Photo on Pexels by Karolina Grabowska
By Nadine Burns, MBA, CFP®, and AIF®
When I started out in the financial industry, I was given a task so many who dreamed of this kind of career were given: Write down 100 names of personal friends and family. This was not for a reunion; this was a list to be used for my first sales calls. I thought this practice had ended, but then my daughter, a 2014 college graduate, was asked to write down her 100 names to call in her first year in the financial industry.
Is it a surprise, then, that the financial services industry in America reflects a wealthier demographic? If you grew up poor, or as a person of color, an immigrant, or a woman, you might not know 100 people who have the ability to buy something from you. And if your sales are not strong out of the box, you end up leaving the industry.
Currently, only six of 107 financial firms in the US have a female CEO. The Bureau of Labor Statistics reports that women represent 31% of U.S. financial advisors, but only 23% of Certified Financial Planner® Professionals. Both the Labor Department and the Certified Financial Planner® Board note that African Americans and Latinos make up less than 5% of financial professionals.
Traditionally, not many women and people of color have not been attracted to this industry because they did not have role models. There have been few to help them understand how to navigate the complex registration process and look for courses in the field of finance. The current education process in most business schools doesn’t even include preparation for the Financial Industry Regulatory Authority (FINRA) exams or the National Social Security Advisor (NSSA) exams, or instruction on Securities Exchange Commission regulatory policies. On top of that, the licensing process is tedious. Without a mentor or sponsor, it’s a labyrinth to navigate.
With today’s shifting demographics and financial complexity, we need financial professionals more than ever. In years past, retirees never had to worry about running out of money in retirement, but now we’ve gone from secured pensions to a system of 401k/401A retirement plans with investments that are often delegated to people who have little to no education in investment planning. There are so many ways to make decisions on Social Security income, Medicare planning options, and multiple types of life insurance. Over 69% of people don’t have a will, trust, or directives in place for end-of-life care and their eventual demise.
As the President of the Financial Planning Association in Michigan, I’ve been looking for ways to change the profile of our profession. We’re encouraging more schools to offer the Certified Financial Planner® Professional education curriculum. We’re speaking at colleges and mentoring students with scholarships to FPA events and registration programs to find out more about the industry as a career. It’s beginning to have an impact; according to FinancialPlanning.com, there’s been a recent 12% increase of Black and Latino CFP® Professionals, the highest ever.
But the average individual can also do more by looking for women and minority planners and vetting them in their search for a financial professional. Increased demand will also increase the focus of firms looking to hire members of those groups. Then someday, the financial industry of America will look more like the citizens of this great country and help them all become more financially fit.
Individuals can look for Certified Financial Planner® Professionals at GetAPlan.org, and can vet other professionals through Brokercheck.org and the Michigan licensing board at LARA.gov.
Nadine is a holistic advisor who looks at her clients’ entire financial picture and works on a roadmap to achieve their goals and dreams. She often deals with people in transition — those undergoing retirement, relationship changes, loss of a family member, employment changes, and much more. She is a University of Michigan graduate with an MBA and is a Certified Financial Planning® Professional (CFP®) as well as an Accredited Investment Fiduciary (AIF®.) Nadine is an independent financial planner and strives to put her clients first as a fiduciary. She’s active in her profession and is the current President of the Financial Planning Association for the State of Michigan. Nadine is also part of the Financial and Estate Planning Association of Metro Detroit, helping to ensure she has the most current knowledge in family, business, and estate planning.
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