This is one of the most difficult markets in the last 70 years for financial advisors. It is forcing many advisors to do a lot of soul-searching, and to ask the big question: “Is this the right field for me?” Many financial advisors got into this business when it seemed there was a lot of easy money to be made, but it doesn’t look like there will be easy money in this industry in the foreseeable future. And even in great times, most independent financial advisors have not made huge amounts of money: According to CEG Worldwide, a research and consulting organization, only the top 15% of the independent financial advisors netted more than $150,000 per year during the good times. In today’s difficult market, that percentage has dropped substantially.
If you’ve become a financial advisor just for the money, it’s clear you’d be better off doing something else. But for everyone else, how can you be sure you’ve chosen the right field?
Are You Doing What You Do Best?
In a previous career, I was an advertising photographer. Yet when I reached my early 30s, I decided I wanted to do something more significant with my life than take pretty pictures that people looked at for a split second in a magazine. So I signed up for some career counseling.
The process starts with a clear understanding of your unique talents and strengths. There are three primary things that people work with: physical material, data, and people. Farmers, mechanics, and carpenters work with physical material; financial advisors work with data and people. Financial services is an industry that pays people extremely well if they have both strong analytical skills and strong people skills. So think about it: What attracted you to this industry in the first place? Was it to use your analytical skills? Was it to use your people skills? Was it both?
A great way to take a look at your unique talents and strengths is to simply have 10 of your friends and peers write two or three paragraphs describing your strengths. If you want to be more scientific, I highly recommend an aptitude assessment from Johnson O’Connor Research Foundation. The company’s Web site is: http://members.aol.com/jocrf19/. Over two half-days, the test organizers will run you through an aptitude assessment process that will tell you exactly what your unique talents are. They will also tell you how your talents compare to the other people they have assessed.
My strongest innate talent is “Foresight,” a sense of vision and seeing possibilities of what can be. In this area, I rated in the top 1% of all the people they tested. My second greatest strength is “Ideaphoria,” or creativity. I have a strong need to express my ideas, plans, projects, and thoughts. I rated in the top 15% of the survey pool in this area. I use both of these strengths in my roles as a coach, speaker, writer, consultant, and business owner.
According to the test, my weaknesses are that I am tone deaf, have no rhythm, have only moderate manual dexterity, and am terrible at details. Since I’m not detail-oriented, I would not make a good financial advisor.
If you do not have the right skills to be a financial advisor, you may find more happiness and prosperity simply by changing industries.
If you love the financial services industry, believe it is a good match for your skills, and are committed to making this work for you in the long run, then this is the type of market that should encourage you to do some soul-searching. With the right perspective, you can be more successful at your work and feel more fulfilled by it as well.
A Job, a Career, or a Calling?
Career counselors have identified three different orientations that people have to the work that they do. The first orientation is a job. You have a job simply for a paycheck at the end of the week. You do not seek any other rewards from it and it is simply a means to another end, like leisure, supporting your family, hobbies, and so on. When the wages stop, you quit. The vast majority of people who do not attend college have an endless stream of uninspiring jobs that offer few personal rewards and little financial security.
The second type of work is a career. A career entails a much deeper and more personal investment in work. It is typically something that the individual has gone to college for or gotten advanced training in. In careers, you mark achievements through promotions, raises, and financial success. Each promotion will bring you more prestige, more power, and more money. A law firm associate will become partner; the assistant professor becomes associate professor; the middle manager advances to vice president; the wholesaler becomes head of sales; a financial advisor could become a branch manager.