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More education can give you more prestige as a financial advisor, but even more importantly, it gives you the knowledge and skills to better meet your clients’ needs. But what’s the best way to gain these skills? When is the right time to pursue additional designations? And how will the recently announced changes to designations affect your education opportunities?

Today’s guest can help you answer all of these questions. Jason Watt is the CEO and a full-time instructor at Business Career College, delivering web-based training to students across Canada who are in pursuit of their certifications. Jason has been at Business Career College since 2006 after 14 years serving in the Canadian Armed Forces. He also spends time providing pro bono financial planning services to disadvantaged populations. In today’s episode, you’ll hear what Jason has to say about the cost and time investments you’ll need to make to earn a CFP designation, how you can get more from your continuing education, and how to pick the best business model for your practice.

What You’ll Learn in This Episode:

  • The best time to start pursuing designations (6:45)
  • Two things the most successful students have in common (11:30)
  • What to prioritize when considering continuing education (15:00)
  • How changes in designations will affect the industry (17:20)
  • Why some people think they don’t need to continue learning ‒ and why they’re wrong (19:20)
  • How you can earn CFP Continuing Education credits by listening to a podcast (22:45)
  • The different advising models Jason has seen work (26:20)
  • Why it’s important to plan out your education (35:05)

Links and Resources:

Jason Watt

Business Career College

CE Drive With Jason Watt

Business Career College YouTube Channel

Quotes by Jason:

“Even if you’re in a fee-based or fee-only model, I think this is largely true: your first responsibility has to be to build a business.”

“If you feel like you’ve learned everything, that there’s nothing more for you to accomplish, then you’re going to be frustrated in class.”

“I would really love to see people plan out their education the same way that they help their clients to plan for retirement.”

Jason Watt has worked with many financial planners and advisors over the years as an instructor, and today he’s sharing why you should plan for your education just as you encourage your clients to plan their finances. Below, we’ll take you through three key points from the show:

  • Why it’s important to plan out your education
  • The best time to start pursuing designations
  • Two things the most successful students have in common

For the rest of the episode, find the podcast on iTunes or Stitcher, or hit the link above.

Why it’s important to plan out your education

In Jason’s experience, many planners and advisors don’t fully consider how their education affects their career. Often, people jump into new opportunities because of circumstance ‒ a flash sale on a course, a client or friend making a recommendation, or even a boring day at work. They’re not making intentional decisions based on their long-term goals.

Jason recommends identifying your business goals and figuring how education can help you achieve them. Just as you would tell your clients to plan out their own goals and finances, you want to think through some big questions, like:

  • What do I want to achieve?
  • Where are my pain points and challenges?
  • How can I best address these gaps?

This way, you ‒ and by extension, your clients ‒ will get the most out of your learning.

Furthermore, by taking the time to consider your options, you might find that you can achieve your goals with unconventional learning methods that you might not have considered.

For example, rather than seeking out traditional insurance continuing education to brush up on family law, you might benefit from training offered by a law firm or your province’s legal education society. Perhaps a financial planning conference in the US might have opportunities you’re looking for. By figuring out what gaps you’re trying to fill, you can be more intentional with your research and ultimately give yourself more options.

The best time to start pursuing designations

While everyone is different, and some individuals pursue a designation either as part of their post-secondary training or, on the other end of the spectrum, many years into their careers, Jason thinks the ideal time to pursue a designation is two to five years into your financial services career.

Spending a few years in the field gives you the time to figure out your business model, sit down with a variety of clients, and yes, make some mistakes. You’ll have an idea of your strengths, but you’ll also see what you have yet to learn.

Waiting until you’re a couple years into the business also gives you time to become profitable, which means you’ll have the funds to invest in courses and reduce your work a bit to manage your course load.

Hint: According to Jason, a CFP typically costs about $7,000 and takes 5-10 hours a week over a period of 18-24 months, so be sure you’re ready for the hit to your finances and time.

On the other hand, once people have spent longer than five years in their career, it can be easy to get stuck in a certain way of doing things and harder to accept new lessons and change. Additionally ‒ and this is a piece many people don’t realize ‒ once you have a set way of running your practice over a number of years, it can be difficult to rearrange things and fit such a big commitment into your life.

Of course, this is a big generalization, and Jason has seen planners and advisors at different points in their careers be very successful in their courses ‒ but overall, 2 to 5 years in seems to be the perfect window.

Two things the most successful students have in common

Regardless of when you decide to pursue a designation, Jason has identified three key traits that most of his successful students possess. They are:

  1. Willingness to commit: The reality is that earning a designation takes dedication. It’s important to be realistic about the time and effort that it will take and to commit to blocking that time into your schedule. Unexpected business and life events happen, but the most successful students are able to adjust to changes and prioritize. This doesn’t mean completely putting life on hold for a year or two, but rather being flexible and willing to stick with the program.
  2. Somebody who feels they have something to learn: While some people simply want to slug through courses to get those three letters behind their name, the most successful students go in eager to learn and understand that they don’t know everything. To get the most out of a program, Jason suggests going in with an open mind: “If you feel like you’ve learned everything, that there’s nothing more for you to accomplish, then you’re going to be frustrated in class.”

To hear more about Jason’s thoughts about designation envy, why teaching to the exam isn’t always a bad thing, and how his new podcast can earn you CFP Continuing Education credits, listen to the full episode here on this page or find the show on iTunes or Stitcher. And if you haven’t already, join our mailing list to get new episode notifications delivered right to your inbox.