By Jeffrey H. Rattiner
Reviewed by Gary W. Silverman, CFP®
In this updated edition of Getting Started as a Financial Planner, Jeffrey H. Rattiner begins with the question of why someone would want to be a financial planner. Having begun bringing in interns from our local university, I have often asked them the same question. Often, I find that they have no idea what it is to be a financial planner. My reading of this book began as a quest to see if this would be a book that could explain the breadth of the planning profession to these students.
Rattiner is well qualified to write this book, being a CPA, CFP certificant, and having an MBA degree. He was the director of professional development for the Institute of Certified Financial Planners and was the director of technical standards for the PFP division of the AICPA. You may know him better as a columnist for Financial Planning magazine.
Most people reading this book review have already gotten started as a financial planner. The combinations of how we started, our previous experiences, our education, the types of practices we started in, and the services we performed, are endless.
While a new planner might still come from an unrelated field (I was a training supervisor at a nuclear power plant), these days they might have a degree in planning at the bachelor's, master's, or even doctorate level. With the growth of the industry, more and more entry-level jobs are available—a far cry from days of old when about the only way to truly be a planner was to hang your own shingle. It was with these thoughts that I began my review of Rattiner's book.
On its cover flap, the book states, "Getting Started as a Financial Planner has everything you need to know…in order to launch your career in financial planning…." Could he deal with the myriad possibilities new planners face? Could this book have made my entry into this field smoother? Satisfying my examination is one thing, but is the book readable, understandable, and attractive to its target audience: the planning neophyte? (At the end of this review is one written by my intern, Alex Carracedo, to answer that last question.)
The book begins with "The World of Financial Planning," an overview of the progress of the profession and the economics of our clients. This chapter helps in quickly identifying the potential, the challenge, and the trends of the planning career.
Chapter two, "Foundations of a Financial Planning Career," lists "Ten Must-Dos" for structuring a successful financial planning business. This lays out the outline for the rest of the book as it examines and builds on each of these must-do's. Throughout, the book is very organized and broad in its coverage of planning issues. It is an easy read, packed with facts and wisdom, and never talks down to the reader.
However, I think a better title would have been Starting a Financial Planning Practice, as it assumes that the reader will form their own firm, not start with an established one. With so many graduates starting with established firms, I would have liked to see discussions on landing a job, dealing with the boss and peers, what the first years as a planner look like, and how to develop yourself inside a firm.
That isn't to say this book would not be valuable to someone seeking a job at an established practice. It would be a great read in preparation for the job-search process to help the job seeker determine the type of practice that most closely fits his or her abilities and interests. It would also be a good jumping-off point for the new advisor and his or her internal mentor to discuss why their company operates as it does.
Getting Started as a Financial Planner also would be excellent required reading for those in the introductory phases of a financial planning degree (though it would have less usefulness later in the education process).
So, in the end, will Rattiner's book get the new entrant in the field up and running with a successful practice? Yes and no. By itself, the complexities of starting any business are so great that no book of a "mere" 300-plus pages can accomplish such a feat. Every chapter would have to be expanded into a book of its own to have any chance of doing so. But any building needs a firm foundation upon which to build, and this book is such a foundation. And with a good foundation, you have a chance of building a structure that will survive—without it, the building will eventually fall.
I can easily recommend this book to someone entering the financial planning profession.
Now on to our intern, Alex Carracedo. What did a member of the book's target market think of it? He was rather impressed:
A Certified Financial Planner certificant must know a little bit of everything in order to relate to many different types of clients. One thing that I think is taken for granted is how to start as a financial planner.
This summer, when I started my internship I thought it would be easy to learn everything I needed to know to become a successful financial planner. I was under the impression that a CFP professional just helped clients with investments and financial plans. I had no idea financial planners had to deal with compliance, fee structures, marketing plans, or risk tolerance tests! But this book helped to show me the light.
This book covers all possible subjects in the financial planning field. Several chapters even include example tests, financial plans, and compliance documents that help provide even more information. These pictures and graphs help beginning planners or students interested in the field understand what the whole picture may be. I know that when I get started as a financial planner after graduate school, I will definitely use every bit of advice that this book has to offer. Overall, Getting Started As A Financial Planner by Jeffrey Rattiner is definitely a must-have for someone starting off in this industry.
On a side note, at the end of the book is a 40-question test that provides three hours of continuing education credit. When I went on the Bloomberg Web site to take the test, I noticed that the login did not request my SSN or my CFP license number. As they are a registered CE provider, I wondered if they were electronically submitting my CE credits (yes, I passed) to the CFP Board, as required these days. According to John Crutcher, they are in the process of moving their CE tests to a new system that will provide for transmitting the information to the CFP Board. It should be up and running by the time you read this.
Gary W. Silverman, CFP®, owns a fee-only financial planning firm in Wichita Falls, Texas. He is the host of the television show Falls Informer, editor of the financial newsletter Personal Money Planning, and a frequent contributor to the print and broadcast media. Gary also teaches university courses in finance and management.
$39.95 U.S., $56 Can.