When you hear the words Wall Street or stock market, what do you think of? Maybe you imagine a packed room of men in suits, hurrying around to deliver important documents, a phone ringing nonstop and an overall eruption of chaos. Well, that doesn’t always ring true. While the job of a financial advisor can have hectic situations, the job really centers around helping people. If you have a dream of becoming a financial advisor check out what it takes and explore the ins and outs of the world of finance and stock markets.
What Does a Financial Advisor Do?
While many advisors deal with the buying and selling of stocks, they also do so much more. Financial advisors help you figure out the best place to put your hard earned money. “[W]e are so much more than stock pickers. When we work with someone, we are looking at every aspect of their lives,” Hilliard Lyons financial advisor Leslie Boor said. They work with you to find out how you can get the most out of your money whether that means saving it for the school of your dreams or setting financial goals for the trip of a lifetime. On top of all this, financial advisors help with things like:
- Manage Retirement Savings
- When to Buy/Sell Stocks
- College Planning
- Insurance Planning
- Estate Planning
- Help Set and Achieve Financial Goals
What Does it Take to Become a Financial Advisor?
Financial advisors don’t have one set path that leads to a successful career. Instead, you have a broad range of majors and electives that you can take. “There is no set degree needed to be a broker, but I do believe the best majors would be in finance or accounting,” Hilliard Lyons financial advisor Mark Liston said. You can complete your undergraduate degree with a major in finance, business or accounting.
That said, many advisors have backgrounds in English, rhetoric or law and still become successful—so you have plenty of options. “My degree is in Marketing and Rhetoric. I felt like this actually did help me in learning how to communicate complicated ideas simply,” Boor said. So whether you have more interest in law, accounting or almost any other major, you can still become a financial advisor.
To get started as an advisor, you have to become licensed. You need to take the Series 7 Exam (and a Series 66 in some states). “A lot of hours would be required to study and pass exams, then you will need to be able to network and find clients, which I think I do [during] all waking hours of the day,” Hilliard Lyons financial consultant Steven Smith said. This 125 question exam can seem like a challenge to some, but we’ve all taken seemingly impossible classes and pushed through, right?
What You Need to Know About Becoming a Financial Advisor
Becoming a successful financial advisor really depends on the amount of effort you want to put into it. It won’t get easy overnight; you have to constantly make calls to potential clients to get them on your team (cold calls), earn people’s trust and learn how to communicate with people in a way that they can depend on you for help. As you begin, you must have the willpower to work constantly.
The first few years can have the toughest challenges, and many people lose their momentum if they hit a dry spell and give up. “When I began, it was very challenging to get clients. I literally cold called for three years, six days a week. That is why the dropout rate was so high,” Hilliard Lyons financial advisor Sean Miranda said. If you keep your head up and stay motivated, you can definitely establish a name for yourself.
Let’s talk about money. Financial consultants don’t earn a typical salary. Instead, they get paid through commissions. When starting out, this can range anywhere from $30,000 to $60,000 depending on the amount of time you put into establishing and growing your business. “The second and third years were very difficult. My second year in the business I painted houses on the weekends to pay the bills,” Hilliard Lyons financial consultant Ken Isenberg said. That said, financial advising can have a massive payoff if you have a commitment to your job, just like you have to have a commitment to cramming an hour before your next exam.
One of the most important skills to have, honesty ranks #1 because you must have the ability to tell your clients when times turn out good or bad. “People don’t want you to tell them what they want to hear; they want you to tell them the truth. In this business, sometimes telling the truth is hard when you have to tell someone they will likely never be able to retire if they stay on the path they are on, but it is necessary,” Hilliard Lyons financial consultant Austin Hays said. You especially have to earn their trust because you deal with something so valuable to them: money. If you don’t have the trust of your client base, you have nothing.
2. Understanding of Capital Markets
Of course, if you advise people on how to spend or save their money you must have knowledge of how the economy goes up and down at times. “You really can’t provide a service if you know nothing about the service you are providing,” Hays said. You need to know what to say to a client no matter the circumstances. Clients need to know the best time to invest their money or save it. You should also know how much to invest in order to get your client the most money, even if it might contain a risk. We’ve all done risky stuff, like binge watching shows on Netflix all night before class the next morning so nothing new.
Compassion, one of the most important traits to have, makes your job as a financial advisor much better. As a financial consultant, people come to you seeking advice and guidance, and you have to understand that they come from a place of concern and fear. Many people seek financial help when planning for college or after the death of a family member. You should try to sympathize with them about what they might go through during this time. “It is a rewarding job—one I love dearly—but a job which sometimes brings you both joy and sadness when dealing with your client base. You have to be able to weather both the ups and the downs,” financial advisor Hilliard Lyons Tony Backert said. Clients look for someone who they can trust and guide them in order to make the right decisions with their finances.
Other Important Skills:
- Good Listener
- Competitive Attitude
- Good with Technology
- Time Management
Reviews from the Pros
“Over the years I have become very close to clients and they have my cell phone number so I am answering calls after hours and on vacation, but it is worth it overall,” Boor said.
“The one thing I would say about being a broker is that the environment is competitive. You must have the will to compete,” Liston said.
“Lastly, you have to care about what you do and your clients. There are times when you lay awake at night and think about issues that your clients are having to deal with, investments that have not provided the gains you had hoped in their accounts, how to address someone you will meet today knowing their spouse has just passed away,” Backert said.