What makes a financial advisor successful?

There are many qualities that make a successful financial advisor: time management, marketability, knowledge and experience, sustainability and niche marketing. Perhaps the one that tops it all is the strong desire to do good for others. If a financial advisor is not motivated by the work that improves the lives of their clients they will have a difficult time surviving/thriving in the business. For those of you who might be interested in learning more about how student loan advising can improve your practice, read on and take in the stories of a few advisors who made the jump.

Delivering student loan repayment advice from a certified student loan professional

Increasing Marketability & Distinctiveness

One of the greatest challenges many financial and tax advisors face is how to differentiate their services from others. Most financial advisors offer the same products and services: retirement planning, college planning for children, insurance and investments. Similarly, tax advisors all seem to look alike as well: preparing personal tax returns, business returns, tax planning services and sometimes payroll and accounting services.

Financial service professionals face a difficult journey ahead because tax and financial planner services seem to be everywhere. We know that many of you reading this are thinking how you are different but public perception isn't the same.

You're also facing the challenge of working in a digital world. How adept are you are positioning your practice online and generating potential clients? There is an emerging market of clients who will seek specialized advice. They will seek to find you in this realm. Your audience is examining your online presence and comparing what is written about you with others. How do you set yourself apart? Are you online and actively positioning your business for the future?


Distinguishing your practice from others can be easier if you offer something that few of your peers provide.


Student loan repayment services positioned alongside the traditional offerings of tax and financial advisors can be a powerful way to separate yourself from others and attract new clients.

Why is student loan advising so attractive?

Here are a few key reasons:

  • There are a trillion dollars of student debt. 1 in 4 families have student debt.
  • Half of the debt is for graduate degrees.
  • The market contains all ranges of income and demographics from healthcare professionals, to newly minted attorneys, or just those with high debt and income potential. Opportunities abound.
  • These clients are looking for something unique - an advisor that can work with them for the long term as they manage their student loans and move forward with their other financial goals.
  • The referral opportunity. We already see this with our existing CSLPs. They receive calls from other tax and financial professionals who need help in advising their clients.

Read what CSLPs have said about student loan advising

“I am a CFP, and am also a CPA. I own my own financial planning firm, and have many clients with high incomes but that have significant student loan balances. After going through the CSLP program, I have received many referrals from other financial advisors that do not have the student loan expertise to help these clients.

The CSLP differentiates me from other financial planners and this is important because clients cannot start a financial plan without developing a strategy on how to repay their significant student loan balances. There are not many CFP's and CPA's that understand the tax implications of choosing a different filing status and how it can impact their student loan repayment decision and are able to help them with this.

This designation has helped me to grow my practice and also to help other advisors who do not have the expertise in this area to properly advise their clients.”

Patti Hughes, CPA, CFA, CSLP

There is no substitute for knowledge and experience in the world of financial services. Experience leads to a quality service provided, client referrals and a reputation in the community the advisor serves. Experience can be gained through years of practice or learned from others that can share and teach procedures and policies that have been refined over many years.

In the scope of client acquisition and retention there are few places for student loan borrowers to turn to get advice about how their repayment options fit into their tax, financial and personal goals. Financial and tax advisors looking to grow their client base can benefit from becoming an expert in the field of student loan repayment that can open doors.

For more than 10 years, I have helped young professionals to start their careers on the right foot financially. While I love helping people protect their incomes and create wealth, I recently started feeling that something was missing from my process.

I realized I was not prioritizing my clients’ #1 concern: Their student loans!

Young professionals want to save money and plan ahead, but it can seem impossible given their large student loan balances and steep monthly payments. As a CSLP, I now have the skills to provide planning services that give my clients security and the freedom to focus on their careers and planning for the future.

– Carli Coyne, CSLP


Addressing a niche market

There's a fundamental rule in marketing that takes some discipline and some getting used to, but it's undeniably true: You can't be everything to everyone, so stop trying. Too often financial and tax advisors attempt to run a Swiss army knife practice. Running a successful practice is about targeting a specific clientele that a firm sees value in and knows how to service. For young advisors looking to increase client relationships, student loan advice presents a clear and district message to potential clients for marketing.

For many young people, student loan debt may be the most pressing financial concern they face. Loan servicers are not required to place students in the most favorable repayment plan and borrowers are often defaulted into a repayment plan that is not right for them long term. We hope to help our clients navigate the difficult and confusing terrain of the many types of repayment options available at the same time assisting them to build a healthy financial picture with an eye to reaching all their most important goals.

-Jennifer Edwards, CSLP




Far too many firms have an aging book of business that is or will be drawing down on assets over the next decade. The aging demographic of clients is a difficult prospect to face when firm owners are looking for an exit plan themselves. Frankly, few early career advisors are interested in acquiring an aging book of business. Perhaps a more logical step is to focus on attracting younger clients that fuel long-term sustainability of the firm beyond the current boomers serviced. Student loan planning in the context of tax and financial planning can provide access to new clients that can add new and longer life to your book of business.

Doing good for others – While each of these aspects of financial services are important to building and maintaining a successful practice, the most important aspect of a firm is the desire to improve your clients' situation.

There is no better feeling than helping a person who is fearful of the future and don’t think any personal goals are achievable, become empowered to reach and achieve what they never thought possible.

When providing student loan repayment advice and freeing up cash flow for other goals like starting a family, buying a home, saving for retirement, or beginning a business, advisors can make a difference in the lives of their clients that cannot be matched in any other aspect of tax or financial planning.

"I've had clients begin their initial planning process feeling scared. Confused. Frustrated. Sometimes, pissed. I have literally had clients express: “I feel like my future is bleak” and “I will never be out of this debt!” This is devastating to me! The power of having a thorough, comprehensive, and manageable student loan repayment plan is significant; it can bring SO much peace of mind to people with student loan debt. Having a plan allows people to feel empowered and equipped to gain back control of their finances and feel confident in their financial futures again.”

– Meagan Landers, CSLP


The ways of doing business have changed for just about all types of businesses. Competition is increasing and demographics are changing. You can't expect to market your business the same as you did 7-10 years ago. Whether you use student loan advising as your edge, you must find other ways to separate yourself from others and communicate that aggressively to your audience.

Jantz Hoffman, MBA

Written by Jantz Hoffman, MBA

Mr. Hoffman is a Registered Investment Advisor and has been assisting clients with student debt since 2010. He has appeared on PBS Nightly Business Report and been cited in the NY Times as well as other publications as an expert in student loan repayment. Mr. Hoffman received a bachelor’s degree from Humboldt State University and a master’s degree in business from Colorado State University.

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