My entire adult life I’ve had a passion for investing and building wealth. It was something I was good at and knew a lot about and it was no surprise that while in college I wanted to become a financial advisor. I thought that working as a financial advisor I could share my experience and passion with others, and help them construct long-term financial plans to boost their wealth and financial future.
Beginning in my junior year of college and into my senior year I took on an internship working as a financial advisor for a large and well know financial institution. It was during this time that I learned a great deal of knowledge about the financial industry. I’ll share with you my experience working as a financial advisor and everything I enjoyed about that industry and everything I disliked about it.
What I Enjoyed Working as a Financial Advisor
Paid for Training and Certifications
One benefit I received interning at this company as a financial advisor was the paid for training and certification classes I was able to take. This included paying for certification classes and state exams to receive my life insurance license, health insurance license, long-term care license, and many more.
After receiving all my certifications and licenses they paid for about three weeks of classroom training for myself and other interns from across the region. The classroom training was a great experience and I was able to meet and form relationships with other interns my age who shared similar interests and ambitions as I did.
Mentoring and Coaching
A huge benefit of going into the industry as a intern was the paid mentoring and coaching the company provided only to their interns. Most professionals and individuals starting in the industry had mentors and coaches but they paid for those services out of their own pockets, as an intern I received those services for free.
In the office where I worked there were two full-time mentors and coaches whose job was to work with college interns and were called C.O.D’s or College Unit Directors. I want to make it clear that this is a very mentally challenging industry and there’s a lot of rejection. The highs are high and the lows are very low, so having a coach and mentor is normally essential for success and someone to talk to when the “lows are very low”.
Every week I would sit down with my C.O.D to discuss my successes and failures from the week before and if I had any failures we would discuss how to overcome them. Then we’d go over my daily goals for that week, what I needed to do specifically to accomplish those goals, go over my schedule for that week, and talk about any prospects or clients I had on the books to meet with later that week.
Besides the weekly meetings, the C.O.D’s offices where directly down the hall or just a phone call away if we ever needed to talk to them about anything or needed a pick-me-up. Everyday there would be times when I to go talk to them, whether it was because I just receive a harsh rejection over the phone or just simply had a question.
When the “highs were high” and business was great, my C.O.D was there to help me stay focused and remind me that high’s come in short bursts. More importantly, was when the “lows were extremely low” my C.O.D was there to pick me up and keep me motivated.
Meeting New People and Forming Relationships
Fast forward past all the training and into that actual job itself. This job offered opportunities to form and build professional connections like no other. Working in the actual office itself I was able to meet highly successful and knowledgeable people who’ve been working in the industry for many years. Most of these individuals were more than eager to share their experience and successes with me, and give me useful career tips and advice.
Outside of the office, I was able to attend seminars held by the company. They would bring in inspiring and successful guest speakers who shared their stories and knowledge.
I was able to meet individuals and business owners of all different backgrounds, whether they were prospects or clients. When meeting with prospects and clients I learned about their short-term and long-term life goals, their background, education, careers, and their exact financial situation. Many times I was inspired and it always amazed me how easily they would tell me things they would never tell some of the people closest to them, especially when it came to their finances.
The Opportunity to Help People
One thing I learned working in this industry was people go to financial advisors for more than just financial advice whether they realize it or not. The guidance we offered was indeed to to help our clients build and protect their wealth and legacy’s, but more than that we helped people construct and follow through on short-and-long term goals.
I would try to find out everything possible about a person from their background, where they were going, and goals they wanted to achieve, both life and financial goals. Once I found out everything I could about an individual, couple, or a business I would help them develop a financial plan.
Once developed to suit the needs of the clients, the financial plan would not only better the client financially but the plan would also allow them to accomplish life-long goals.
I’ve helped couples with new born children set up educational plans, such as 529 plans so they would be able to pay for their child’s college when the time came. I’ve helped individuals and families pick the correct life insurance plan and/or disability plan with the intent to protect their family’s income if the main earner would no longer be able to work, or worse die. I helped people set up long-term care plans, in case there ever came a time that they could no longer take care of themselves, it wouldn’t strain them or their families financially.
I helped people create retirement plans and set up both Traditional and Roth IRA’s. I’ve also help people find other vehicles to shield their money from taxes and build wealth. One common way to do this that may surprise many of you was with certain life insurance policies. Some life insurance policies actually benefit the person while they’re alive paying them dividends, built cash value, they could borrow money against the policy, and offered a way to shield money from taxes.
This Job Opened My Eyes
When I sat down with people to go over a discovery finder with them, I would be surprised at how often I would find out that many people had little to no savings, multiple personal loans, high mortgages, credit card debt, and had never really thought about or even started planning for retirement. When I encountered scenarios like this, most of the time the individual or couple were college educated and had decent careers. They were taught how to spend but never taught how to save, invest, and protect their financial futures.
One thing I learned that you need to have working in this industry is thick skin or you’ll fail immediately. The hardest part about the job is overcoming peoples rejections and to not be afraid of getting rejected. I learned quickly that being rejected was part of the everyday job and it was psychologically difficult for me at first. Many times after a harsh rejection I never wanted to pick up a phone again!
Thanks to my mentors and coaches I able to overcome rejections and not be afraid to getting rejected. This not only helped me in my internship but also in life in general.
What I Disliked About Working in that Industry
Pressure to Close
I always found it ironic how in training and at seminars they preached about how important it was to form solid long-lasting relationships with clients, but then after a meeting would ask if you closed a deal and if you didn’t they demanded to know why.
The pressure to close was extremely intense working in that industry and because of that some financial advisors well tell clients anything to get them to sign, and end up putting clients in financial vehicles that didn’t align with the clients goals.
The Office Competition
I don’t want you to get the wrong impression here, I enjoy competition most of the time. What I didn’t like was the monetary incentive to sign on as many on as many clients as you could as fast as you could, it seemed very unethical to me.
Our office held multiple weekly, monthly, and quarterly competitions. Each competition was for something different, for example one might be for whoever signs the most clients that week received a $500 bonus. Another competition might have been for signing up the most clients for Roth IRA’s that month would get a $1,000 bonus, or whoever puts the most clients into a life insurance policy that quarter gets a $10,000 bonus. There was serious monetary reward for signing up as many clients as possible and after a while it really started to seem unethical and unfair to the clients.
Higher Commissions for Certain Financial Products
Many of the financial products we offered whether they were 529 plans, basic saving plans, Retirement plans, or even investments such as mutual funds, paid very little commission so there wasn’t much incentive to put clients in them. You may be received between 1-5% commission from these financial vehicles, and in the long run they caused financial advisors more headaches than what they were worth.
Long-term care plans and disability insurance plans and policy paid decent commission. Usually between a 20-30% commission, so there was some incentive to put clients into those. The huge commission payouts came from life insurance policies so there was a lot of incentive to put clients into those. The payout was generally 75% commission on the first year’s premiums and then 25% for every year the client kept the policy, and many of the people who worked in that industry for a long time became fairly wealthy selling life insurance policies. The commission structure also became unethical to me.
Pressure to Look the Part
Professional business apparel was required in the office that meant wearing a suit for men. I loved this at first, putting a suit and tie every day and looking good, but after a while it got old. It started to feel like a chore dressing up every morning. Dressing up was also expensive, the initial costs of suits alone was hundreds of dollars and then the cost of dry cleaning every week really started to add up.