked in the industry, I would always have new employees interview veterans in my office. It’s the best way to get a realistic job preview.

Also, interview the company that wants to hire you. Don’t let them just interview you – interview them too. You have to understand that the interviewing process is a two-way street. It is a good sign when companies ask prospective employees to do pre-job requirements, create marketing systems, and go out and talk with industry veterans. It shows that they care about finding the right people for their jobs.

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If you're ready to get started on your path to an insurance career by taking a licensing exams, an exam preparation package can help.


David Gorecki started teaching insurance, securities, and CE classes for Kaplan Professional Education in 2005. Previously, he spent 35 years in the financial services industry. David held various management positions for 18 of those years with both insurance and investment companies. He received his psychology degree from DePaul University in Chicago and currently manages 60 classroom instructors who teach insurance licensing courses.

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Posted by Kaplan Financial Education - March 7, 2019
Aspiring insurance agent

Insurance Agent Career At-a-Glance

Are you considering a career in the insurance industry? If you are looking for more information about the profession, you are in the right place. Find out more about what the day-to-day of an insurance industry professional is like, as well as the expected job growth over the next decade below.

What Do Insurance Agents Do?

Insurance agents sell one or more types of insurance for insurance companies. The role of an insurance agent is to help clients understand differences in insurance policies and help them choose what plans are best suited for them. Typical job duties for insurance agents include:

  • Call potential clients to drive new business
  • Meet with potential clients to discuss their existing coverage and insurance needs
  • Explain various insurance policy options
  • Analyze clients’ current insurance plans and suggest changes/additions
  • Process policy renewals
  • Help clients settle insurance claims

Thinking about a career in insurance? Download this free Launching Your Insurance Career eBook.

Important Skill Sets for Insurance Agents

  • Customer Service: At the core of being an insurance agent is helping prospective and current clients understand and choose insurance plans.
  • Sales and Marketing: An insurance agent will also have to routinely call prospective clients and set up meetings to get details about their finances and goals.
  • Analytical Abilities: It is important for insurance agents to be able to analyze risk and benefits of all policy options for clients.
  • Self-Motivated: Being an insurance agent means being able to take initiative, recognize opportunities, and continually follow up with prospective and current clients.
  • Commitment to Life-Long Learning: Insurance policies and state regulations are constantly changing. It is important for insurance agents to stay up-to-date on industry and regulation changes.

Along with skill sets, there are traits that can help you succeed. Learn about them here.

Job Outlook for Insurance Agents

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics Occupational Outlook Handbook, employment of insurance sales agent is expected to increase by 10% from 2012 to 2022. This is higher than other sales and related occupations, which are expected to grow by 7%.

Employment growth should be even higher for agents selling health and long-term care insurance due to the aging population. There is also more opportunity for growth as more people have access to health insurance from federal health insurance reform legislation.

How Much Do Insurance Agents Make?

The median annual wage for insurance sales agents was $49,710 in May 2017, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. The lowest 10% were paid less than $27,180 and the top 10% earned over $$125,190.

Insurance agents are often paid in one of three ways: salary only, salary and commission, or salary plus bonus. In some situations, agents who do financial planning receive a fee for their services instead of commission.

Commissions are a common form of payment, particularly with more experienced insurance agents. The amount of commission varies on the type and amount of insurance sold, and whether it is a renewal or new policy. Bonuses are sometimes given to agents when individual or agency sales goals are met.

How Do You Become an Insurance Agent?

The process for becoming an insurance agent depends on what lines of authority you want to sell and what states you want to sell in. You also have to pass prelicensing exams. For more information on becoming an insurance agent, visit our article on this topic. If you're thinking of becoming licensed, exam preparation can help.

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Posted by Kaplan Financial Education - March 7, 2019
umbrella representing insurance protecting an area from rain

How to Become an Insurance Agent

The role of an insurance agent, has amazing growth potential, and is a great way to start your career or make a much-needed change. But if you do know, you think you have what it takes, and you've considered making this career change, you're likely wondering how. In this article, we've outlined the five basic steps toward earning a license and starting your insurance career. 

How to Become an Insurance Agent

Step 1: Decide What Kind of Insurance You Want to Sell

The first thing you want to do is decide what type or types of insurance you’d like to specialize in. In the industry, these are referred to as “lines of authority.” Here’s a rundown of the most common:

  • Life insurance: Selling policies and annuities related to providing for a beneficiary upon the death of the insured.

  • Health insurance: Selling medical, disability, Medicare supplement, and long-term care policies.

  • Property insurance: Selling homeowner, commercial property, and inland marine policies.

  • Casualty insurance: Selling auto, workers compensation, crime coverage, and professional liability policies.

  • Surplus line insurance: Selling coverage for unique or unusual situations with risks that aren’t covered by standard insurance, such as daycare insurance, oil drilling rigs insurance, and special events like state fairs, car races, and outdoor amusement parks.

  • Variable products insurance: Selling insurance products with an investment element. To sell this kind of insurance, you need certain securities licenses.

  • Personal lines insurance: Selling products like auto insurance, homeowners insurance, renters insurance, and policies for boats, motorcycles, and snowmobiles to individual consumers only.

Another option is becoming an adjuster, which is the business of investigating and adjusting claims on an insurance policy. Insurance adjusters also solicit for the adjustment business.

In a  number of cases, you don’t have to pick just one line of authority. Individuals often combine certain lines, such as property and casualty insurance.

Thinking about a career in insurance? Download this free Launching Your Insurance Career eBook.

Step 2: Understand the General Requirements

After you’ve decided what kind of insurance agent you want to be, the next step is to understand the basic requirements: 

  • You need to be at least 18 years old to become an insurance agent.

  • You need to complete prelicensing education for your line of authority, which is determined by each state. The number of hours you’ll have to complete and the cost also varies by state.

  • You need to pass the state insurance licensing exam for your line or lines of authority. An insurance exam preparation package can help.

  • You need to pass a background check. The process varies by states and, in some cases, includes fingerprinting. 

  • You need continuing education to keep or renew your license.

Step 3: Decide on a State and Find Out Its Requirements

Now that you have a basic idea of what you need to do, it’s time to decide whether you want to sell insurance in your home state or some other state. (You can also sell in more than one state, but you also must abide by the rules for each.) As you saw in Step 2, each state regulates its own insurance licensing process, and each state’s regulations or rules are slightly different, so this is why deciding on where is so important.

After you’ve made your decision, check with the department of insurance in that state for the rules. The state bodies of government that regulate insurance have different names, so a good way to find out the name of the state’s insurance body is to go to the official website of the state and search for the insurance licensing rules. Most state insurance web pages are quite helpful and often have handbooks you can download and read to get all the information you need to become an insurance agent in that state. You’ll find out exactly how many hours of education (if any) you need, how to register for the exam, where to go for the exam, how you’ll get your score, and—if you pass—how you’ll get your license.

Each state website will also tell you what kind of continuing education you need to keep or renew your license.

Step 4: Research Agencies

Now is also the time to research any agencies for which you want to work. Many have additional requirements for candidates or agents to follow that you’ll need to be aware of if you want to work there. Also, some agencies will hire you before you have a license, and they might have specific processes you need to follow.

Step 5: Pass Your State Exam and Apply at Insurance Agencies

You’ve done your research and know what you want to do. So, it’s time to get out there, get the hours of education required by the state and agency of your choice, take the exam, and pass it. Armed with your license and your knowledge, you’re ready for an exciting and rewarding career as an insurance agent. Good luck, and don’t forget about keeping up with your continuing education.

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Posted by Kaplan Financial Education - March 7, 2019
hand of an insurance agent protecting his clients

5 Questions You Should Ask During Your Finance Internship

An internship is an incredibly valuable resume builder when you begin pursuing a career in your chosen finance field. You’ll gain actual job experience, understand the value of working as a team, and get a taste for life in a professional setting.

You’ve probably heard that one of the most valuable things you can do when interviewing for an internship is to ask the interviewer questions. Questions demonstrate you’ve invested time in researching your potential employer, and you’re genuinely interested in the job. But the questions shouldn’t stop once you’ve gotten hired. Here are five valuable questions you should ask your employer during your finance internship that can better prepare you for your professional future.

1. Can I try that?

This is the single most important question you can ask while working in your finance internship. You’re here to perform a valuable role for the company you are interning with. But you’re also here to gain valuable experience in the industry. This is a big opportunity, and you want to make the most of it. You’ll likely start your internship asking, “What can I do?” Getting direction and acting on it is a big part of any new job. But as you get some experience, if there’s a particular task or set of tasks you’re dying to try, go ahead and ask! You might be surprised at your employer’s willingness to give you meaningful work if you show you’re self-motivated and ambitious to try it.

2. What aren’t they teaching me in college?

College prepares you very well to perform certain roles in a “sterile” environment where all conditions are perfect, all necessary data is available to you, and every answer is attainable with the resources you have. That’s important, because it’s the best way for you to learn the fundamentals. You’ll learn quickly in your finance internship that in business, the conditions are rarely perfect. With every career, there are things that require problem-solving and will need to be learned as you go. The good news is, that’s true for everybody. Use your opportunity as an intern to ask someone who has been there before what to expect. It will help you prepare for life after graduation and give you a leg up on fellow job seekers.

Download the free eBook, Getting There from Here: Career Path Stories from Finance Professionals, to get firsthand accounts of what it's like to have a rewarding career in finance.

3. What do you like and dislike about your job?

How much do you know about the career path you’re considering? You’ve probably heard about it from guest speakers in class, or read about it online. But as an intern, you will be working with finance professionals who hold positions you’d like to see in your own email signature one day. Your finance internship is your chance to find out what it’s really like to be a financial planner, or a wealth manager. Don’t be afraid to ask this question. It can get you access to a real-life narrative from someone living the life you aspire to. There might be upsides to this career that you never even realized. There also might be some challenges you haven’t considered yet. This question allows you to explore a career path beyond the day-to-day tasks and see the human side of the job.

4. What matters the most to you on a resume?

There are classes, online articles and videos, and tip sheets galore about writing effective resumes. But the person who chose to hire you for this finance internship has a front row seat to literally hundreds of resumes in his or her inbox every year. Wouldn’t it be great to hear first-hand the little things that make a resume stand out from the rest of the pile? If you’re looking to gain a competitive edge when you start your post-college job hunt, this is valuable insight that is just a conversation away as an intern.

5. Are you hiring?

Every finance internship is a learning experience. Sometimes the lesson is, “I don’t ever want to work for a company like this again.” But most internships are positive experiences. If you enjoy the company, the work, and the people, you may even consider starting your career with the employer you’re interning for. Demonstrating that interest during your internship is incredibly powerful, even if you know they don’t have any openings. It shows the employer that you respect and enjoy the culture of their company, and it sets you up very well for a chance to come back to interview with the company when they are hiring.

Your internship is a tremendous opportunity to gain on-the-job experience in a specific finance career and get a glimpse of life after college. Asking these five questions will help you get even more from your finance internship experience.

 

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Posted by Kaplan Financial Education - March 7, 2019
Man thinking of questions to ask at his job interview

How to Get a Finance Internship

A finance internship is a great way to get some experience under your belt in the financial services industry. Financial firms and companies are in such demand for staff and advisors that there are a lot of opportunities out there. Our team recently talked with Clay Skurdal from Advisors Ahead, a talent development organization that specializes in sourcing, screening, onboarding and developing the next generation of financial advisors. As someone who helps connect college students with financial services opportunities, he offers the follow tips for how to land a finance internship and get the most out of it.

Be Proactive

Rather than looking for internship postings, consider proactively contacting the financial firms located near you, let them know you are interested in joining the industry, and ask them if they would be willing to take you on as an intern. Not only does this show initiative, but you can tell them what experience you are looking to gain and see if they have any work for you that would be a good fit. This will help put you in the driver’s seat of your own career and resume development.

Develop and Know Your Personal Story

In order to get a finance internship, you need to be able to tell your personal story. If you don’t know your personal story, step back and think about why a firm should hire you for the next 3 or 6 months. What skills and experience do you have that can help them? What is your approach to working with people? What successes can you share with them? What adversity have you faced and how have you risen to challenges? No matter what questions you are asked in your finance internship interview, be sure your personal story is what shines through.

Download the free eBook, Getting There from Here: Career Path Stories from Finance Professionals, to get firsthand accounts of what it's like to have a rewarding career in finance.

Look for an Internship during the School Year if Possible

While summer internships are appealing because you have more time to dedicate to them, financial firms are more likely to take on interns during the school year because there is more potential to hire you on after. There is high demand for financial advisors and staff right now. If you think about it from the firm’s perspective, they would prefer to hire you from intern to full-time rather than invest the time in training you and then send you back to school again.

Get a Variety of Experiences

Every financial firm operates differently and has diverse needs. If you try to get an internship with a small, independent firm, for example, you may find yourself working directly for the owner of the firm. Whereas, if you intern for a large, enterprise firm, you will likely be working with a branch manager on projects they need. The environments in these two examples vary considerably and it is a good idea to get experience working in both if you can so you know what you would prefer for a full-time job. All internships will provide different experiences too. Often internships will evolve into what the needs of the company or program are. Some finance internships could focus heavily on marketing while others could focus on portfolio management. The more experience you have coming out of school, the more prepared you will be for the job market. 

Now that you’ve got a handle on how to get a finance internship, learn more about how to prepare for finance interview questions and what questions you should ask during your finance internship.

 

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Posted by Kaplan Financial Education - March 7, 2019
Woman preparing to intern for a finance internship

7 Reasons to Do a Finance Internship Before You Graduate College

As far as employers are concerned, internships have gone from a “nice to have” to a “must have” on a recent college graduate’s resume. A growing number of colleges and universities require internships before graduation…and with good reason.

1. Polish your professional skills

One of the biggest perks of internships is that you can pick up professional skills through observation and practice. Did you like how someone opened up a conversation in an email? Or how someone delivered feedback to you? These tidbits can go a long way in helping you polish your professional skills for your future. An internship will help you learn meeting etiquette and gain confidence in talking to people at all levels of an organization. These professional skills will help you gain an edge over others as you enter the job market after graduation.

2. Build your professional network

Everyone you meet while working as an intern—from your direct supervisor to colleagues to vendors—are people with whom you can network. These are all people who can potentially connect you to job opportunities in the finance industry, or serve as a reference for you when you leave your internship.

3. Connect your coursework to a real work setting

When you are sitting in the classroom full-time, it can be difficult to see how the concepts you are learning will impact you in the working world. Getting a finance internship can help you not only apply what you have learned in class, but also give you a firmer understanding of the concepts as they relate to real people, situations, and organizations. Your internship experience will also give you more insight to utilize in class or in papers, as you learn about topics that relate to topics you are already familiar with.

Download the free eBook Getting There from Here: Career Path Stories from Finance Professionals.

4. Test out your career plan

Every job and every company is different. A finance internship will allow you to see whether a certain type of job or organization is a good fit for you. You will learn more about what you like and don’t like with every internship and job you take. An internship is a great way for you to test out a career plan before you begin to look for a full-time job when you graduate. Based on your internship experience, you may decide to take your finance degree into a different concentration or specialization. The best way to find out what you like is by trying it.

5. Prepare for job interviews

One of the hardest things about job interviews as a young graduate is having good answers to job interview questions. Most employers ask situational questions that require you have professional experience to draw on. Having internship experience will provide you with better examples of times you solved problems, took initiative, received feedback, or handled conflict.

6. Get a foot in the door

While there is rarely a guarantee of a job at the end of an internship, it is a common way for entry-level workers to get hired. Employers invest a lot of time and money training interns, and they would rather see return on their investment in the long-term than start over on new entry-level workers. Many employers see internships as a long interview—they can see how someone would fare in the actual workplace. Some Wall Street firms will not even consider entry-level candidates outside their intern pool because it seems too risky. The more competitive a company is, the more important it is to get a foot in the door as an intern.

7. Gain the experience employers want

Work experience is a frequent requirement in job ads—even entry-level job ads. Employers want to see graduates who have real working experience through internships. It is not uncommon for competitive firms to require 200 to 400 internship hours for their entry-level applicants. Having finance internship experience helps you differentiate yourself from other applicants and shows your ability to succeed in a professional environment. Plus, you will have real working experience to talk about when given situational questions in job interviews.

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Posted by Kaplan Financial Education - March 7, 2019
Internship spelled out in blue

How to Send Your Resume and Instantly Catch the Eye of Recruiters

Before you send your resume, there are a few things you should know. For starters, finance is a very crowded job market. And that means your resume is in direct competition with hundreds of others all saying the same thing. Know how to write a resume that attracts the attention of recruiters and showcases your skills is just the first step in job hunting.

And don’t expect to find a job overnight. On average, a job hunt takes around 43 days. That's why you need to impress recruiters right from the start. A recruiter's inbox is usually full of messages with the same title and content. Most candidates forget to tailor their resumes and cover letters to the job description and attach a set of generic documents. You need a different approach to scoring your dream job.

Here are four tips to help you send your resume to recruiters and boost your chances at landing a job interview.

1. Learn Who's on the Receiving End

Before crafting your email, you’ll want to learn who will receive your message. It takes some time, but it's worth it. Other candidates will use a recruitment form or send their resume to a general email address. You should too if the job description instructs you to do so. If there are no such instructions, you can locate the person responsible for filling the position and send your email directly to them.

You should always be careful about sending unsolicited resumes to potential employers. But if you’re polite and targeted, you can make a great first impression and improve your chances for a response. How can you find out who handles recruitment at the company you're targeting?

Your first step is to check the organization on LinkedIn. Type the name of the company into the search bar and select “People who work for XXX.” You may need to do an advanced search to find the hiring manager at that company.

Once you spot a recruiter, have a look at their profile. Many HR staff will post the positions they are filling on their profiles. If you see the right person, you can send them a direct message. Your message should state why you’re contacting them and why they should add you to their network.

You can say that you’re interested in the open position. But you’ll also want to show that you’re knowledgeable about the company. Refer to an article or something that the hiring manager shared. You can also refer to a project or aspect of the company that you find admirable. Once you’ve connect with them on LinkedIn, you can send them your resume via email.

What if you’re unable to locate the recruiter responsible for the position? You can attempt to call the company and ask who manages their recruitment. The receptionist will most likely direct you to the right person. Sometimes, there's just no way to tell who will be reading your resume. If you're sending your application to the company's general mailing address, you need to do everything in your power to make your message stand out from the crowd. Otherwise, it might get lost among hundreds of other identical messages.

Download the free eBook, Getting There from Here: Career Path Stories from Finance Professionals, to get firsthand accounts of what it's like to have a rewarding career in finance.

2. Grab the Recruiter's Attention with Your Email Subject Line

You can opt for a general subject line for your email, but don't expect the recruiter to notice your message. Before you begin crafting your subject line, double check that you're following the instructions provided in the job posting. That's how you make sure that your message reaches the right person.

Most of the time, you'll be asked to write the title of the position and its reference number.

You'll still have some space left, so use it to demonstrate that you're an excellent candidate for the job. If you've got a skill or qualification that is required by the employer, you should mention it in the subject line of your message.

For example: “[position's title], [position's reference number], MBA graduate.”

Recruiters are bound to notice your message and instantly see your expertise as relevant to the offered position.

3. Write a Compelling Email

You'd be surprised to learn how many candidates send empty emails with application documents in the attachment. Don’t be tempted to do the same. Despite what you might think, recruiters read the emails they receive from candidates. When they receive a blank message, they won't enthusiastically download and read the resume. If the candidate didn't care to write a simple message, why would they deserve the recruiter’s attention?

Take extra care about the content of your email. Your message should motivate recruiters to download and read your resume. Your salutation should include the name of the hiring manager. Don’t lead with “to whom it may concern.” You should refer to the job posting and tell recruiters why you're applying for this position. Providing an explanation is especially important for candidates with an entry-level finance resume.

Offer relevant information about your qualifications or experience. You need to give the hiring manager a reason for inviting you to an interview.

4. Pay Attention to Your File Names

Few candidates ever think about the naming of their application documents. If you attach files bearing names like “CV1” or “resume_copy,” don't expect to make a great first impression. Sending such files implies that you don’t pay attention to detail or don't care about the job offer.

Here's how to name your files:

Name_Surname_CV.pdf

Name_Surname_CL.pdf

For extra relevance, add the employer's name to your files. That's how you show recruiters that you've tailored your resume and cover letter files to the job posting. You’ll also demonstrate that you're genuinely interested in the opportunity.

Key Takeaway

Nothing boosts your chances of getting more job interviews than a personalized message. Be sure to write an attention-grabbing subject line and compelling message. Also, make sure your documents are perfect. You don't want to spoil your first impression with a poorly formatted resume. Always tailor your resume and cover letter to match the job description. If you can accomplish that, a personalized email could be your passport to landing your dream job.

 

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Posted by Kaplan Financial Education - March 7, 2019
Employer reviewing and highlighting a resume

5 Things Employers Look for on an Entry-level Finance Resume

If you’re working on your first professional resume, chances are you’ve spent more time than you care to admit staring at a blinking curser on a white screen. Let’s face it, writing an entry-level resume to begin your finance career can be difficult. You don’t have years of relevant experience, and on the surface there’s not a whole lot that sets you apart from all of the other recent college graduates you’re competing with for the job (although there are ways to deal with that issue as discussed here). Here are five things employers are looking for on entry-level resumes, as well as some strategies you can use to help your resume stand out from the pack.

1. Grammatical and Spelling Errors

The first thing they’re looking for is the one thing you don’t want them to find. Attention to detail is critical in a finance position. Employers don’t just focus on the words you use to demonstrate your skills and abilities; they also pay attention to how you spell and punctuate those words. If you’re going to miss out on an opportunity for an interview, don’t let it be because you spelled a word wrong or inconsistently punctuated your bullet points. If you aren’t good with spelling and grammar, ask a friend or family member who is to take a look at your resume. You can’t unsend a mistake-laden resume or cover letter.

2. How Well Your Education and Experience Fits the Specific Job

Many entry-level job applicants will use the same resume for every job opening they apply for. If you want to truly stand out from the competition, consider modifying your resume to focus on the specific requirements of the job. Use the information in the posted job description to figure out the specific type of person the employer is looking for. Edit your resume to highlight the skills and educational experience you have that make you the perfect candidate for the company and the position.

3. Internships or Other Relevant Experience

This one probably seems obvious, but many applicants barely scratch the surface when it comes to explaining what they’ve accomplished. Employers are interested in where you've interned or worked, but they’re even more interested in what you’ve done there. Focus on skills you developed, systems and software you were exposed too, and anything else you did in that role that makes you a better job candidate than the average recent graduate. And don’t necessarily rule out volunteer work or a summer job because it doesn’t seem relevant. Some experience always trumps no experience. If you think about it, there may have been something you did in that role that made you a better job candidate today. Soft business skills, while not directly related to the specific tasks in the job description, have value and can set you apart.

Download the free eBook, Getting There from Here: Career Path Stories from Finance Professionals, to get firsthand accounts of what it's like to have a rewarding career in finance.

4. The Things that Make you Different

Employers receive a ton of resumes every day. In fact, the very position you’re applying for might have hundreds of applicants. In competitive job search situations, it’s not enough to meet the qualifications that were listed. Nearly everyone applying can do that. How can you exceed them? What makes you an irresistible potential employee? Are there academic awards that you’ve earned? Have you participated in leadership training, or a seminar on effectively working in a team? Are there specific scenarios where you’ve demonstrated initiative to pick up a project and run with it? These things matter to employers and can be the difference maker if your resume is sitting side-by-side with one that is otherwise very similar to it.

5. A Desire to Do that Job for that Employer

This tip is probably more effective when used in a cover letter than the actual resume. Employers are looking for team members, not just employees. The hiring and onboarding process can be daunting for an organization, so it’s important that they make good decisions when deciding who to add to their team. Clearly articulate your ambition to work for the company and the reason you feel that way. If you’re passionate about the specific position you are applying for, say it and explain why. You’d be surprised how far you can go with genuine enthusiasm. Employers recognize and appreciate when you’ve done your homework on the company and the position—present yourself as motivated to join their team.

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Remember, the purpose of the resume is to get an interview. You already know you’re an awesome fit for this company and this position. The resume is your opportunity to catch the employer’s attention, so you can show them what you’re made of in a face-to-face meeting. Make it memorable for the right reasons, and you’ll go a long way toward getting that interview call.

 

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Posted by Kaplan Financial Education - March 7, 2019
Employer reviewing a resume at his desk

How to Become a Financial Advisor

Financial advisors do exactly what the name suggests (and if you're interested in where the name originated, check this out). They work with clients to assess their current financial status and future plans, economic conditions and forecasts, and regulations, to provide financial advice. Read on to learn the steps you must complete to become a financial advisor. 

STEP 1: Earn a Bachelor’s Degree

Good news! If you’re currently enrolled in college and working toward your bachelor’s degree, you’re already on the path toward becoming a financial advisor. Most practicing financial advisors majored in some type of business or finance program. If you’re considering a career in financial advice, it might also be a good idea to find and interview someone who is currently working in the field. Tell them you’d like to become a financial advisor, and ask them specific questions about what an average day looks like, what factors influence their compensation, and what they like and dislike about their career. This will give you an accurate picture of what to expect in the career for which you’re preparing.

STEP 2: Complete an Internship

While still in school, it’s a good idea to pursue an internship with a financial advice firm or sole practitioner. Internships will help you get a first-person look at the career and understand what it means to be a financial advisor on a day-to-day basis. Internships also represent an opportunity to network with existing financial advisors and potentially find a mentor. Some of the relationships you form as an intern will follow you throughout your career. Finally, an internship looks good on your resume. Most employers prefer to hire people with experience. Of course, as a recent college graduate, you won’t have much, if any, experience. An internship provides a priceless opportunity to gain experience and demonstrate your active interest in becoming a financial advisor. You can learn how to get an internship here.

STEP 3: Find a Job

Once you’ve earned your degree and gotten some experience as an intern, it’s time to start job hunting. There is no shortage of resources available to help you write an effective resume. Here’s a few tips for writing a resume that will get noticed:

  • Go beyond your education and work experience. Talk about what makes you a great employee, and the skills you have that make you a great fit for the position.
  • Don’t waste words. Short and impactful statements on your resume make it easier for the employer to identify and remember the points you’re trying to make.
  • Put the important stuff up front. It’s ok to work from a template, but you’re trying to present yourself as a unique individual to potential employers. Feel free to take liberties with the template to make sure it effectively sells you as a potential employee.

Our article on how to prepare a resume that will get you noticed can help, too.

Download the free eBook, Getting There from Here: Career Path Stories from Finance Professionals, to get firsthand accounts of what it's like to have a rewarding career in finance.

STEP 4: Get Certified

The field of financial advising is competitive. Many advisors pursue certifications or licenses to help them develop a specialty or differentiate themselves from their competition. Once you’ve logged some experience in the field, you will get a better idea of the type of work you enjoy as a financial advisor. This experience will help you decide which certification(s) are a good fit for the career you want to build. Some common certifications and licenses that financial advisors pursue are:

STEP 5: Pursue Additional Education

A thirst for knowledge will serve you well in any career. Financial advice professionals will often go back to school to pursue a graduate degree, or even a doctorate. Your job relies on your ability to provide valuable financial advice to clients. The pursuit of further education is a tangible way to demonstrate your commitment to providing excellent service as you continue in your career. Demand for financial advisors is high and will continue to grow as our society becomes more financially literate and recognizes the importance of making sound financial decisions. Now that you understand how to become a financial advisor, you are prepared to chart your own career path and get started providing valuable advice.

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Posted by Kaplan Financial Education - March 7, 2019
Red haired female financial advisor meeting with her clients

Is a Wealth Management Career Right for Me?

If you've read our article that defines wealth management and the career appeals to you, you're likely interested in learning more about what it takes to be successful as in wealth management. Finance career opportunities are plentiful; the trick is uncovering which area of financial services is the best fit for you. This article explores the wealth management segment of financial services and which skills are required to be successful.

Wealth management is a similar path to financial planning. In fact, the major difference between wealth management and financial planning is the clientele. A wealth manager is commonly defined as someone who manages high-net worth clients (worth $1 million or more). Often these types of clients are broken down into two categories: high-net worth individuals (HNWIs) and ultra-high-net-worth individuals (UHNWIs). HNWIs and UHNWIs require services like capital gains planning, estate planning, and risk management. Social Security benefits, retirement planning, and succession planning differ for HNWIs and UHNWIs than from the rest of the population because often they do not need all of their retirement savings. Wealth managers help people literally manage their wealth effectively, whereas financial planners tend to focus more on middle class clients who need help with lifestyle planning, budgeting, cash flow planning, and saving for college and retirement.

Important Skills for Wealth Managers

In addition to having a passion for helping HNWIs and UHNWIs manage their wealth, there are a number of important skills for succeeding in a wealth management career.

Tenacity

Being proactive is essential for success in wealth management. The career requires a strong desire to build a rapport with clients and go the extra mile to ensure they are receiving the best possible service. The industry is competitive...there are many other wealth managers out there who want your clients. Drive and stamina to work long hours will be important for success.

Download the free eBook, Getting There from Here: Career Path Stories from Finance Professionals, to get firsthand accounts of what it's like to have a rewarding career in finance.

Communication

While knowing how to crunch numbers is important for any financial professional, being able to communicate what the numbers mean for clients is vital to your success as a wealth manager. Whether in a face-to-face client meeting or corresponding via email, you must be able to explain complicated financial concepts in ways that make sense to your clients. A failure to communicate effectively could result in higher turnover for you, because your clients will not have a good understanding of the value you bring to them.

Anticipation

Being able to think long-term and envision what your clients will need from you in the immediate or distant future will help you be more successful. Clients will not always know what they need or what they should ask. Being able to anticipate situations and needs, and take care of them ahead of time, will not only build trust, but it will help you build a solid rapport with clients as well.

Ethics

The scandals that have plagued the financial industry make ethics an increasingly important skill for success. Not only are advanced designations, such as CFA® and CFP® certification, making ethics a bigger priority than ever before, but the DOL Fiduciary Rule is also tightening government oversight on the industry. All clients, particularly high-net worth clients, want wealth managers who show integrity, confidentiality, and professionalism. Adhering to the utmost ethical standards is the best long-term retention strategy.

Now that you have a better idea of wealth management and the skills necessary for a successful wealth management career, we hope that you are able to better answer the question, “Is wealth management the right career for me?” Time to explore wealth management certifications  here!

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Posted by Kaplan Financial Education - March 7, 2019
confident wealth manager standing outside a business

What is Wealth Management?

Wealth management is a financial services term that gets thrown around a lot and, yet, is not well understood even by people in the business. Wealth management and financial planning are very similar paths. They both assist clients with investment decisions and goals. However, what uniquely distinguishes the field of wealth management from financial planning is the clients. A wealth manager is someone who consults with high-net worth clients to achieve their goals related to wealth accumulation, protection, and distribution.

Why would high-net worth clients make wealth management different from financial planning? Think of a wealth manager as a surgeon and a financial planner as a family practitioner. There is a unique specialization that is required for wealth management. Estate planning and strategies, as well as income tax planning, differ greatly for the high-net worth populations. Social Security benefits and retirement planning, as well as succession planning, also differ for clients with a high-net worth who probably will not need all of their retirement savings.

So, what is a high-net worth client? There isn’t a total consensus in the industry on that question. Some define it as $1 million or above, while many put it in the $5 to $10 million range.

So, What Does a Wealth Manager Do?

The wealth manager position has a similar process to other related occupations, such as financial planners, financial advisors, or investment advisors. The bulk of the work revolves around talking with clients, helping them identify their goals, and determining a strategy for achieving their goals in the short and long-term.

Wealth managers tend to have fewer clients than financial advisors or financial planners because their clients have more needs and require more attention. Wealth managers evaluate their clients’ needs and gain an understanding of the vehicles of their wealth. The wealth mangers then analyze the information and develop recommendations for their strategies. This involves interacting with other financial professionals the client works with as well.

Download the free eBook, Getting There from Here: Career Path Stories from Finance Professionals, to get firsthand accounts of what it's like to have a rewarding career in finance.

Wealth managers offer services that include investment advice, accounting/tax services, retirement planning, and legal/estate planning. The advantage to clients is that they get all of these services for a single fee, and the wealth manager then coordinates input from the other financial experts on the client’s team, such as attorneys, accountants, and insurance agents. The more wealth a person has, the more financial decisions they need to make. The options available can be overwhelming, and a wealth manager can steer clients toward ideas that make the most sense for them.

Some important knowledge areas for wealth managers include effective strategies for giving to charities, intra-family transactions, multi-generational estate plans, and understanding the impact of partnerships and illiquid assets in the estate.

Possible Career Paths to Wealth Management

Wealth management is a specialization, so it is important to get your feet wet in the industry first. Earning a designation like the Chartered Financial Analyst® will give you the deep knowledge you need to analyze investments, stocks, bonds, hedging strategies, financial statements, and other macro and microeconomic factors that could impact markets. The CFA® exam process takes a minimum of three years, and the competition is fierce. But, it will give you comprehensive understanding of financial markets and how they relate to one another. To learn more about the path to CFA, visit Kaplan Schweser.

The CERTIFIED FINANCIAL PLANNER™ certification is another good option for someone looking to become a wealth manager. The CFP® certification will give you fundamental understanding of general financial planning principles, risk management, investment planning, tax planning, retirement and income planning, estate planning, and financial plan development. Unlike the CFA program, you can earn the CFP® mark in as little as one year. Learn more about CFP® certification at Kaplan Financial Education.

 

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Posted by Kaplan Financial Education - February 28, 2019
wealth manager reviewing a client's financial performance

Interesting Finance Careers You Didn’t Know Existed

Not everyone is cut out for corporate America…even finance professionals. There are many “out-of-the-box” finance careers out there for those who would prefer to apply their financial knowledge in other industries. If the prestige of a big investment or accounting firm does not appeal to you, this list of unusual finance careers may help you find your dream job.

Environmental Accountant (Green Accountant)

As sustainability and environmental awareness has grown, so have careers in this field. Environmental accounting is among the many “green” careers that focus on a company’s resource management and environmental impact. The environmental accounting role may include advising clients on what environmental impact their decisions would have, and how that would in turn impact the company’s bottom line. Some roles in this field include collecting information on material flows and pollution controls for executives internally, creating reports for external audiences like investors and regulators, and analyzing how natural resources are used and how they impact the environment on a larger scale. Organizations that hire environmental accountants include large corporations, government agencies, and nonprofits. In addition. there are opportunities for those in the insurance industry to sell sustainable building and other "green" policies. We have information on those in our article about green insurance.

CIA Economic Analyst

People often think of financial jobs in the corporate sector, but there are many government agencies that need financial analysis as well. Among them is the CIA. If you want to work closely with political, leadership, and military analysts, this is a good job for you. This role would allow you to apply your economics and finance background to dive into the technical microeconomic and macroeconomic issues that impact certain countries or regions, and in particular, areas of potential concern to US national security. Believe it or not, a bachelor’s degree in finance, business administration, or economics, with a strong concentration on international finance or business, could qualify you for this job.

Entertainment Accountant

Accountants in the entertainment industry have many different titles: showbiz accountants, entertainment CPAs, or production accountants. Generally, accountants in this field provide a broad range of accounting services for employers, such as an entertainment firm, television or film production company, or a firm that specializes in the entertainment industry. People in an entertainment accountant role manage the finances of a film or TV project, or an entertainment professional’s personal finances. This is an ideal role for anyone who loves the entertainment industry and frequent changes of scenery. Entertainment accountants often move from project to project as they finish.

Download the free eBook Getting There from Here: Career Path Stories from Finance Professionals.

FBI Forensic Accountant

The FBI is among several government agencies that need accountants. Forensic accountants at the FBI conduct the financial investigative portion of complex cases, such as investigating terrorists, spies, and criminals who are involved in financial crimes. In this role, you would investigate cases, gather evidence, and prepare search warrants associated with financial analysis. Other duties include tracing funding sources, meeting with attorneys to discuss strategies, and presenting findings in court as an expert. While a Certified Public Accountant (CPA) certification would give you a leg up to get a forensic accountant job, a bachelor’s degree in accounting or finance is enough to get you in the door.

Insurance Analyst

The insurance industry is always looking to recruit undergrads with a finance or business degree. As an insurance analyst, you would investigate insurance claims to determine if there is fraudulent activity. Other important tasks of an insurance analyst are to determine risks associated with covering individuals or businesses and how these risks should impact premiums. There are other options beyond insurance companies for insurance analysts. Companies, schools, government agencies, or nonprofits hire insurance analysts to analyze potential risk issues that could arise and find ways to avoid potential claims against the organization.

 

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Posted by Kaplan Financial Education - February 28, 2019
Finance professional who has a career with the FBI

Finance Careers As Seen in the Movies

You’ve seen finance professionals in the movies, but what do people in these jobs actually do? That’s what we’re tackling in today’s article. Learn more about these famous characters’ jobs in the real world.  

Jordan Belfort – The Wolf of Wall Street (Registered Representative)

If you’ve seen The Wolf of Wall Street, you know Jordan Belfort (Leonardo DiCaprio) pleaded guilty to fraud and stock market manipulation crimes. While Belfort was obviously a criminal and operated a phony financial firm that was defrauding clients, some of the portrayal of Belfort’s job as a registered representative (stockbroker) was accurate. Registered representatives do take and fill orders to buy and sell stocks and other securities products. To become a registered representative, you must pass two licensing exams, the FINRA Series 7 and Series 63 exams, which Belfort did. These exams prove that a registered representative is knowledgeable about what he/she is selling and the regulations and laws in the industry. Registered representatives also spend a great deal of time on the phone cold calling prospective clients—particularly in their early years when they need to build a book of clients to invest. If you're interested in the career, we have information on what it takes to be a registered representative here.

Ruben Feffer – Along Came Polly (Life Insurance Underwriter)

Insurance companies insure both property and people. In the case of Along Came Polly, Ruben Feffer (Ben Stiller) specializes in determining the risk of insuring individuals. Although his title in the movie is “risk analyst,” Feffer is actually a life insurance underwriter. Underwriters use computer software programs to determine whether or not to approve an applicant, just like Feffer does for his client, Leland Van Lew (Bryan Brown). Many underwriters specialize in a field such as life, health, or property and casualty. The criteria that underwriters use to determine risk varies depending on the type of insurance being applied for. If a decision is difficult, they may consult additional sources like medical records or credit scores. But, unlike Feffer does in the movie, they will probably not spend quality time on the racquetball court with the client or watch the client parachute off a building to determine the riskiness of their lifestyle. If a more sedate career in life insurance appeals to you, you find out more here.

Download the free eBook, Getting There from Here: Career Path Stories from Finance Professionals, to get firsthand accounts of what it's like to have a rewarding career in finance.

Harold Crick – Stranger Than Fiction (Auditor)

In Stranger Than Fiction, Harold Crick (Will Ferrell) audits Ana Pascal’s (Maggie Gyllenhaal) bakery for the IRS. An independent auditor, like Harold Crick, is brought into an organization to report on whether the financial statements are presented fairly and are in compliance with government regulations. Some auditors are employed through the IRS and audit organizations that have not been compliant, like Pascal’s bakery. Other times, organizations will hire an auditor to come in because it provides investors and lenders with enhanced confidence in the financial statements. An auditor talks to management to get an understanding of the organization, operations, financial reporting, and any known errors. They do tasks like evaluating procedures, observing inventory counts, and testing documentation supporting account balances, all of which can be seen in the movie.

Louis Tully – Ghostbusters I & II (Accountant)

Finance even plays a role in Ghostbusters. Although Louis Tully’s (Rick Moranis) character is primarily focused on being possessed by The Gatekeeper in the original Ghostbusters, he is an accountant. In Ghostbusters II, Louis becomes a personal accountant and tax attorney for the Ghostbusters. What does a personal accountant do exactly? They monitor and record the flow of money through an organization or for an individual. Accountants verify the accuracy of money transactions, make sure transactions are all legal, and ensure they comply with government regulations. Personal accountants also provide financial guidance and advice to help individuals or organizations save money, which can be seen in Ghostbusters II.

Tim Lippe – Cedar Rapids (Insurance Agent)

Tim Lippe (Ed Helms) is a small-town insurance agent from Iowa in the comedy Cedar Rapids. Although Lippe spends the majority of the movie at an annual insurance convention in the “big city” of Cedar Rapids, IA, his portrayal of an insurance sales agent is still noteworthy. Insurance agents work with clients to find the right insurance products to suit the clients’ needs. Agents also spend a lot of time marketing their services and building their network. One of the best ways to build a network is to keep clients happy and build up a solid reputation, resulting in free word of mouth advertising. This is why the stakes are so high to bring home the convention’s top award in Cedar Rapids. Wondering what Tim Lippe had to do to become an insurance agent? You can discover the answer here.

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Posted by KAplan Financial Education - February 28, 2019
An office movie set with lights, cameras, and a desk.

Common Entry-Level Jobs in Finance

If you are fresh out of college or soon-to-be out of college with a finance degree, you have many relevant career options available to you. The trick is to know what entry-level jobs to look for. This article is designed to help you figure out what your ideal first job is and how to find those jobs in your search.

Financial Analyst

Financial analyst jobs come in many forms…you could take a job with a bank, buy-side or sell-side investment firm, insurance company, investment bank, and so on. The general tasks of this job remain consistent though regardless of where you work. A financial analyst will do research on stocks or companies and make recommendations on whether to buy, sell, strong buy, strong sell, or hold certain stocks. If you have an analytical mind, love research and statistics, and are comfortable presenting your findings to others, this job may be for you. When doing job research, know that financial or investment analyst jobs may have the word junior in front of them to signify entry-level.

Tax Associate

A tax associate assists in the preparation of corporate, partnership, or individual tax returns to ensure clients or employers are compliant with IRS regulations. There are tax associate jobs available at accounting firms that do individual tax returns or at large organizations where the focus is on ensuring payroll is done with proper tax setups and deductions. Another common term for tax associate is tax accountant. If you enjoy researching tax laws, helping others, and preparing financial statements, this may be a great fit for you. When researching tax associate or tax accountant jobs, the word junior may be in front of either of those job titles to signify entry-level as well.

Download the free eBook, Getting There from Here: Career Path Stories from Finance Professionals, to get firsthand accounts of what it's like to have a rewarding career in finance.

Financial Advisor

A financial advisor works with clients to determine their financial goals and creates a plan to achieve those goals. The advisor helps clients determine their assets, liabilities, income, and expenses. Then, the advisor puts together this information into a comprehensive plan for investing and saving. While you can become a financial advisor without an advanced designation, like the CFP® certification, you will need to pass regulatory licensing exams, such as the Series 66, in order to sell products like mutual funds and annuities. Many firms hire advisors and put them through training programs to help them pass licensing exams. To be a successful financial advisor, you should have excellent communication skills, an analytical mind, and enjoy interacting with people from all walks of life. Financial advisor jobs may also be called financial planners and could also have junior in them as well. Get more details on becoming a financial advisor.

Personal Banker

Personal bankers help clients manage their money in order to balance financial risks and returns. Some typical tasks of a personal banker involve getting customer information for new loans, selling financial products and services to customers, explaining bank services, and helping with new accounts, loans, bonds, and securities. To sell financial products, a personal banker will need to pass FINRA securities qualification exams, such as the SIE and Series 6 or 7. This may be covered by the employer after getting hired. Other titles you may find in your job search for this type of position include financial representative or securities, commodities, and financial services sales agents. A personal banker also needs customer service skills, solid financial knowledge, and good problem-solving abilities.

Financial Auditor

Auditors check the work of accountants. They follow an organization’s cash flow from beginning to end to ensure all funds are properly accounted for. External auditors focus on the accuracy of an organization’s financial statements, while internal auditing covers internal controls and ways to improve financial management as well. An entry-level auditor may work closely with more senior auditors to learn the ropes of the business and support their needs.  If you enjoy analyzing information, possess strong attention to detail, and have solid integrity, this may be a good entry-level route for you.

 

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Posted by Kaplan Financial Education - February 28, 2019
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How to Choose a Finance Career

The financial services industry is full of career options, which can make choosing a career path more challenging. This article will help you through the process of narrowing down your interests to find the right finance career.

Determine what success looks like to you

Before you set out to figure out your finance career path, it is good to reflect on what success means to you. While we’re bombarded with messages from family, friends, TV, movies, and books about what success is, the reality is that it is different for everyone. The trick is to figure out what truly makes you feel fulfilled and accomplished. Is it helping people reach a goal? Is it crunching numbers independently so business leaders can make better informed decisions? Not only is knowing what success means to you important, but so is knowing what kind of lifestyle you want. Is having a high paying job important to you? Is having work-life balance important? Do you want predictable hours or flexibility in your schedule? Knowing the answers to these types of questions will help you determine what finance career would be most fulfilling and best fit your lifestyle goals.

Do research on the industry

Once you have done the work of figuring out how you define success and your lifestyle goals, then it is a good idea to do research on what kinds of jobs are available. Internet research is a good starting place for finding out what type of jobs are out there and what types of job tasks and hours would be expected from you. The Bureau of Labor Statistics has a great database explaining what the day-to-day tasks associated with different jobs are, as well as the projected employment growth for the next decade. You can start your research by reading our articles about what you can do with a finance career, common entry-level finance jobs, and finance jobs you might not have heard of.

Download the free eBook, Getting There from Here: Career Path Stories from Finance Professionals, to get firsthand accounts of what it's like to have a rewarding career in finance.

Informational interview

After doing some Internet research on the industry and creating a list of interesting potential jobs, you should consider setting up informational interviews with people in the field. While reading about a career is helpful, getting the perspective of people in the industry is even more insightful. You can ask to job shadow professionals and get a feel for what their day-to-day work life is really like.

Internships

After conducting informational interviews, you should have an even clearer picture of the right finance career for you. The best way to gain some experience and test a finance career path for yourself is by doing an internship. This will help you build your finance resume and polish your professional skills. You will also be able to build a professional network and get a foot in the door at a financial firm, which will only help your chances of landing a finance job at the end of your undergraduate program.

Choosing a finance career can seem daunting at first, but it does not have to be overwhelming. Start broadly by thinking about what matters most to you in a career, and then weed out options that don’t make sense for you. Doing informational interviews and internships will give you more confidence that your finance career path is what you want. Occasionally, you will end up in a job you thought you would like, but don’t...and that’s okay! You can always move on to something new, and you’ll have even more insight about yourself that can help you throughout the rest of your career. 

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Posted by Kaplan Financial Education - February 28, 2019
Man deciding which finance career to pursue

What Can You Do with a Finance Degree?

The career opportunities are endless for college graduates with a finance degree. From investment banking to insurance companies, organizations are looking for young professionals with a strong foundation in business and an understanding of accounting and finance. In this article, we will provide an overview of some of the job options for someone with a finance degree.

Financial Analyst

Financial analysts evaluate the data trends and the performance of stocks, bonds, and other types of investments to help businesses or individuals make investment decisions. There are two types of financial analysts: buy-side analysts and sell-side analysts. Buy-side analysts create investment strategies for businesses that have a lot of money to invest, such as hedge funds or insurance companies. Sell-side analysts advise financial service sales agents who sell stocks, bonds, and other investments. Often, financial analysts focus on trends affecting a specific industry, region of the world, or type of product. This could include areas like the pharmaceutical industry, Southeast Asia, or foreign exchange markets. As a financial analyst, you would spend a lot of time analyzing data trends, preparing reports, and meeting with investors or management to make investment recommendations. You can get more details about what a financial analyst does here.

Personal Financial Advisor

Personal financial advisors help individuals manage their finances and provide advice on investments, insurance, mortgages, college savings, taxes, estate planning, and retirement. Personal financial advisors are responsible for investing their clients’ money based on their clients’ decisions. Advisors then monitor client investments and meet with clients periodically to review their investment performance and make changes accordingly. Some personal financial advisors are licensed to directly buy and sell stocks, bonds, annuities, and insurance. In this role, you would spend a lot of time marketing your services, meeting with clients, and analyzing client investment performance. If you're interested in this career, learn more about how to become a financial advisor.

Download the free eBook Getting There from Here: Career Path Stories from Finance Professionals.

Securities, Commodities, and Financial Services Sales Agents

Job Outlook (2014-24): 10%
Median Pay (2015): $63,780

Securities, commodities, and financial services sales agents connect buyers and sellers in financial markets. They sell securities to individuals, advise companies looking for investors, and conduct trades. Securities or commodities can be traded in two ways: electronically or on the floor of an exchange market like the New York Stock Exchange. There are many types of jobs in this field, including stockbrokers, investment bankers, floor brokers, investment banking traders, and financial services sales agents. If you're interested in a career in securities, you can find out about it here.

Insurance Industry

Job Outlook: 9% growth
Median Pay (2015): $49,820 annually

Insurance is often not associated with finance, but it is closely related. There are a number of career paths in the insurance industry that stem from finance. Risk managers and underwriters, for example, assess the risk associated with insuring a client. Insurance agents also do similar work to financial advisors, but they instead advise individuals or businesses on purchasing insurance policies to protect their assets. Agents may specialize in certain types of insurance, such as life and health, property and casualty, long-term care, or Medicare; or they may be generalists providing multiple types of products. Many insurance agents offer comprehensive financial planning services, including things like retirement planning, estate planning, and setting up pensions for businesses. Insurance agents may also get licensed to sell mutual funds, annuities, and other securities. If you choose to work in the insurance industry, you will spend a lot of time advising clients and analyzing risk.

If you are interested in pursuing an insurance career, check out our Insurance Agent Career At-a-Glance article. 

Professional Designations

Professional designations will help you differentiate yourself and advance your career in financial services. The following are three designations you could obtain after you complete your undergraduate degree in finance.

Chartered Financial Analyst® (CFA®)

The CFA® charter is a great designation to earn if you are interested in working for investment firms, broker-dealers, insurance companies, pension funds, or banks. Top employers of CFA charterholders include JP Morgan Chase, PricewaterhouseCoopers, and HBSC. The charter will boost your financial credentials and help you advance your career, but it is not easy to obtain. To earn the CFA charter, you must pass three level exams. Each exam is offered once a year in June and requires a year of preparation to pass. The CFA exams are very competitive, and pass rates are calculated on a curve. The CFA charter is a great way to differentiate yourself and prove your diligence and passion to an employer, as it is the most difficult financial designation to obtain. You should be prepared to study very hard for at least three years in order to obtain this desired designation.

To find out if the CFA charter is a good fit for you, check out our CFA resources.

CERTIFIED FINANCIAL PLANNER™ (CFP®)

If you want to provide investment advice or marketing investment products to individuals, the CFP® certification will help you differentiate yourself. A professional with the CFP® mark is qualified to provide clients with comprehensive financial and investment advice. CFP® certification is generally recognized as the highest standard in personal financial planning. To earn your certification, you must take six required education courses and pass the CFP® exam.

Read more about CFP® certification.

Certified Public Accountant (CPA)

If you are interested in climbing the corporate ladder in accounting or auditing, the CPA license would be a good option for you. The CPA exam covers a deep knowledge of accounting, auditing, and taxation. CPAs help individuals, government agencies, businesses, and non-profits remain financially secure by keeping good records, assisting with taxes, and properly filing required documents. There are different areas of specialization, including public accounting, corporate accounting, and business accounting. There are options within those areas, such as internal auditing, managerial accounting, tax accounting, or environmental accounting. Earning a CPA is rigorous—expect to do about 150 semester hours of instruction. It is possible to do these while in a bachelor’s or master’s program.

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Posted by Kaplan Financial Education - February 28, 2019
ipad and 3D charts illustrating a finance career