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The Importance of Lifelong Learning for Financial Advisors

Lifelong learning not only adds to your value as an employee and advisor, but it also helps enrich your life. What’s your lifelong learning plan?

Over the past few weeks, I have seen a lot of LinkedIn posts about advisors who have passed their CFP exam. Congratulations to you all! Celebrate your accomplishment and then plan your next educational opportunity. Wait, what? So soon? Can’t I take a few months off to relax?

No, you should not. For a couple reasons:

  1. You are in the habit of spending time increasing your knowledge, so don’t stop now or it will be harder to add back into your schedule.
  2. It’s conference season—one of the best ways to gain knowledge! And see people, as many conferences are in person after two years of virtual events.

The discipline of financial planning constantly evolves, with new tax laws, regulations, investments (crypto anyone?) and a fluid economic environment. Not to mention your growing client base and the individuality of those clients’ needs and beliefs.

You may have heard the term lifelong learning. I get marketing messages about classes from my alma mater constantly. It’s better than donation requests, but what does lifelong learning really mean, and why should you adopt it?

There are several definitions; my favorite is from Wikipedia:

Lifelong learning is the "ongoing, voluntary and self-motivated pursuit of knowledge for either personal or professional reasons. It is important for an individual's competitiveness and employability, but also enhances social inclusion, active citizenship and personal development.”

Lifelong learning means you look forward to opportunities to increase your potential, to change your beliefs or thought processes. This can happen by learning new concepts, rethinking old ones and by meeting and listening to new people. This applies to both your personal and professional development. Gaining skills that make you more self-confident leads to more happiness and greater self-awareness, which helps you with clients. Continuous learning makes your skill set more marketable but, more importantly, makes you smarter for your clients as well as yourself.

Becoming a lifelong learner allows you to gain skills and knowledge on your path to become your best self. For now. Until you get better again.

How Can You Become a Lifelong Learner?

You spent time in school; you know the drill. You have it in you already; you just need to be intentional about improvement and harness your curiosity.

  • Develop a growth mindset.
    • Try new things regularly. A vacation to a new country is a great excuse to learn a new language. Embrace life’s changes and challenges and be open to feedback when learning new skills. Develop a list of new things to learn, instead of a list of shows you want to binge. Visualize how you will feel when you have learned a new skillset.
  • Own it.
    • You have responsibility over your development and future. That means you need to make a commitment to continuous learning. Pay attention to what works best for your learning style and create the right environment. Do you prefer to listen to podcasts or take online classes? Maybe book learning and note taking work for you. Or are in-person classes or conference sessions where you can ask questions your learning method? Find your style.
  • Practice.
    • There are many options to fit into your schedule. Make sure you schedule learning just like you do exercise and client relationships. Consistency is important. Don’t forget to apply what you are learning to make sure you are putting your new skills to use.

Support Lifelong Learning in Others

As a leader, you should encourage the pursuit of more skills with your teams. As an advisor, you know that your client’s greatest asset is their own earning power.

Create an environment where your team feels supported in their learning agenda. Meet to figure out the best individual development plan for each associate. This should be a self-directed plan that the associate is responsible for creating. You can support the plan by ensuring you have a budget to invest in their learning, whether it is for classes, conferences, continuing education, or additional degrees or designations. Introduce them to other leaders for mentorship or job-shadowing opportunities. Encourage them to network outside your offices, in the community and profession.

You can do a similar exercise with your clients. Have them complete an assessment of their own career and ask questions to make them think about their future:

  • What will their industry look like in two years? Five years? 10 years?
  • Do they have the skillset to compete? What do they need to add?
  • How can they invest in their future learning?
  • Is their current career fulfilling, or are they considering a change? What will that require? Education funding should not be just for the children and grandchildren.

Be the advisor that shows your client you understand their value.

Lifelong learning not only adds to your value as an employee and advisor, but it also helps enrich your life. What’s your lifelong learning plan?

“The illiterate of the 21st century will not be those who cannot read and write, but those who cannot learn, unlearn, and relearn.” —Alvin Toffler

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