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The Toronto Sun CareerConnection

Today's financial planners must commit to continuous learning

By Aprille Janes
Special to The Toronto Sun

Looking for a mentally-stimulating profession where you can make a real difference in people's lives? Financial planning may be your answer.

The financial expertise and knowledge requirements are broad-based, but excellent people skills are essential. An individual with the Certified Financial Planner designation must be committed to continuous development and learning, as well as to their clients.
Financial planner Bradley Roulston enjoys the flexibility afforded by his profession.

"Financial planners look at an individual's finances and their management. Then, along with their client, they put together a plan to help them manage their finances and reach their life goals. There is a special trust involved with this kind of activity," says Ann Bowman, v.-p. of the Financial Planners Standards Council.

In Ontario, financial planning is an unregulated industry. The CFP designation is the only internationally recognized designation, and an assurance of a high level of competence and commitment to a code of ethics.

"This is a professional designation and not an educational credential. An educational credential is yours no matter what you do and how much you've forgotten. With the CFP designation, there is ongoing monitoring of professional behaviour and the skills the designation requires."

Your first step towards earning the CFP designation is completing an FPSC registered educational program, unless you already hold a degree or professional designation. Recognised designations are CA, CGA, CMA, CFA, CLU, PhD in finance, economics or business, or membership of a provincial law society. In addition to these, you must also have three years of related work experience.

In Ontario, there are a number of post-secondary institutions that offer distance and/or classroom courses.

In Toronto, contact Seneca College, George Brown College or Ryerson University for more information. Outside Toronto, you'll find programs at Wilfrid Laurier University in Waterloo, Laurentian University in Sudbury and Fanshawe College in London.

Graduates are eligible to write the CFP Exam -- a rigorous six-hour test administered by the FPSC. Exams are held twice a year and in both official languages. Two years of practical experience related to financial planning are also required, but can be obtained before or after writing the exam.

"After earning the designation, planners must adhere to a code of ethics that we monitor. They also commit to 30 hours of professional development every year to maintain their annual license," Bowman says.

Certified Financial Planning Program

Canadian Institute of Financial Planning
The Certified Financial Planner Program

Institute of Canadian Bankers (ICB)

Canadian Securities Institute
Professional Financial Planning Program

Seneca College of Applied Arts & Technology

George Brown College

Ryerson University
416.979.5000 x 7563

Wilfrid Laurier University
519.884.0710 ext. 2561

Laurentian University
705.675.1151 ext. 2144

Fanshawe College

If this sounds intimidating consider the rewards. A quality-of-life survey conducted last year by the FPSC highlighted the amount of flexibility the career offers, including where and how you work, the clients you take on, where you apply your skills and the income potential.

The job outlook for the future is excellent as well. Baby boomers are looking for advice as they approach retirement and want to maximize their income potential. The job market itself is far from saturated, and at least one-third of current planners are approaching retirement themselves, creating new opportunities for younger planners.

Bradley Roulston is celebrating his first year as a financial planner by putting his own unique stamp on the profession.

"I got into financial planning as a pure fluke. I received a free ticket to a motivational speaking series and was all pumped up. When I came home, my parents' life insurance rep was over. I asked her a lot of questions about the business and went in to meet her manager who eventually became my boss."

Roulston soon realised he enjoyed the planning aspects of his new career and moved to a brokerage house, working with IT professionals.

"Then I started planning for kinesiologists, occupational and physical therapists and now speech pathologists. I'm a marathon runner with a degree in recreational and leisure studies from Brock University. I share a common interest in a healthy lifestyle with my clients. There aren't too many professions that give you this kind of flexibility and control over your time and who you work with," Roulston says.

If you'd like a career helping people achieve financial dignity, visit and look into earning your Certified Financial Planner designation.

(Aprille Janes is a freelance writer based in Port Perry. She can be reached at

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