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Second Career: Becoming a Financial Adviser

U.S. News sees excellent growth prospects for this field in the years ahead


Americans are known for their knack for reinvention and many of us believe our opportunities for change continue throughout our careers. I’ve seen this firsthand as I’ve watched a number of successful professionals, at my financial services firm and others, make the transition from a longtime first career to a second career as a financial adviser. Maybe you’d want to, too.

Over my 40-year career, I’ve watched numerous professionals transition to our business: physicians, teachers, dentists, lawyers, CPAs and general sales and service professionals. I’ve even witnessed professionals retire early, only to realize they were not ready for retirement and then decide to enter the field.

Financial Adviser: Excellent Growth Prospects

It’s easy to see why. U.S. News & World Report’s 2017 Best Business Jobs report ranked financial adviser No. 3 among 25 top business careers, with excellent growth prospects for the years ahead.

This career path is best-suited for professionals who want to make a difference in the lives of others and enjoy building relationships that can last a lifetime. The best second-act financial advisers are people with grit who have a history of overcoming adversity and have had a track record of prior success. Integrity, caring and competence are a few other worthy qualities as well.

Having had the wisdom of real-life experience is a huge benefit for second career financial advisers because over the years they’ve learned to understand how financial, personal and professional aspects of life can intersect and change.

Successful Dentist Turned Successful Financial Adviser

One excellent financial adviser at our firm had a previously successful, 23-year career as a dentist. After facing a neck injury that made it challenging for him to continue his work, he decided to change fields. Being a known trusted professional in his community translated well into his second career as a financial adviser. What he told me he liked most about the transition was the long-term, evolving relationships he was able to cultivate and maintain.

Of course, his experience doesn’t mean the career transition is easy.

The Time and Costs Involved

Becoming a financial adviser takes rigorous study; at our firm, people put in about 270 hours of study time to pass a number of industry exams, including the series 7 (giving stockbrokers a license to trade) and 66 (to qualify people as securities agents and investment adviser representatives). Partnering with a firm with resources, such as paid training programs and professional trainers who are invested in your potential, can be invaluable for someone embarking on this career.

Becoming a Certified Financial Planner is not a requirement to becoming a financial adviser. Taking courses to receive the CFP designation is typically done after someone enters the business.

There are some costs involved, too. Financial services firms often cover the cost of exams (the Series 7 fee is $305; the 66 is $155) and training. The CFP exam costs $595; materials and classes can run another $400 or more.

However, simply having a license doesn’t prepare someone for what it takes to be a competent and professional financial adviser who is a trusted partner to potential clients. The biggest “cost” is the commitment of time to building a healthy practice.

The Many Rewards of Being a Financial Adviser

However, once you do, the personal rewards are very fulfilling. The rewarding aspects of working as an adviser don’t end with the ability to help others improve their financial situations. No two days are ever alike, and there are new opportunities to grow, learn and achieve around every corner — not to mention the interesting people you get to meet on a daily basis. As a financial adviser, you can become part of the fabric of your community.

You also get to be an entrepreneur. Having a financial advisory practice can be like running your own business but with the resources and strength of a support system behind you.

An experienced financial adviser can often refine his or her business practice with built-in scheduling flexibility, which is an advantage for maintaining a good work-life balance. And because the profession doesn’t require physical strain, the potential to lead a long career into your retirement years is there.

Questions to Ask Yourself

  • Can you see yourself working to make a difference in the lives of others by helping them plan for retirement and/or reaching other life goals?
  • Are you ready to challenge yourself in new, interesting and rewarding ways?
  • Are you a professional with an extensive network of friends and acquaintances?
  • Do you find yourself interested in investments and how they affect our personal financial futures?

If you find yourself answering “yes,” then a second career as a financial adviser may be a rewarding path for you.

Jim Kerr
By Jim Kerr
Jim Kerr is the CEO of D.A. Davidson, an employee-owned financial services firm headquartered in Montana, with corporate offices in Denver, Los Angeles, Portland and Seattle.

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