I have worked in the banking industry for 33 years. My current job title is, “Senior Financial Planner.”
I would describe what I do as helping people. I help people to achieve their financial goals. More often than not, that means I assist people with figuring out how they can save for their retirement years. I develop a plan for each client that is based on the person’s goals and current means. I suggest different investment options like stocks, mutual funds, and bonds that may help the client’s money earn interest that the person can use in the future. The biggest misunderstanding that people seem to have about financial planners is that we do what we do solely to collect big fat commissions. While I can’t speak for everyone in my field, I know I only sell a product to a client when I know it will help the individual reach a stated goal and it is affordable, regardless of the commission attached to the product. I rarely sell cash-value life insurance, for example. Instead of selling a cash-value policy to a person who will struggle to afford the contract’s premiums, I generally recommend that my clients purchase more affordable term policies that offer very small commissions. And, I only recommend that if they really need life insurance.
On a scale of 1 to 10, my job satisfaction is about a 6. I love what I do, always have, but the economy is causing a lot of my long-term clients to struggle and adjust the goals they’ve worked a long time to achieve. I’ve known many of them for so long, that I can almost feel their financial pain. I consider them friends to some extent, I guess. My full enthusiasm will be restored when this country, and the world, recover from this crippling economic crisis.
My job moves my heart every day because of the people I get to meet and, over time, know well. I get to witness their financial successes and counsel them during tough times like these. Despite the difficult times, this is definitely my calling. No doubt about it.
I got started in the banking industry when I graduated from college. I started the process of becoming a financial planner when I was thirty. It took me a few years to pass all of the necessary exams, but I was old enough when I finished to be taken seriously. If I became a planner at a younger age, I don’t think anyone would have listened to my advice. If I could do something differently, I would have gotten my Certified Financial Planner designation ten years before I did. I should have begun studying for those exams immediately after I passed the tests for my securities and insurance licenses.
One thing I learned the hard way is that not everyone who is in this field knows what they are doing. Don’t misunderstand me, I know everyone makes mistakes, but it seems some advisors dispense advice without appreciating that people are literally banking on what they say. I took on one client who lost more than two-thirds of his net worth because he listened to the advice of a financial planner who told him to invest in a high-risk stock. The man was 78 at the time the advice was given. That advisor had no business suggesting that this person invest in anything that had more than minimal risk at his age. It was shameful, irresponsible advice. The man will not live long enough to recover his losses, or his self-respect for that matter. He’s embarrassed, but shouldn’t be. That advisor should be.
The most important thing I’ve learned about the working world outside of school is to have a good, honest team of people around me at all times. I don’t work in a vacuum and I will not work with dishonest, loose-lipped people.
The strangest thing that’s ever happened to me in this job was getting a marriage proposal from a client whose investment portfolio doubled in value. Once I was done explaining all of the numbers, I received her proposal. I should point out that I was 37 at the time and my client was 76. I was not sure she’d be able to get up off of her bent knee, but she did...with help.
I get up and go to work every day because I believe what I do really helps people. I am proud every time one of my clients is pleased with his or her portfolio’s performance. It feels good, really good, to help people realize their dreams.
The challenges I face are ones that are beyond my control. Things like the performance of the stock market, clients not wanting to listen to my advice because their 12 year-old neighbor thinks some fly-by-night company’s IPO is a better investment than what I recommended are challenging. What really makes me want to pull my hair out, though, is when someone comes to me for help after the person was burned by the careless advice of another financial professional. The person I mentioned earlier is only one of many that have come to me after significant damage has already been done to their net worth. It’s infuriating and very, very sad.
My job is not stressful at this point of my career. I have a substantial clientele base so I get paid based on the amount of assets I currently manage in addition to commissions. I’m now in a position to enjoy a comfortable balance between work and my personal life, but I worked all the time for the first few years I was a financial planner. My schedule belonged to my clients, not me, for a long time.
Financial planners who are just starting out typically work on a commission-only basis. So, everyone earns varying amounts. I would estimate a new advisor would make between $20,000 and $50,000 in his first year depending on his work ethic and contacts. Some make much less while others make much more. Since I get paid a percentage of the assets I manage, my pay is more than generous – it’s in the six-figure range – and I can easily pay my household bills.
Due to my tenure with my employer, I can take as much as six weeks of paid vacation time per year. I usually take only four weeks, though. And, I always have my cell phone with me while I’m out of town in case my office needs to contact me on behalf of a client, which happens often.
A business or finance degree would help a recent graduate get hired in my field. In order to succeed, a person needs people skills above anything else, however. A financial planner needs to be able to get people to open up about things that are incredibly personal, their finances, and interact with them without judgment.
If I had a friend who was interested in pursuing a career in my field, I would recommend to him that he look at other areas of the bank before committing to being an advisor. Too many financial companies are hiring too many supposed advisors who pass the required exams and think that makes them experts. I would warn my friend that it would be difficult for him to differentiate himself from everyone else offering advice and that I was concerned about his ability to make enough money to survive.
If I could be doing anything in five years, I would have the same job at the same bank with the same staff. But, I would have won the lottery and I’d own the place.
This is a true story as told to LatPro.com, the worldwide leader in providing online employment resources for Hispanic and bilingual professionals. LatPro is the largest diversity employment site in the U.S. and the most complete personal career advancement service for Latino and bilingual professionals.