Ten years into a successful career as a certified public accountant, Scott Giljum couldn’t shake the feeling that something was missing.
“I didn’t feel like I was making a difference, and that made going to work very difficult,” he says. “I couldn’t see myself being a CPA for another 30 years.”
But it was also during the Great Recession and the job market was less than encouraging. “I looked for an opportunity that wouldn’t require going back to school and would be fit for my accounting experience,” he says. A little poking around led him to become a financial advisor as a second career.
More than a decade later, he is happily settled into his role as a financial advisor at Edward Jones in St. Louis and hasn’t looked back. When asked what he would do differently, he says, “Honestly, I only wish I had made the change sooner.”
Becoming a financial advisor as a second career, especially becoming a financial advisor at 40, can be a great career decision.
“Career changers over 40 already have business and life experience; a few gray hairs can help with perceived credibility, as well,” says Ryan Sullivan, managing director of Applied Insights at Hartford Funds. In fact, “some firms actively seek out career changers who have proven successful in other industries.”
Here are the steps to become a financial advisor at 40:
- Decide if it’s the right career for you.
- Interview people in the industry.
- Choose which firms to apply to.
- Get ready to apply.
Decide if It’s the Right Career for You
As rewarding as becoming a financial advisor can be, it’s not for everyone. “The hours can be challenging early on, between studying for licensing exams, meeting with prospective clients, networking and holding educational events,” Sullivan says. The current “social distancing” requirements due to the global health crisis only make prospecting harder.
“There’s a large sales component to the role,” he adds. Are you comfortable prospecting others, including your family and friends? Can you stay motivated enough to persevere even in the face of rejection?
“The pay can also vary greatly as you get started, especially if there’s another economic downturn,” Sullivan says. “But if you are determined to help others and creative about how best to do that, you’ll find a way to succeed.”
The people most suited to becoming a financial advisor at 40 are those who enjoy building strong relationships and are driven to make a difference.
“We find the most successful second-act advisors are people who already have a record of success and wide network of acquaintances and are ethical and caring,” says Michael Purpura, president of wealth management at D.A. Davidson & Co. “This is an ideal option for someone who is independent, entrepreneurial and ready for a challenging and rewarding career that benefits others.”
You should be willing and able to stretch yourself, learn new skills and adapt to a dynamic industry, he says. “While the rewards of becoming an advisor are extensive, your success depends on your ability to take the reins and make your own path through hard work and integrity.”
Interview People in the Industry
One way to help you determine if a financial advisor career is right for you is by interviewing people who are actually doing it. Talk to people in the industry, both industry veterans and new advisors in the field, who can share their experiences getting started.
You could reach out to local financial advisors in your area, or turn to an association for financial advisors that can help connect you. For instance, both the National Association of Personal Financial Planners (NAPFA) and the CFP Board let you search for local fee-only advisors in your area. FINRA’s BrokerCheck also has a search feature, which allows you to type in your ZIP code to find registered brokers in your area.
You might also talk over the decision with your family. “The first few years may require long hours with fluctuating income,” Sullivan says. It pays to make sure you have your family’s support before jumping into a major career change at 40.
Choose Which Firms to Apply To
Giljum spoke to several people at different financial firms when considering his career change. In the end, he was “drawn to Edward Jones’ reputation, training programs and unique culture of coaching and collaborating,” he says. He liked that the training included both practical and tailored support but also connected him with mentors in his area.
“I knew I would get the support and feedback I needed from fellow financial advisors to successfully build my practice,” he says by choosing Edward Jones for his career path.
There are countless financial firms to choose from when becoming a financial advisor, from nationwide firms like Edward Jones to smaller independent advisors.
One question to ask yourself: What type of training do you want?
Sullivan recommends a firm that’s willing to provide solid training and is intent on helping you succeed. “Some will even give you a small number of existing clients to get started,” he says.
Also consider the type of work environment you want. For instance, would you rather be in a larger outfit where you’re one of many advisors in the building, or operate a one-advisor practice that’s just you and your support staff?
Get Ready to Apply
Once you’ve picked your top few financial firms to apply to, the last step is making sure you meet the hiring criteria. Most firms require a bachelor’s degree or equivalent experience, and all will perform a detailed background check.
While you don’t need financial experience to become a financial advisor, it doesn’t hurt to be familiar with financial matters. Once hired, you’ll need to pass the industry licensing exams, unless, of course, you opt to take them beforehand.
“In the past, you had to be affiliated with a financial services company to take any securities-related exams, but you can now take the entry-level Securities Investment Essentials exam on your own,” Sullivan says. “This can help verify (whether) you find securities-related work interesting while proving to potential employers that you’re serious and trainable.”
A role as a financial advisor can be a great second career. “You get to help others with their financial goals, there could be unlimited income potential. And, once you’re established, there’s ever-increasing flexibility in where and how you work,” Sullivan says.
When asked what advice he gives people interested in becoming a financial advisor as a second career, Giljum said only: “Don’t wait!”
While it’s another challenging market today, “now is the time to act,” he says. “New financial advisors have an opportunity to build relationships now when people are most willing to listen to advice, and they can create a meaningful impact for both their clients and their communities right out of the gate.”