July 16, 2020
Eric Chen wanted to become a CFP® to help others. Whether that is creating a road map to buy a home, helping others save money to send their children to college, planning for a vacation, or planning retirement.
Like many others, Chen began his undergraduate career unsure of what direction he would one day be in. He went to Purdue University in Indiana, studying Business Management with a concentration in HR and Marketing and a minor in English. Although taking many courses in finance and accounting, Chen didn’t think he would work one day in the Financial Planning industry.
His path to working in the Financial Industry started when he met an ex-coworkers spouse. He was working at TD Ameritrade and introduced him to working in the industry. Chen then joined TD Ameritrade as a Business Development Specialist, later becoming a Financial Consultant before eventually being promoted to a Senior Financial Consultant. While he was both a Financial Consultant and Senior Financial Consultant, he used planning software, MoneyGuidePro, to construct financial plans for his clients. Prior to these jobs, Chen worked in insurance so he had some background in one of the key pillars of financial planning. Now he works at Fidelity Investments where he is a Financial Consultant.
After being recommended by multiple colleagues at TD Ameritrade to take the Financial Planning MBA program at California Lutheran University, including one colleague whose husband was an adjunct professor, Chen decided to enroll after believing it was a good fit for him.
“I wanted to become a CFP® because I think the designation definitely helps in the workplace. In this industry, the more credentials and designations you have, you can stand out among your peers and it forms more trust with the clients that you interact with,” Chen said. Not only that, but Chen believes it helps you become an expert on different subjects and finance, as well as obtain good knowledge that translates into the real world. “I felt like it was a great way to bring more value to people and my clients. It also makes me a bit better at my job,” Chen said.
California Lutheran Financial Planning Program Experience
Throughout the program, Chen said he has learned many different topics from business law and ethics to marketing all related to financial planning, “It was a plethora of information on a wide variety of topics. Being exposed to that information and knowledge is definitely priceless.”
Being a virtual program, Chen said it hasn’t stopped him from making great connections and networking with others, “It’s a fantastic program with really great mentors, coaches, and professors.” He believes this is a vital part of the experience because you never know when the connections may be useful one day.
When asked to pinpoint just one highlight about the program Chen found it hard to decide! One of the highlights of the program was how it helped him prepare thoroughly for the CFP® certification exam. Taking the exam will take a lot of dedication as well as time to prepare, but you can do it Chen said.
“I would highly recommend the program. A lot of my colleagues recommended it to me. It’s definitely a great program with great professors, teachers, and students from all over the country that you can network and speak with. The technology that Cal Lutheran uses is very impressive along with the resources such as the online library. All in all, the program has been very, very well constructed, and well designed. I would definitely recommend it!” he said.
Looking Into The Future
In five to ten years’ time, Chen hopes to complete the MBA program with just two courses left as of the time of writing this article. He has already obtained the CFP® certification and is enrolled in another industry program which he hopes to obtain in the next year. He would like to be a VP Financial Consultant at Fidelity Investments and obtain his CFA. Overall Chen wants to be well established in his career with more expertise. His dream job is to be either the CFO of an organization or company or run his own RIA firm or be a well-established portfolio manager.
Being a financial consultant is a client-based job meaning Chen meets various people with different backgrounds on a daily basis. He enjoys “Hearing everyone’s different stories, figuring out how to help them is very intrinsically fulfilling. You feel good by making sure you are with your best interest looking out for them and that they have the money, the capital they need to reach their goals,” Chen said.
Advice to Those Thinking of Financial Planning
To the students who are thinking of pursuing a career in financial planning Chen’s advice is to “Continue to always stay motivated and ambitious. This is a very dynamic industry and things are constantly changing; rules, regulations, and new studies are always coming out. Being a lifelong learner is very important. Putting time into making yourself better and directing yourself in your own career, getting additional certifications, going to graduate school, and getting other degrees will help. Be adaptable and have a growth mindset. Work hard.”
During his undergraduate, Chen didn’t immediately gravitate towards a certain subject or career but that is what college is about – finding your passion, enjoying the experience, and networking with others. You never know what careers your classmates will have one day and where they will be. By networking now, it opens you to job opportunities in the future whether that’s applying to one or asking for a reference.
Chen’s Three Biggest Influences
Throughout his life, he has had three important mentors that have helped shape him to be who he is today. “A great role model and mentor is someone who is probably older and has more experience so you can leverage their knowledge with little nuggets of information to make yourself more successful to continue growing,” Chen said.
His dad is his first role model for his hard work and ability to be successful. He mentored him with career growth and self-improvement. During his first job, a woman named Mary helped teach Chen the in’s and out’s of the industry and connected him with the right people. She also pushed him to grow including getting a master’s degree.
Lastly, a professor at California Lutheran University in the Financial Planning department, Dr. Chien, pushed him to grow and work hard to be more successful. He said that Dr. Chien has been a great mentor throughout his time at California Lutheran University.
Chen’s final thoughts in the interview were to other students- “Take it one step at a time. Try to live in the moment, not planning too far ahead but having a general idea of where you’d like to go one day. It comes naturally to you sometimes in the most bizarre ways. I ended up in the finance industry through the spouse of a co-worker at one of my first jobs. If that had never happened, I would not be where I am today so often there’s a lot of luck playing into it. Not to be cliche, but it’s not always about the destination, be more focused on the journey.”
About the Interviewee:
Eric Chen went to Purdue University in Indiana, studying Business Management with a concentration in HR and Marketing and a minor in English. Chen started working in finance at TD Ameritrade as a Business Development Specialist, later becoming a Financial Consultant before being promoted to a Senior Financial Consultant. Prior to these jobs, Chen worked in insurance so he had some background in one of the key pillars of financial planning. Now he works at Fidelity Investments where he is a Financial Consultant.
Rosie Baker is an undergraduate student at California Lutheran University expecting to graduate in May 2021. She is studying Communication with an emphasis in PR and Advertising and has a minor in Creative Writing. She is currently writing a book, Windows and Mirrors, which is due to be published this summer with New Degree Press.