March 11, 2009

Money & Career, So You Want My Job

So You Want My Job: Financial Planner

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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?


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