Is Financial Advising the Right Career for You?

One of the great tragedies of adulthood can be the letdown of expectations – especially in our careers.

When we’re kids, we imagine being dancers and firefighters and magicians and doctors. We give hardly a thought to the reality of those jobs, but instead focus on the output: we get to perform, to fight fires, to create magic, to save lives.

The funny thing is, we don’t necessarily start to see the reality of the jobs as we get older. Instead, we focus on the dream and give all of our time and effort into making it happen (and, through education, we also give much of our money).

Here are the things we don’t see until we actually do the jobs: the physical pain or short career span of a dancer, how much hurrying up and waiting a firefighter does (and the toll the life threatening nature of the job has on their family), the difficulty in making it financially as a magician, the small amount of time a doctor gets with their patients (and the amount of their earnings that will go to things like malpractice insurance).

None of these things have to make or break our careers, but they’re important to know when making a major life decision. At the very least, we should go into our chosen careers knowing the good and bad, knowing whether we want to spend our day-to-day lives doing what those jobs entail, and being able to prepare for the more challenging aspects of the job (both emotionally and practically).

With all that said, if you’re thinking of starting or switching into a career of financial advising, then there’s a lot you should know before you begin. That way you can determine if every aspect of the job is what you expected – and if financial advising is the right career for you.

What You May Already Know About Being a Financial Advisor…

You probably already know that it takes a lot of studying to become a quality financial advisor. One of the most important things you can do is become a Certified Financial Planner (CFP) professional, as that’s a designation potential clients will likely expect from you (though it’s not a legal requirement).

If you choose to become a CFP, you’ll need a bachelor’s degree, three years of experience, and you’ll have to pass a rigorous exam. It takes a lot of dedication to get this certification, but it’s also a great foundation for your work as a financial advisor. And, importantly, this designation obligates you to fiduciary duty – in other words, you are required to act in your client’s best interest.

There’s also a good amount of continuing education required to maintain a CFP, so you can expect a lifetime of studying and tests to maintain your status. And, if you want to also do things like sell stocks, you’ll need to become a Registered Investment Advisor (RIA). If you want to sell other products such as insurance, you’ll have to take a few more tests such as the Series 7 and Series 63.

In short, if you want to become a quality financial advisor, you’ll need to prepare yourself for a lot of studying and test taking.

…And What May Come As a Surprise

If you’re looking to work in financial services in general, then one thing you may not realize is the amount of selling you’ll be pressured to do. But if you’re getting in the game to help individuals, then you don’t need to sell products to survive.

That’s not to say that you won’t need to have the ability to sell your services though – this will be necessary for client acquisition. If you’re starting your own firm, then here are just a few more skills you’ll need:

  • Accounting
  • Marketing
  • Therapy

Let’s start with accounting, the skill most likely to be up your alley. If you’re going to run your own business, then you’ll have to be the CEO and the CFO. You’ll need to keep your own books and figure out how much you need to run your business until it becomes profitable (and thereafter). Plus, there are a lot of costs that go into being a financial advisor that you’ll need to account for, especially around compliance.

On to the skill you might not already have: marketing. After you do all the work of studying and passing your CFP exam, you won’t be given any help or guarantee of finding new clients. This is where joining a financial advisor network can really come in handy. Besides the fact that these networks can help you with compliance and other setup duties and costs, they can also help you become visible to their consumers.

With or without the help of a financial advisor network, it will be important for you to understand how to brand your business (who do you want to help, how can you specifically help them, what’s your financial philosophy) and market it to potential customers (through social media, content, networking, events in your community, etc.).

Finally, there’s going to be a good bit of therapy involved in your daily work. I don’t mean therapy in the strictest sense (in which you’d need a slew of psychology degrees and certifications), but you will need to be empathetic to the emotional side of finance.

There are going to be times when your clients struggle with your advice. If you can discover their emotional blocks, you can help them get past them.

There are going to be times when your clients struggle to stick to your advice. If you can talk through the problems with them, you’ll probably discover what’s getting in between their intentions and action.

There are going to be times when your clients are deeply embedded with fear, anxiety, and other strong emotions due to their finances. If you can empathize with them, you’ll be able to help them work through these emotions – because preaching at someone who’s not in a positive emotional state them won’t help them achieve their goals.

When you’re building a business as a financial advisor, the perfect scenario is one in which you develop relationships that last for decades. But the only way to do that is to give good financial advice, instill and maintain trust, and show your clients that you understand the complexity of their financial lives (because money is never just about simple math).

What’s Your End Goal?

No job is perfect all the time and every job will have moments in which you think, “I didn’t sign up for this.” This is a fact of life (though one we aren’t taught – we just have to live it). Therefore, it’s important to understand what your end goal is.

If you want a life of relationship-building and evaluating personal finances in a way that encompasses all of someone’s needs and desires, then you could be well-suited to become a financial advisor. Bonus if you really want to help people as well.

But if you’re looking for a 9-5 or an easy way to make money, you might want to reconsider. This is a job that requires a great deal of education, that could lose you money in the first year or two (if you start your own business), and could involve as much business, marketing, and therapy-giving as actual advice-giving. It’s certainly not a quick and easy way to build a career and earn a living.

So, what’s your end goal?

Image Credit: Lauren Mancke

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