A financial planning assistant primarily provides support to more senior financial planners, often in the form of research, drafting, and the completion of rote tasks. In nearly all cases, a financial planning assistant is something of a junior associate in a planning firm. The job is that of an entry-level consultant: assistants often have the training to be full-fledged planners in their own right, but lack the experience. It is in the assistant role that young professionals learn the ins and outs of investment strategy and learn to take on and manage clients of their own.
Although the term can have many connotations, “financial planning” in a job context usually refers to professional money management and investment counseling services. Financial planners act as advisers, helping people and corporations to make good financial decisions. Some are focused more on investments, while others work on basic budgeting and money savings strategies. In all cases, professionals need a lot of training. Assistant jobs are often planners' first jobs out of school.
Different planning firms run their hiring programs differently, but there are usually two main types of financial planning assistant jobs: assistants who work on teams, often collecting information for various projects at once, and those that work directly for more senior planners, often in something of a mentorship or direct training relationship. In either case, the financial planning assistant duties are similar. Assistants work on learning the trade, and understanding the company’s policies and practices.
A lot of the financial planning assistant job depends on observation. The assistant, true to title, is usually charged with assisting other more senior planners. This often involves reading through client files, researching various options, and collecting information on different planning strategies. Assistants usually sit in on meetings with clients, but rarely ever have clients of their own. Their main job function is to learn the nuances of a certain kind of financial planning.
Though assistants are generally considered junior-level employees, they must usually be fully qualified, educationally speaking, for promotion to independent planner. A degree in finance or accounting is almost always one of the core requirements. An interest in or some experience with a given firm’s main planning areas is also helpful.
The assistant position gives new graduates a chance to hone their skills and develop a niche. Financial planning is a broad discipline, and can be hard to break into even with specialized education. Rules, protocol, and conventions vary tremendously by jurisdiction, and even within jurisdiction, by discipline. Planning strategies for a company are different than those for a family, for instance, just as small businesses have different planning needs than charity groups. Many planners accept assistant jobs as a way to further their education in a specific area.