One of my goals during my three month work hiatus was to look into a career in financial planning. Even though I majored in aerospace engineering during college, it wasn’t until after I graduated and started working that I found out how much I liked helping people with their finances. People are usually surprised to discover that I’m so into personal finance considering my educational background. But I think the two go hand in hand; I base a lot of my investing principles/techniques off facts and reason instead of conjecture and hand-waving. And I think that’s what makes me so good at what I do.
I’ve actually always had an interest in money and investing. I started working my first job for a start-up when I was 14(looking back this had to be illegal) and I was also investing(poorly) in stocks during high school. Once I started making a real salary though, I figured there had to be a better way to invest than picking stocks randomly. That’s when I started reading everything I could get my hands on: blogs, books, forums, etc. The great thing about the personal finance sphere is that you can self-educate yourself for free. I paid a lot of money for my engineering degree and it still didn’t prepare me that well for my first job.
Why I Want to Help
I started my blog in January of 2012 with the intention of helping other young professionals. I looked at my friends and their spending and saving habits and I knew trouble was brewing. There are lots of young very successful people out there who have no clue what they’re doing when it comes to their money. They don’t understand the difference between a marginal and effective tax rate and they don’t realize that making small sacrifices now will pay huge dividends later.
I didn’t set out to change their opinions though, I know that’s a very difficult task. The reason why I started my blog was to enlighten and educate those who would listen. Since most people don’t like being told what to do, I never tried to do that. But I also know that there will be a small percentage of people who take my advice and use it to make their lives better.
I’ve been blogging for nearly two years now and I love it. In fact, I love it so much I started another blog and I’m writing for four different sites right now. That’s about 20 hours worth of work on top of my day job but I love doing it. All of the work I’ve put in blogging and writing during the past two years made me wonder if a career in financial planning was right for me. I started seriously thinking about it recently since I had to leave my old job when we moved up to Orange County a few months ago. I figured it was the perfect time to look around and see what else was out there.
Who Would I Work For?
The only problem with switching careers is that you have to know someone in that new field. I’ve made a lot of good networking contacts during my lifetime, but no one came to mind when I was looking into the financial industry in Orange County. Towards the end of my work hiatus though, I got in contact with a financial representative from Northwestern Mutual. We connected through a friend that I work online with and this representative told me all about what he does. Everything he described sounded like what I wanted to do: he was basically his own boss, he found clients and managed their money, he was always going to meetings with clients, doing different things every day, etc.
I liked what he described since I’m not going to trade one desk job for another. I actually like my engineering job but I know that there is limited room for advancement. Engineers tend to start off at very high salaries but if you’re not on a management track within 10 years, you won’t ever see much more responsibility or salary. If I was going to make the switch to a career in financial planning it would have to be a job where I would see a direct correlation between how hard I work and how much money I make.
My Sit Down with Northwestern Mutual
I ended up taking a meeting with a recruiter from Northwestern Mutual in Newport Beach. During the meeting, I basically discussed everything I’d been doing online during the past two years, my educational background, my personal background and more. NW Mutual is one of the big boys when it comes to financial products and although I had obviously heard of them, I didn’t know too much about them. Here are my takeaways from the meeting:
- NW Mutual would help you pass the series 6 and 63 tests and then you’d be 100% commission. Yikes!
- The whole presentation seemed a bit pyramid-schemey to me. I kind of felt like I was hocking Advocare or Herbalife products instead of financial products – that’s not what I want.
- They kept asking me for referrals for new agents. I saw it on their website and I saw it on some forms I was filling out. It didn’t seem like they were very selective with who they interviewed.
- The only person I met with was a recruiter. Although she was nice, she was about 25 and had no investment background so I couldn’t ask a lot of the questions I had in mind.
At the end of the meeting, the recruiter let me know that if I’d like to proceed she could schedule me for an interview. My overall takeaway from the meeting wasn’t negative but I wasn’t that impressed to be honest. It seems like NW Mutual will just take anybody off the street and let them hock their products. Although they reiterated that you are not forced to sell NW-Mutual products exclusively, I’m sure there is a big push to sell their own products or how else would the company be so successful? It just seemed like there was a lot they weren’t telling me.
As soon as I got home, I went online and did some research into careers at NW Mutual as a financial planner. What I found confirmed my suspicions: NW Mutual’s agents tend to work long hours for little pay and they ask you to pitch their products to all of your friends/family. Nearly all the reviews I saw were somewhat negative and echoed the same sentiments. From what I read online, it was the exact job that I’m trying to move away from. But I took everything I read online with a grain of salt since people tend to post crazy stuff online.
Obviously NW Mutual is doing something right since they’ve been in business for over 100 years but it didn’t seem like a career with them would be the right fit for me. I looked at the starting salaries for a financial planner with NW Mutual and I could make more than that working online if I did it 40 hours a week.
Money is probably the biggest barrier right now that’s preventing me from making the switch to a career in financial planning. I make good money at my day job and great money working online so I don’t have to take a low paying entry level finance job. I’m not sure that the right opportunity will ever fall into my lap so until then I always have my blogging and writing.
My Blog is my Outlet
I really enjoy helping people with their finances. When people e-mail me and ask me questions about what they should do with their finances or how they should invest I love helping them out. For now, I think I’m content to keep blogging and writing and getting paid for what I love to do. It’s not as stable of a career as one in financial planning but I’m not sure there are many financial planning jobs that would fit my needs. I know there’s a job out there that’s right for me but I don’t think it’s going to be with one of the big financial planning firms. More likely, it’s probably going to lie with a smaller firm that has fee-only financial planners that think like me.
Everything I talk about on this blog relates to finding the lowest cost investment products and getting the most for your money. I’m not sure how conducive my financial planning style would be to me making good money as a financial planner. I know I’d be saving my clients a ton of money and helping them out but I don’t know if I’d be rewarded appropriately working for a big firm since they tend to offer some of the worst products.
Ultimately, I’m going to keep on doing what I’m doing. Although I really enjoy helping individuals out with their finances, I haven’t found the right career opportunity that will let me follow my passion and get paid accordingly. I like blogging and writing so I can see myself doing that indefinitely. I did it full time(well four hours a day) for the past three months and I made good money and never got tired of it. Ideally, I’d like to do some combination of financial planning and writing/blogging.
So far the income from the latter has been well worth it but I am a little concerned about the financial planning salary. I know there are people out there making good money as financial planners but I have a feeling they are the ones selling the high expense ratio products that I always recommend against buying! If things go well though with my other streams of passive income then I might not care about how much money I make as a financial planner though. I’d be able to do it just because I like it and that’s a good place to be in. It also doesn’t hurt that I’ll be marrying a doctor.
Readers, what do you think about my choice to some day pursue a career in financial planning? Am I crazy, greedy or stupid to want to leave a successful career in engineering to pursue a passion?
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-Harry @ PF Pro