From the February 2011 issue of Research Magazine • Subscribe!

Door No. 3

As early as I can remember, I wanted to be a game show host. When I was a kid, there wasn’t a cooler guy on the planet than Bob Barker. Every day after school I had a hot date with my favorite show, Truth or Consequences. I was mesmerized by how effortlessly Bob wooed the contestants and the audience. “Smooth as a baby’s butt,” as grandma Miller used to say.

Obsessing over the great game shows of the ’60s and ’70s became my passion. Watching those witty hosts do their thing must have had a big impact on me. On Christmas morning 1971 (much to my mom’s dismay), I tried to exchange all my presents for whatever was behind Door No. 3. My dad asked me if I’d rather have him give me something to cry about. I opted to stick with my original deal of Weebles and Klackers. Smart move.

As ridiculous as it sounds, a game show host was the first occupation I ever thought — “Hey, I could do that.” It looked glamorous, fun and I knew it wouldn’t have a math prerequisite in college. Unable to find a college major in Game Show Hosting at Western Illinois University, I learned that it wasn’t going to be as easy as I thought.

These memories were recently jarred out of me when a friend of mine told me he was going to leave his cushy corporate gig and guaranteed check to become a… (wait for it)… financial advisor. “I know I could do it!” he told me confidently. Not wanting to rain on his parade, I stalled and told him I’d get back to him right after this very important commercial message.

This wasn’t the first time I had heard that proclamation. In fact, one of my buddies and I uttered those very words after an intense happy hour at Al’s Midway Tap in the fall of 1982. It wasn’t so much we thought we could do it. It was more like, “If that idiot can do it, so can I.” The idiots we were referring to happened to be my brother and another one of our best friends.

When the study materials for our Series 7 exams arrived, we knew we had made a horrific mistake. Somehow we stuck with it, passed our tests and became financial advisors. Twenty-eight years later, my buddy is still doing it and I am writing about it. So much for Door No. 3.

What my buddy and I both have now — that we didn’t have in 1982 — is a sense of appreciation of just how hard it is to be a successful financial advisor. More specifically, how hard it is to get clients. Especially given the financial industry turmoil of the past few years.

Over the years I have had many friends and acquaintances leave safe, underpaid office jobs for the Wild West of being an advisor. Just like the Oregon Trail, the road to the Grand Awards Trip is littered with the graves and careers of countless hope-filled baby boomers looking for a better life.

The good news is some of them made it. I’m sure if you asked them, they would all tell you it was much harder than they thought, but well worth it. So, if you’re a wholesaler or home office jockey reading this thinking you’ve got what it takes to swap it all for Door No. 3, please look before you leap. If your business plan is a work of art, except for the part about how to get clients, for now, you might want to pass on Door No. 3.

But don’t take my word for it. Ask the guy that Monty Hall zonked when he got him to trade his new Mustang convertible for a donkey. Sometimes it’s better to Not Make a Deal.

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