People who enjoy intricate details of the financial world might enjoy working as a professional financial advisor. They assist individuals and business clients with making informed decisions regarding investments. They provide information and analysis relevant to clients’ money concerns. The information is used to make decisions about the best investment strategy based on those needs.

In traditional settings, people in this profession facilitated securities transactions involving stocks and bonds. The primary role for this profession was acting as the clients’ agent to buy and sell these investment vehicles. Today, financial advisors have evolved into wealth management advisors who focus on clients’ total financial well-being. An investment career can take several different paths depending on an individual’s interest. Some people might choose to pursue a career advising small businesses, wealthy families or individuals. Others might work for large institutions such as a bank or investment firm. Employment at a securities firm might require a specialization in one or more areas.

Securing a job with major firms on Wall Street used to follow the completion of a training program within the firm. However, most financial advisor firms no longer offer these programs. This can make entering the financial services industry quite difficult for those without proper credentials and educational background. Firms that still offer training programs typically hire people who already have some experience. Individuals who qualify for these programs are looking for a career change after working in the financial services sector for a number of years. In addition to training and previous experience, most people secure positions through various amounts of networking. Typically, this involves developing professional (and sometimes even personal) relationships with established advisors.

Job Description and Outlook

They help individuals and businesses with decisions regarding tax liabilities, insurance needs and investment strategies. To accomplish this, people in this profession have regular meetings with their clients to discuss the options available to help them reach their goals. Clients expect advisors to have the knowledge and expertise required to explain the various types of investments. The advisor must answer questions and educate their clients on subjects such as risk, suitable strategies based on their situation and how to prepare for the future. This helps them build an investment portfolio that matches their personal financial goals. This may include savings, real estate, pensions, stocks, bonds, and other assets.

In addition to making recommendations, advisors also help clients plan for future endeavors. Responsibilities of financial planners typically include helping with both the short and long-term goals of their clients. Couples with children need to begin saving for their children’s college education. Older people must consider their retirement options. Advisors will usually monitor established accounts for clients as their lifestyle changes. They are also responsible for researching various investment opportunities that match the goals of their clients.

Those who work for high net-worth clients who have large sums of money to invest are typically called private bankers, corporate financial restructuring or wealth managers. The approach for advising these clients is different from advice given to the general public. These individuals will have larger cash flows and a broad spectrum of investments. Private bankers usually have a team of professionals such as accountants and analysts to help manage high net-worth clients.

The employment outlook predicts job market growth of 33% between 2010 and 2020, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS). This is much faster than the overall job market growth in the United States. This is largely due to an increase in the number of people who are retiring every year. Additionally, more people will seek personal advice as other forms of retirement income decrease or disappear completely. Due to financial shortfalls, many state and corporate employers offer less or no pensions to retirees, prompting more individuals to seek planning advice.

Education and Training Requirements

The educational and training requirements are similar to those for other careers in the world of finance. Most entry level positions require at minimum a bachelor’s degree. Many companies look for applicants who have a degree in a field such as investing, accounting, economics or business administration. Others may require advanced degrees (such as a master’s degree) and additional certifications. Some states require special licenses and certification to work positions that handle finances. Generally, employers expect a bachelor’s degree from an accredited college or university. Fields of study can include accounting, business, economics or finance. Coursework varies among degree programs and educational institutions, but generally includes classes that cover topics such as estate planning, tax law, investments and risk management.

Several licenses are required for people who buy or sell investment vehicles such as insurance policies, stocks and bonds. Advising clients on making saving and investment decisions also requires being licensed in the field. Firms are required to register with state and federal regulatory agencies. Advisors may also need to register with these agencies. Not only is certification required for most positions, it also enhances an advisor’s reputation with clients. People interested in the financial services field can become certified in several different ways. The Certified Financial Planner (CFP) designation is available to those with an undergraduate degree and three years of experience.

The Series 65 exam is available through the Financial Industry Regulatory Authority (FINRA). The exam focuses on relevant topics such as retirement planning, fiduciary obligations and portfolio management. Successful completion of this exam qualifies professionals to work as an investment representative in some states.

Series 6 is another license that requires passing specific exam material. FINRA also administers this exam for individuals interested in investment strategies. The exam equips individuals to advise on mutual funds, securities regulations, tax regulations, variable annuities and insurance products.

Salary Facts and Statistics

As of May 2011, the median annual compensation for financial advisors was approximately $66,580. The top 10% of people in this profession earned a median of $111,880 while the lowest 10% earned a median of $32,810 according to the BLS.

Compensation is usually paid at least in part by commission. Salaries can be based on the firm’s generated revenue or the investment products that an individual is able to sell. The total value of client assets might also factor into a financial advisor’s salary. This is how some advisors make more than $1 million a year. Experience also determines potential earnings. Novice advisors with less than a year of experience could average $32,000 annually. Some might earn up to $61,000 annually. Salaries typically follow years of experience. Those with five years of experience can earn over $70,000 per year, while 10 to 20 years can merit a salary $238,000 or more.

Geographic location also contributes to how much they make. BLS statistics for May 2011 show annual incomes are greater for advisors in California and New York, with annual salaries of $88,520 and $133,410 respectively. Connecticut also has a high salary for people in this profession at $132,890 annually. Other states have lower annual salaries compared to New York and Connecticut. Mean annual salaries for states such as Idaho and Louisiana range between $42,000 and $62,770.

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