For those people over 50 battling ageism in the workplace, it can be incredibly refreshing to discover a career where maturity is expected and even encouraged.
Welcome to the world of financial planning. This burgeoning career has proven to be a boon for workers leaving various financial sectors (and even humanity-based jobs) looking for a way to earn money on their own terms – and help others at the same time.
“It's one of the few industries where mature students are thought more highly of by clients than those that are younger,” says John Green, Curriculum Technical Adviser – Financial Planning at Kaplan Professional.
“With mature students, they've had an experience of life, they have looked after their own financial affairs, and I think that assists in some older students making a successful transition to becoming a planner.”
Kaplan Professional offers online education across a variety of sectors, including financial planning, and Green says that he feels that the older students often end up outperforming their younger peers.
And, contrary to popular belief, Green says mature students easily adapt to the technology involved in delivering the online courses.
“I think older students may have an initial difficulty, particularly if it's a technical course, in getting across the technical side and studying the materials, but what we do find is that they’re so much more disciplined, at times. They’re able to arrange their affairs a lot easier. And when you look at the results, and I can tell you from my own experience over many years teaching, many of the more senior members of a particular cohort do better than the younger ones.”
He adds that he often sees added enthusiasm for the subject in the more mature students.
“Sometimes they may have been working in an environment for many years where they haven't really particularly liked what they did, and all of a sudden this thing called financial planning comes along,” he says. “And financial planning kind of mirrors the world around us.”
Most of the students doing the financial planning course have a financial background, Green says, but it’s not essential.
“When you're talking about some of our more introductory courses, we don't have any prerequisites. We do counsel people as to what would be expected of them in terms of assessments and so on in the content and the material,” he adds.
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“It would assist if they had a background in finance of some sort. It might have been an economics degree, working in a financial services industry, it could be being an accountant, but not necessarily so, because I've seen many mature students who have had no qualifications rise right through the top and end up getting a masters degree.”
Green says that successful financial planners do need an interest in and a “good feel for numbers”, as well as, hopefully, some experience in investing, even if it’s just for themselves. However, he feels the biggest criteria is to be keen to help people.
“The wish to sincerely assist people in becoming more financially secure is probably one of the best attributes any would-be planner should have,” he says.
“So it would assist if they've had previous studies in the money world, but I think it's more driven by those other particular attributes, an interest in investments, a feel for good numbers and, most importantly, the discipline that they must have to approach study of their subject matter wholeheartedly. Because if they don't do that last one, then they'll find it difficult even with the assistance that we can give them.”
Green was previously with a bricks-and-mortar education facility, but says he sees the online element of the Kaplan Professional courses meeting the modern need for flexibility – especially for mature-aged students.
“The world's changed now, and more and more people who want to study or have to study need to have the flexibility and the convenience of an environment where those life and work balances have to be in tune. Online courses give students the opportunity to plan their study time around the rest of the day, instead of the other way around, which has been the traditional case.”
He adds that modern online courses, such as Kaplan Professional’s, are much more interactive than you might think.
“Instead of just downloading a PDF document and reading it, which is part of many courses, technology has enabled students now to interact online with tutors and with those who can assist them,” Green says. “There are podcasts. There are all manner of technological advantages now, which can be used by students. And interestingly, older students seem to be just as compatible in picking up on these technology changes as the younger students.”
Additionally, Green says the very act of online study tends to improve the computer literacy and skills of all students, even those who weren’t as technologically adept at the beginning.
“And of course, the online provider is assisting them along the way in getting those proficiencies,” he adds. “That motivates them, if they do well in their courses, to continue on. In fact, some of the best feedback we get from students are those who are more mature.”
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