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Certified Financial Planner™ Program Instructor Spotlight: Ben Clark

Certified Financial Planner™ Program Instructor Spotlight: Ben Clark

With the need for financial planning services at an all-time high, individuals are looking to secure their financial future and they need a professional, competent advisor to get there. As a result, we are excited about the upcoming launch of our new Certified Financial Planner™ Program. With the class slated to begin Aug. 15, we were able to catch up with one of its expert instructors, Ben Clark. He will be covering the Retirement segment of the program along with the Capstone/Case Study portion. Here’s what he had to say:

Share your background and how it relates to this course? Why is it important for you to teach this?
I have been in financial services for more than 30 years and in the securities business over 10. I obtained my CFP designation in 2011 and was teaching by the end of that year. I have always enjoyed teaching and mentoring and sought out an opportunity when I was credentialed. I have taught at Emory and Oglethorpe in their CFP Certificate Programs and my classes have included investment planning, insurance planning, retirement planning and fundamentals.

The reason I teach is twofold: First, I learn a lot! Most students are in the business and I get to learn how they perform their management. Secondly, I really do love to teach and watch students develop in their knowledge. The courses are hard and when you see the lights turn on in someone’s eyes — when you see that they “get it” — it’s as rewarding to me having guided them as it is to them in accomplishing a goal.

Ben Clark, MBA, CFP®

Ben Clark, MBA, CFP®

What advice can you give students who want to successfully complete this course?
Plan to study. Even those with many years of experience will learn new details. The CFP Board wants us to know the working of things we take for granted or just read from a summary. Ratios are not merely understood, but students walk away knowing how to calculate them. Those are just examples. I cannot overstate that in my many years of experience there are primarily two types of students that are unsuccessful:

  1. Those who cannot arrange enough time to study
  2. Those who take it too lightly because they think they know it all.

To be successful, plan to study. Forming study groups is often helpful as well.

Discuss what students will learn in the sections you teach and why it’s vital.
Retirement: Most of us working in the business know about 401(k) plans, IRAs, etc., but there are other plans available that are best for given situations and we need to know them all. You will gain in depth knowledge about the need for retirement planning, the goals to set and which plan(s) to use to help someone meet their goals.

Capstone: The practical exercise/wrap up. This course can be a lot of fun! Students are given case studies and take turns being the advisor and being the client – guiding “clients” through the planning process. There are two major projects that are written plans. Each week has role playing and discussion. It comes at the end because the material learned in all of the other modules are expected to be used. This is not learning new material so much as it is practical application of the knowledge gained. This is final preparation for someone to be able to generate plans and to better know what is expected on the Board Exam.

 Who is the ideal student for this course?
There are two. First, those in the industry. I think three to five years of experience is a good place to start the course. Personally, I sat for the exam right at four years. I started the course just under three years. They must be in a place where they can take the time to attend class and study. Weekends are for group study.

Secondly, career changers. To stand out as an applicant for your first securities job, having “Candidate for the CFP® certification” on your résumé is a big plus. In fact, one can start their own firm from scratch if they wish. The CFP® Certification opens doors.

What advice can you provide for passing the CFP exam?
Do well in the classes. Review material you are weak on. Ten weeks or so before the exam you plan to take, enroll in a good review course. Take a lot of practice exams!

What type of career advice can you give to those in the field?
To be a fiduciary responsible for other people’s money is a big responsibility. Getting the right education is the right first step. Because of the awesome responsibility, people in the industry need to be appropriately compensated — and they are.

As more baby boomers move to retirement, they seek more qualified advisors. So there are plenty of people seeking help. You can work too hard and make a lot of money in a career, but we teach our clients that life is about more than money. Sure, having enough is important, but being able to work less than 40 hour weeks and being able to take family time off — school plays, sports, vacations and more — all of that is important.

So, set your own goals, plan to work harder than most people will work for a few years and then live better than most people live for the rest of your life. Not necessarily richer, but better. Always do what is right for you clients and you will do well.

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