So You Want My Job: Financial Planner

by Brett on March 11, 2009 · 22 comments

in Money & Career, So You Want My Job

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It’s once again time for our “So You Want My Job” series, in which we interview men who are employed in desirable man jobs and ask them about the reality of their work and for advice on how men can finally become what they always wanted to be when they grew up.

For this installment, we interviewed Jeff Rose. Mr. Rose is a successful financial planner who seems like the kind of  guy you’d definitely want working for you in this economy. Jeff is an Illinois Certified Financial Planner(TM) and co-founder of Alliance Investment Planning Group. His blog, Good Financial Cents, is a financial planning and investment blog.

Thanks for your work Jeff! AoM really appreciates the thorough, and thoroughly interesting answers you gave us.

1. Tell us a little about yourself (Where are you from? Where did you go to school? How old are you? Describe your job and how long you’ve been at it).

I was born in Los Angeles but mostly raised in the Midwest in Southern Illinois. I graduated from Southern Illinois University of Carbondale where I met my beautiful wife. I just celebrated my 31st birthday (that’s hard to admit) and my son is 18 months going at 100 mph.

I am a Certified Financial PlannerTM for a financial planning firm that I and 3 others created in December of 2007 when my old company A.G. Edwards was bought out by Wachovia. I started with A.G. Edwards right out of college in 2001 and became the youngest financial advisor to be hired in that office. I took a hiatus from January 2005-March of 2006 when my National Guard unit was deployed to Iraq. I returned home safely and then passed the CFP® exam in November of 2007 and I’m so thankful I did. It was the hardest exam of my life!

2. Why did you want to become a financial planner? When did you know that it was what you wanted to do?

As a kid, I could always remember my step-dad was a “business man” that would frequently go on business lunches while wearing custom tailored suits, slick silk ties, and cuff links. He had a “car phone” in the 80′s and thought that was the coolest. I really didn’t know what he did, but I knew that business was the field I wanted to get into. Choosing the major of finance landed me an internship position at A.G. Edwards. They had offered me a position before graduation and I initially had turned it down because I thought I was too young to be a financial advisor. But in 2001, kind of like recent times, the job market shrunk up and I was left with no other options. I took the position, and the rest is history.

I think I really knew that I had found my career job when I had a meeting with a couple that were more than twice my age and I was able to get them on the right track financially. I can remember them thanking me at the end of the meeting. Do you know how good it feels when somebody thanks you for just doing your job? They were the first to thank me, but certainly not the last.

3. If man wants to become a financial planner, how should he best prepare? What’s the best route into the job?

Many of the advisors that I work with are usually on their second or third careers when they choose to become a financial planner. Some have a finance background, some don’t. I think the most common characteristic is that they have a general interest in personal finance and investing (obviously, right?). About a year ago I had an intern who was a double major in finance and accounting and took and passed his series 7 (securities license exam) while he was still in school. I’m positive he will be very successful in his life and probably more successful than me.

If you’re still in school, interning with some sort of financial firm will give you a good sense if the business is right for you. If you are considering a career change, talk to different advisors from different firms. I’m sure you’ll get a different story from each of them about how the business has treated them.

4. How competitive is it to get a job as a financial planner?

I think my profession is one of the most competitive and has a very high attrition rate. When I first started, I took part in a training class that had over 50 people in it from all different age groups and backgrounds. Prior to me leaving the firm in 2007, there were only 6 of us left. After the first year, more than half had already quit, given up, or just didn’t make it.

I often compare starting off in the business as opening a new restaurant. When you first open, people are often hesitant to try you out. They want to hear first that somebody else tried you out and liked you. Then they’ll consider trying you out. Of course, that means in the first year, you’ve got to work your butt off trying to let everybody know that you’re open and you would be happy to serve them. It’s not like Kevin Costner’s Field of Dreams, where you “build it and they will come.” You have to bring people to you. I’ve done everything from cold calling (yeah, I was that annoying telemarketer that interrupted your dinner), seminars, trade shows, investing classes, etc. You name it, I’ve tried it. Anything to get my name out there. Now that I’ve been doing it for 7 years, most of my new clients are referrals from existing ones.

5. Can financial planners hang out their own shingle? If so, what are the advantages/disadvantages of doing so over taking a job within a company?

You most certainly can and I did! For a seasoned advisor, I strongly believe that’s the way to go. Most of my clients are with me because they know and trust me, not the firm behind me. One of the greatest advantages of hanging your own shingle is just that….it’s yours. You control how you want your business to be and are not influenced by any corporate higher power to push their products. Being in control does require more work though since now you are not only a financial planner, but also a business owner. Being in the business owner seat makes your really evaluate all that you really “need” to run your business. Previously everything was supplied to me, but at a significant price. I now own my own computer, desk, office TV (every office has to have a TV, right?), chairs, phone, and printers. I paid to have a logo created for my company and with it came business cards, stationary, and a website. But by keeping my overhead in check, I’ve been able to earn more on my own than ever before.

For somebody starting off, it’s almost impossible to start off on your own. My old firm gave me the necessary training and support to work with clients and know how to service them. Somebody brand new will probably need that to get going as well as having a big name behind them. Once they’re established and built up a decent clientele, I would encourage them to at least consider going off on their own.

6. When applying for a job, what sets a candidate apart from the others?

Obviously, experience is always there. After that, it’s how the candidate can express how bad they want it. One example, that comes to mind is a guy who was considering changing professions to become a financial planner. Even before being hired, he self taught himself and passed the CFP® exam. How bad do you think he wanted it?

Another example is the intern I had a few years back that passed his series 7 while he was still in school. Keep in mind that he was a finance and accounting double major on top of that. The “want” is what separates the competition.

7. What is the best part of the job?

Wow, there are many “best parts” of the job. The top 3 would be:

Helping people make smart decisions. Many of my clients are dependent on my advice and nothing makes me feel better then when I get sincere thanks for helping them out. One of my favorite client’s comments is, “Jeff, I’m sure glad you understand this stuff.”

I make my own schedule. I am not the clock punching type. I’ve done it before and it just eats away at me. I love the freedom of being able to work my own schedule. Now, that’s not as luxurious as it sounds. I’ve had many late meetings and many Saturday appointments as well. Sometimes making my own schedule is working around the client’s schedule.

Financially rewarding. I can’t lie; my profession pays rather well compared to others. There are items that I know that my wife and I are blessed to be able to have and do because of the hard work I’ve put in. Trust me though, the first couple years was an entirely different story.

What is the worst part of the job?

Can you say stress? When you are managing other people’s money, there is a certain amount of stress that comes along with it. All my clients have been affected by the recent downturn and while none of them blame me for it, I can’t help but feel responsible. I could care less if my portfolio is down 40%, but if I have a client down 15%, I always ask myself what I could have done differently.

8. What is the biggest misconception people have about the job?

That I have that next inside tip that will pay your kids college. Listen, I am privy to the same amount of information that is available to everyone else. I might have easier access to it, but nothing that is going to return you 1000% overnight.

9. What is the work/family balance like?

I am very thankful to have a wonderful wife who supports me 150%. I try to not bring work home with me, but it’s something to be desired. I think if you talk to any business owner, they’ll tell you that their business never really closes.  That goes right along with my business.  My wife and I are working on taking mini “us” trips so that we’re always keeping our marriage growing. I know that each day I feel that much closer to her and am thankful to have her and my son in my life. Once he gets older, he’ll be interning at dad’s office learning the ropes.

11. How has the current recession affected your job personally and your career field?

It’s affected me financially and emotionally. I am paid a fee based on the assets I manage for my clients and obviously those assets are down. But like any savvy business owner, you make adjustments to account for it. I’m fortunate to still be bringing in new clients. People are still going to invest towards retirement, fund their kids’ college savings plans, and eventually retire. As long as that still occurs, I’ll still be in busines, and the need for my field will exist.

12. Do your friends and family frequently seek pro bono financial advice? Do you find this annoying or satisfying?

One of my quirks is that I never bring up investing or the stock market when I’m around them. I never want to feel like I’m overselling myself. If they want to ask me a question, I’m always happy to help them out. I don’t think I’ve ever been annoyed when somebody asked an opinion. I guess if they kept drilling me, I’d have to tell them to schedule an appointment.

13. You blog at Good Financial Cents. Why did you start the blog? Do you feel like your blog helps attract more business and would you recommend blogging to others?

Initially, the blog was started purely as a marketing tool. I had talked to a few other CFP®’s that had a blog and were able to reach new clients via their blog. I had anticipated posting a new article about twice a week and seeing what happened. Then something occurred along the way….I became obsessed. I’ve always enjoyed educating people on the basics of investing and financial planning, hence why I taught a few investment classes and implemented the Stock Market Game at our local high school. The only downside was I could only touch a few people at a time. That’s when the light bulb went off *Blogging*– I can reach thousands of people via my blog. And that’s exactly what I’ve done. Just last month, I had almost 15,000 people visit my blog. Now, I know compared to most established blogs, that’s not much. But when I compare that to an investment class that only had 30 people in it that was taught once a semester, that’s huge!

I think any financial planner or business owner should strongly consider having a blog. I think it’s a definite and sure fire way to separate yourself from the competition and make yourself known. When people come to invest with me, they can go to my blog and learn about me, my family and even watch some short videos of me. What you see is what you get. I think it helps people connect with me before they meet me, as well as keep my existing clients informed on relevant and timely financial planning and market related topics.

To top it off, you’ll get a few unexpected surprises out of it, too. I’ve been contacted by a Midwestern grocery store chain to offer some financial planning tips for their employee quarterly newsletter. I was contacted by MTV about their True Life documentary series (nothing really developed on that). And the most recent was being contacted by CNBC to possibly be a guest contributor on their personal finance show “On The Money” (I just met with them last week and I think I’m going to be on the show!). How did all these people find me? You guessed it… my blog. If people are going to invest with you, they have to find you. Nothing better than a blog.

14.   Any other advice, tips, or anecdotes you’d like to share?

Every successful retired client I’ve ever met all had one thing in common- they invested.  Maybe they didn’t understand what they were doing in their younger years, but; in the end,  it all paid off.  The retirees that are struggling to figure out how they are going finance their retirement didn’t  understand the importance of investing and saving for retirement until it was too late.  Take some time to educate yourself on your investment options and start your journey to financial independence.  If you don’t save for your own retirement, who do you think will?

{ 22 comments… read them below or add one }

1 LS March 11, 2009 at 9:14 pm

I’d rather have my head caved in with a hammer than be a financial planner.

2 Jason March 12, 2009 at 5:23 am

In my eyes all financial planners are dubious when they make their living through commissions. The interest of most financial planners are at odds with the client when the pay is anything but a fixed up front fee.

My mother was told by her financial planner before the dot com bubble burst to leverage her home and invest heavily in mutual funds which undoubtedly paid a handsome commission. What kind of advice is this for a widow with two children? The adviser was eventually taken to court and shown to have given irresponsible advice and a large portion of the money was repayed.

Everyone who wants unbiased advice should pay an up front cost for services like you would an accountant or other professional. All other “advisers” are salesmen.

3 J. Buck March 12, 2009 at 10:07 am

Although what Jeff has brought up has its truths… in defense of financial planners, the big picture IMO is that just seeing a financial planner will help to get you involved and on track toward saving and investing for retirement. It’s a behavioral thing… most people are not going to invest on their own..they’re reluctant..unless they have the (sometimes) gentle prodding of a financial advisor trying to point them in the right direction. I can think of my own parents as an example.

Again, the big picture being that just by having a financial planner there, it can help to get people to at least THINK about the fact that they should save and invest for their retirement so that something can be done about it.

4 Jeff Rose March 12, 2009 at 10:54 am

@LS Hmmm. I assure you my job is not that bad. I hope you’re planning on wearing a helmet first.

@Jason. I can strongly relate to your situation. One downside with my profession is that there are so many crooks in the industry. Why that’s good for me is that people that get to work with me enjoy the working relationship and that goes for every good and decent advisor out there.

@J. Buck. Absolutly right. I’ve ran into several people that don’t have a financial planner, especially the younger generation. But I’ve noticed as people get older and need help constructing an income plan, that’s where a planner is instrumental in guiding them through retirement.

5 Ryan March 12, 2009 at 12:45 pm

Jason – “…pay an up front cost for services… “?

Think about motivation that is solely compensation driven. If you get paid up front, what incentive do you have to perform well? Accountants and many other professionals are engaged to perform specific services which are in conformance with rules backed by a governing body (e.g. the AICPA has strict rules regarding what constitutes a proper audit). These rules ensure that there is limited ambiguity on what constitutes a job well done.

Unfortunately, it doesn’t work this way for financial advisors. Frankly, I’m not sure how it could work this way (except in cases of criminal or grossly negligent behavior). So, the best alternatives are commissions and pay-for-performance (the private equity/hedge fund model). But both of these have their drawbacks.

Any suggestions to improving the system would be very beneficial to the financial services industry as this has been a very hot topic lately.

6 Mrs. Micah March 12, 2009 at 12:57 pm

@Ryan, IMO commissions based on selling you stuff are NOT the best compensation because they make giving bad advice more tempting. They create a bad situation for both parties because the client is suspecting that maybe the advice is based on what it’ll earn the planner and the planner may be tempted to make a particular recommendation which is about as good but not as good because it’s better for them.

I agree that there’s always the possibility of a fee-only adviser neglecting you after the fee’s paid, but I believe they have certain ethical guidelines too, if they’re part of an organization (name I can’t remember right now, Jeff?). That doesn’t mean commissions are any better of a model, in fact they probably provide greater ethical quandaries for honest people trying to make a living.

7 PT Money March 12, 2009 at 1:21 pm

Great interview, Jeff. Good to learn a little more about the profession.

8 Ryan March 12, 2009 at 1:48 pm

@Mrs. Micah – I am not suggesting that commissions are without flaws (brokers can be heavily incentived to push certain products that may not be best for a client). But it is better than a single up front fee, on which I’m assuming the arrangement is Investor pays Manager a fee and Manager is tasked with managing money on Investor’s behalf. In this case, the fee is probably much larger than a single commission. So, if the Investor is dissatisfied (note it’s dissatisfied, not that the Manager has acted maliciously) the Investor is out a much larger fee than a single or even a few commissions.

The reality is that all compensation methods have their flaws. Even a pay-for-performance model with an advisor who co-invests has flaws (I referred to this above as the private equity/hedge fund model). In this case the Manager is heavily motivated to make riskier bets to reach a loftier payout but the Investor bears a disproportionate share of risk.

No “good” system has been found yet so we’ve been forced to live with the best alternatives until a better system is discovered.

9 G Monk March 12, 2009 at 8:17 pm

Since when is financial planning a manly activity? Phhhhht!

10 Jeff Rose March 13, 2009 at 5:59 am

@ G Monk

Apparently, you’ve never seen Office Space. Have you ever had a run in with a copier that’s on the frits? It’s not a pretty sight my friend. Don’t even let me begin with the paper cut incidents. Or the time we ran out of regular coffee. The natives were mighty restless that day…..

11 Rob March 19, 2009 at 7:50 am

This ‘interview’ could have done without the copyright and trademark bugging for the professional designations. All right, we get it that you jumped through all the hoops to get the CFP. Well done. Spare us the branding assault. Manly men don’t let their credentials do their talking for them.

12 Jeff Rose March 22, 2009 at 9:18 pm

@ Rob

Sorry for the technicalities. As part of the exam and one of the requirements of the Financial Planning board is to utilize the correct trademark and copyright designations. So in essence, I’m letting the financial planning board ,who allow me to use the proper credentials, do the talking.

13 Matthew March 30, 2009 at 9:18 pm

I am currently a college student majoring in Agricultural Consumer Economics with a concentration in financial planning at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. I am mainly interested in financial planning because I have a knack for finance and I really enjoy helping people. I am currently working at the UIUC IT Help Desk as a consultant. We provide IT support for various computer-related issues. I know it isn’t personal finance oriented, but I have to assess situations and provide solutions to a client base that includes all of UIUC’s students, staff, and alumni.

@Jeff
First of all, thanks for the awesome information in the interview. Do you think my Help Desk job is something that would actually help me in my job search after graduating college or should I look for something more finance-related? After graduation, would I want to look for a position with a large firm so I can learn what I like/dislike and can go from there? I know larger firms push certain investments and have quotas for consultants to reach. That’s why I’d like to end up being part of a smaller firm eventually.
Any advice would be greatly appreciated.

14 Jeff Rose April 10, 2009 at 9:33 pm

@ Matthew

Although your career is not finance oriented, at least you are working with people. Helping people find solutions is what I do. Starting off though, many of my clients were very responsive to me being a finance major. Being enrolled in the financial planning courses is definitely a good start.

Working for a big firm will definitely get you good experience, but just don’t think it will be easy to walk away. Most firms will require you to sign a contract and if you decide to walk away. will go after you to recoup training costs. Figure anywhere from $50-$100k that you will be expected to payback. Luckily, I had been with the firm 5 years, which satisfied my contract period.

You could also consider an independent RIA (Registered Investment Advisor). They are growing everyday as wirehouse advisors are jumping ship. Try to get an internship, even if unpaid. That will get you a lot of the experience you might be seeking without having to be locked down for a specific period.

15 Stephanie Watson October 23, 2009 at 5:26 pm

I am in a Master’s Program with the University of Alabama majoring in Family Financial Planning & Counseling.

Before I started my program what I envisioned was to become a Financial planner working from home helping normal families plan their family finances. I don’t want to make commission on products and saw myself as “fee for service.”

Now that I am in the program, while I LOVE LOVE LOVE the classes I have discovered it’s not so easy. I have been told I will need to work under another financial planner for three years before I can work on my own.

Is this true?

Can you recommend a path for me that will enable me to do what I want from home? I currently work as a Virtual Assistant at home and love it, I simply saw this as another avenue to work from home doing something I love, and a much tighter niche.

Advice?

16 santhoshi December 27, 2009 at 11:51 am

hi, i want to know how can i start my career in investment banking. i have done my graduation in business management and then PG in International Business. worked with SIEMENS for a banking process as a customer accounts manager. now in US with my husband and want to start my career in investment banking.

Thanks in advance

with regards
santhoshi

17 Wil February 1, 2010 at 1:03 pm

Your article was very helpful. I have been doing paralegal work for over 10 years and was layoff a year ago. I am in the process of obtaining my series 6 license but faced financial hardship and its now hard to pass diligence in order to take the series 6 exam. I have my life & health license. My questions to you is how could I get into the financial field with my credit being a factor. Could I take the series 63 and 7 with out a sponsored by a company.
Thank you advance and when I get back on my feet I will start investing. You just made a new client.

18 Ivan February 26, 2010 at 3:02 am

Hi there,
My name is Ivan and I am a financial planner in Hong Kong. Your article is great and educated. Good to learning more from you. However; Financial planning is a tough job and I am kind of out of calls now since I am new. Therefore; please advise me some efficiency ways to get more people to know me and try my restaurant, thanks

Ivan

19 linda April 21, 2010 at 10:41 am

I have been unemployed for about 4 months now. Without any income coming in for that long because my company I worked for felt they fired me for just cause, I had to depend on my boyfriend to support me and my kids. That made me very uneasy but I won my appeal finally and in the past months I have had a LOT of time to rethink my employment issues. Do I want to continue doing what I was doing or do I want a change? I have checked on going to college either online or campus but couldnt decide on a field or didnt really have any inclination of what I wanted to do now. I was as far as I was concerned, perfectly content in the job I had. But with time on my hands I weighed my options and decided I should just get another job like I had. Then I woke up this morning and I was happy and stress free. Yesterday I sat down with my boyfriend and told him what we were going to do financially. I explained what the order of getting the bills paid and caught up was going to be and by when we should be out of debt to be able to look further at when we do get married and need to get life insurance or plan for the future for retirement or whatever we may need. Just doing that yesterday and waking up today the way I did makes me feel good about financial planning. Long story short, I am glad I came across this site. What kind of schooling would I need to be a financial planner? I’ve never went to college, have 3 kids and dont know if it is even feasible to be thinking about changing careers at age 42. If online courses would even be acceptable or not to get a job once completed? I dont want to continue being dependent on my boyfriend while trying to do this if it turns out that it wouldnt matter anyway. Any advice would be much appreciated. thank you

20 Eric May 11, 2010 at 12:43 pm

@ Mr. Rose

Any good books that you can recommend for this profession?

Thank you,
Eric

21 Mike August 1, 2010 at 7:31 pm

You’re an idiot if you don’t listen to an experienced financial planner, and think you can do better on your own. There’s a reason they have certifications.

22 Andy September 26, 2013 at 12:55 am

is it impossible to obtain internship right out of high school ?

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