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How to Become a Financial Advisor in California


Being a financial advisor can be a career that helps people achieve their financial goals. And you’ll learn facts that will improve your own finances, too. To become a financial advisor, every state may have its own slightly different requirements to sell securities or recommend investments. Financial advisors in California must satisfy education, examination, experience and ethics requirements. Here’s a breakdown of what you need in 2023 to begin your career as a financial advisor in California. Consider working with a financial advisor as you create or update financial and estate plans.

Learn About Financial Planning Topics

Being a good financial advisor means that you understand the financial concerns of your clients. Based on your education and knowledge, you’ll be able to offer better solutions to their problems. A degree in accounting, finance or a related field helps you understand how the financial industry works. Many colleges offer bachelor’s, master’s or Ph.D. degrees in these subjects.

As you work towards your degree, you’ll take a variety of classes. These classes provide knowledge that you’ll use in your career as a financial advisor, including:

  • Accounting
  • Business ethics
  • Business law
  • Computer information systems
  • Economics
  • Finance
  • Marketing
  • Taxation

It should be noted that this is not a requirement to become a financial advisor,, but it’s a great first step to give you the foundational knowledge you’ll need later.

Find a Firm Willing to Sponsor You

The best approach to becoming a financial advisor is to work with a financial services firm. Most firms have programs to speed up your education and improve your chances of passing licensing exams. Partnering with a firm can make the process easier for you while giving the firm a secure growth plan by adding another advisor at the entry-level of the field.

In most cases, you’ll be in a group of other aspiring financial advisors, which can make learning easier. The firm generally handles all of your registrations and paperwork, which takes the pressure off of you so you can focus on studying. Plus, it ensures that you don’t miss any of the crucial steps along the way.

Take the Required Exams

how to become a financial advisor in california

The Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) requires securities licenses for financial advisors because the sale and recommendation of financial securities are involved. The Securities Regulation Division of the California Department of Corporations and the SEC administer these licenses.

To become a financial advisor, you must pass the following exams:

  • Series 65, Uniform Investment Adviser Law Examination, or
  • Series 7, General Securities Representative Examination (requires FINRA-member firm sponsorship) and the Series 66, Uniform Combined State Law Examination

People with the following professional designations do not have to take the exams listed above:

If you want to sell insurance products, there is an insurance license exam as well.

What to Do After Becoming a Financial Advisor

Now that you’ve passed your exams, you can legally start selling securities and recommending investments in order to work as a financial advisor. However, there is still plenty to learn and be aware of so that you can best serve your clients. There are also ongoing requirements you should be aware of so that your certifications don’t lapse and that you can continue to work as a financial advisor. Let’s look at the next four things you should do after becoming a financial advisor.

1. Pay the California Investment Advisor Fee

Financial advisors based in California must pay fees to the Investment Adviser Registration Depository (“IARD”). The first year’s fee is $125. Additionally, you must pay a $125 renewal fee each December to keep your license active. If you haven’t paid this fee then you technically won’t be able to provide certain services until this is paid.

2. Train With an Experienced Financial Advisor

Although you passed your exams to become a financial advisor, that doesn’t mean that you’re ready to work with clients. In most cases, you will train with an experienced financial advisor for a set period of time before you graduate to work alone.

When you get started, you’ll shadow an experienced financial advisor. They’ll invite you to appointments to learn how they work with clients. During these meetings, you’ll learn how they probe for questions and offer solutions to client problems. Shadowing successful financial advisors is an excellent way to learn best practices for your business.

After a period of time, you have the opportunity to take the lead on client calls while the mentor watches how you perform. They are there to answer questions you don’t know the answer to and ensure that you complete all of your paperwork properly. Additionally, they’ll provide feedback on how to improve for future client meetings.

3. Meet All Continuing Education Requirements

Financial advisors must continue their education each year with additional classes. These classes provide updates on changing laws and regulations. Plus, they refresh topics that you may have forgotten. Some firms also require non-financial classes, such as ethics, that may be important to the firm.

4. Start Booking Appointments With Clients

Once you’ve earned your licenses and gained some experience, it is time to start meeting with clients. Many financial advisors start working with family, friends and co-workers first. These potential clients trust you, and you may already have some knowledge of their finances. If you do a good job, they’ll reward you with referrals to their family and friends. This ripple effect helps you grow your business and reach others who need your advice.

Bottom Line

how to become a financial advisor in california

You can have a rewarding career in financial services. You’ll help clients achieve their financial goals, and the knowledge you gain through your work can help you reach your own financial goals as well. It’s important to properly plan out what you’ll need, including the money required, to create the right path toward reaching your goal of becoming a financial advisor.

Tips for Becoming a Financial Advisor

  • Speaking to a financial advisor could be a great way to learn how to get to where you want to go. Finding a financial advisor doesn’t have to be hard. SmartAsset’s free tool matches you with up to three vetted financial advisors who serve your area, and you can have a free introductory call with your advisor matches to decide which one you feel is right for you. If you’re ready to find an advisor who can help you achieve your financial goals, get started now.
  • When running your own business, it is important to understand how taxes impact your income. Our California income tax calculator helps you estimate your tax liability by answering a few simple questions.

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