A College for Financial Planning survey found that its graduates experienced a 16% jump in earnings after achieving CFP status.

The college's 2024 Survey of Trends also found that  a third of certified financial planners joined the industry because they had a desire to help people manage their finances and plan for their retirement.

“In the 25-plus years that we have been publishing the Survey of Trends, several characteristics have remained consistent. A financial certification or professional designation leads to greater earnings and additional clients,” Dirk Pantone, president of the College, wrote in the survey report. “Respondents have reported this year after year, and the latest survey was no different.”

The college surveyed 953 of its graduates for the survey. Roughly half of the respondents were 34 years old or younger, and only 10% were 55 or older. Some 60% of respondents were male. And 88% reported they are currently a practicing financial services professional.

The most commonly held licenses and credentials were securities licenses, held by 44% of respondents; the CFP designation, held by 41%; insurance licenses, held by 24%; the chartered retirement planning counselor (CRPC) designation, held by 17%; and the accredited asset management specialist (AAMS) designation, held by 13%.

Since earning their most recent credential, 69% of respondents reported being more satisfied with their career. For the CFP designation specifically, 82% were more satisfied, as were 71% for the CRPC designation.

And 72% of all graduates said they saw an increase in their client base following their designation achievement.

“The whole reason we started the survey is to understand the importance of education for financial advisor,” Pantone said in an interview, adding that trends impact the kinds of designations the College offers. “In 2023, retirement was the most popular, with about 3,000 advisors getting our CRPC designation.”

Another 2,400 went for the asset management program, and 2,000 sought the financial paraplanner qualified professional designation, he said.

When it came to formulating the survey questions, Pantone said the College made some changes to reflect the kinds of conversations its graduates and designation holders have.

“We did a couple of things we hadn’t done in the past, such as we had a section on diversity and inclusion,” he said. “It’s been really interesting to see so much talk in the industry about diversity because for so long we were only middle-aged white men. But 50% of respondents thought we were doing enough to bring in a more diverse demographic,” he said.

There also were questions about artificial intelligence, which didn’t even exist at the time of the prior survey. Even now the College is working on a curriculum about the use of AI, including good prompt writing, Pantone said. The survey found that 32% of financial professionals thought the rise of AI is the biggest challenge facing the industry in the next five year, while only 6% thought it was the lack of succession planning.

To that last point, 83% believe the succession planning is really important for transitioning clients or parts of the business when a partner retires, but just about 50% said their firm has such a plan.

Other key findings were that 89.6% of respondents work for a financial services firm rather than fly solo, and 90% of them are involved in financial plan creation as their primary role.

When it comes to earnings, the majority of respondents—52%—make a living through a combination of fees and commissions. Some 42% are fee-only, and only 5% are commission-only.

The average planner has 140 clients, though 20% have a client load of 250. The typical client is a salaried professional, with 88% between 40 and 69 years of age. Fifty-one percent have income between $100,000 and $200,000, while just 21% have income between $200,000 and $300,000. And 47% have a net worth greater than $1 million, though 37% fall between $500,000 and $1 million in net worth.

Respondents reported the three biggest client concerns are investment and asset growth, retirement funding and taxes, the survey found.

And when it comes to self-evaluation and career development, respondents said the most important areas of skill development were training related to soft skills, such as marketing and communicating with clients, financial education, and stackable credential programs where they could earn a higher level of credential by taking additional courses.

“I’m always very pleased when I look at the surveys,” Pantone said. “Less than 10% go in because they want to make money, and that makes me very happy. These people have very high career standards.”