With the Department of Labor’s fiduciary rule creating a push towards more levelized compensation, many insurance and investment product manufacturers are re-evaluating their commission structures, and a number of broker-dealers are re-evaluating their entire compensation structure as well. And a growing number of financial advisors are deciding that if the regulatory push is towards AUM (or retainer) fees, that they may as well just become (or join) a Registered Investment Adviser (RIA) directly. Which means in the coming year, there may be a surge of Series 65 exam takers.
And so in this week’s #OfficeHours with @MichaelKitces, my Tuesday 1PM EST broadcast via Periscope, we discuss tips for financial advisors to get their Series 65 license, and what to expect when going to sit for the Series 65 exam.
The good news is that because the Series 65 exam is heavily focused on knowing the underlying laws and regulations that apply to investment advice, it is primarily an exam of memorizing and recalling information. Which means people who are “good at test taking” will find it relatively easy, and for everyone else, it’s still a manageable challenge, as long as you put in the hours to study.
In fact, because the Series 65 exam is so popular, there are a number of providers who offer Series 65 study guide materials, practice exams, and other educational content to help pass the Series 65 exam. In practice, the most popular providers appear to be Kaplan’s Series 65 live review and practice exams, along with TesTeachers, and for those looking for the most affordable option, consider Robert Walker’s “Pass The 65” book (and supporting practice exam questions as well).
Notably, though, the reality is that the Series 65 ultimately qualifies investment advisers to give advice about how to invest a household’s cumulative life savings… which arguably means a 3-hour licensing exam alone shouldn’t really be sufficient in the first place, and that advisors who are serious about helping their clients should go further, pursuing professional designations like the CFP certification as well. Fortunately, those who do pursue a professional designation, including the CFP marks, the ChFC, and the CPA/PFS, along with the CIC or the CFA, can actually get a waiver to skip the Series 65 exam altogether (though it’s still necessary to complete the rest of the requirements to join an RIA as an IAR!).
But the bottom line is that the Series 65 exam isn’t really much harder than other common industry licensing exams, like the Series 6 or the state Life and Health license. Most will take 2-4 weeks to study, spending about 20-30 hours, and pass the exam with its required 72% passing grade. Just be certain to spend the time it takes to study and really learn the material!