Financial Advisor Career: An Overview
Taking on the role of a financial advisor provides a range of opportunities that is available in few career fields. Successful financial advisors offer valuable advice to their clients. In return, they get virtually unlimited earning potential, a flexible work schedule, and their choice of professional specializations.
The career also has drawbacks. It takes considerable time and effort to build a client base, and steady attention to meet the regulatory requirements of the field. And it's a high-stress job in the best of times.
- The benefits of becoming an advisor include unlimited earning potential, a flexible work schedule, and the ability to tailor one's practice.
- The drawbacks include high stress, the hard work needed to build a client base, and the ongoing need to meet regulatory requirements.
- This is a lucrative career, but it's one with a high burnout rate.
Number of financial advisors in the U.S. in 2021.
Pros of a Financial Advisor Career
A successful financial advisor is handsomely compensated. The mean annual income for those in the field nationwide was $119,960 as of May 2021.
But the advantages go well beyond compensation. Here are some of the primary benefits of becoming a financial advisor:
Offering Meaningful Advice
The chance to offer meaningful advice may not be the top reason young people begin their careers as financial advisors. But it can become the aspect of the job that is the most rewarding.
Consumers are often overwhelmed by the choices of investments or insurance vehicles that are available to them, and unable to determine which are appropriate for them and their families. The greatest role a financial advisor plays is to help clients make suitable decisions for a financially healthy future.
The successes of their clients are the successes of their financial advisors.
Unlimited Income Potential
The earning potential of most financial advisors is limited only by their appetite to take on more clients and more work.
Financial advisors may be either fee-based, commission-based, or a combination of both. Their incomes are based on the amount of new business they take on and the recurring revenue they create each year in commissions or fees. While pay structures differ, advisors have the ability to earn as much, or as little, as they are able.
Work Schedule Flexibility
Finding a balance between work and personal life can be a challenge when starting any new career and financial advisors are no different. However, once an advisor establishes a client base, the career lends itself to flexible work hours.
Seasoned advisors have the advantage of scheduling client meetings around their personal calendars and, over time, can choose to work less than a full 40-hour week.
Creativity in Practice Structure
Financial advisors can be creative in building their client bases.
Some focus on a generation, tailoring their practice to baby boomers or millennials. Others specialize in advising doctors, lawyers, or entrepreneurs.
They may also focus on particular aspects of personal finance such as investment management, retirement planning, or estate planning.
Cons of a Financial Advisor Career
Whether they're working on their own or working for a financial services firm, financial advisors face a number of challenges, particularly when they're first getting established. In fact, retention rates for financial advisors after four years on the job are about 15% to 16%, according to a financial planning industry site.
High Stress Industry
The financial services industry, like the economy as a whole, is cyclical and deeply intertwined with the performance of domestic and global markets. The ups and downs of a financial advisor tend to parallel those of the financial markets.
Financial advisors are constantly managing the fears and emotions of their clients during downturns in the market.
Many financial services firms have sales quotas to meet each month. Self-employed advisors may not have quotas but their need for business is as least as urgent.
Until they establish a robust client base, advisors are constantly marketing themselves and their skills in their search for new prospects.
Advisors who leave the financial services industry speak of the stress caused by the amount of time and money spent creating and maintaining profitable prospecting systems. For new advisors with a small personal network, building a book of business is the most challenging aspect of the career.
Regulatory and Compliance Requirements
Financial advisors must be licensed to provide advice or sell products to clients. The process to obtain those licenses requires time and study.
They also are required to complete a certain number of continuing education courses each year to keep their licenses in good standing, and they must carry errors and omissions insurance coverage throughout their careers.
Keeping up with regulatory requirements helps protect clients from malpractice but it is a costly and time-consuming endeavor for a financial advisor.
How Does Someone Become a Financial Advisor?
First, you need a bachelor's degree, preferably in finance or economics.
Your next goal is to get an entry-level job at a financial institution that will sponsor you as you work to obtain the necessary Financial Industry Regulatory Authority (FINRA) licenses to practice in the field. (You can do it on your own but that's harder. And in any case, you can use the professional experience and contacts you'll gain on the job.)
Meanwhile, you can consider which aspect or aspects of the profession you might like to specialize in. Financial advisors help their clients with investing, retirement planning, estate planning, and tax strategies, among other areas of specialization.
What Does a Financial Advisor Do?
Financial advisors work with their clients to create a personal financial plan for the long term, based on their goals for themselves and their families. It may cover a budget, a savings plan, an investment strategy, a retirement savings plan, and more. Once the strategy is in place, the advisor continues to carry out the wishes of the client in meeting the goals, This may include monitoring the client's investments, recommending needed changes, and reporting results to the client on a regular basis.
How Much Does a Financial Advisor Earn?
The median annual income nationwide for a financial advisor is $119,960 as of mid-2021, according to the National Bureau of Labor Statistics. It estimates the mean hourly wage for professionals in the field at $57.67.
Not surprisingly, compensation varies by region. New York has the best-paid financial planners at an average of $166,100 per year. Louisiana has the lowest-paid financial planners at an average of $93,600.