Why It Sucks to be a Financial Advisor

Being a financial advisor or insurance agent isn’t all champagne wishes and caviar dreams. In fact, it’s a lot of misery for a long time and then maybe, just maybe, a ray of sunshine breaks through a seemingly endless dark cloud that rains prosperity down on a persistent individual.

That all sounds rather dark I know, but I want to be very clear about how this industry over-emphasizes the benefits and understates the costs (both financial and emotional) involved in growing to become a successful advisor/agent.

Today we’re speaking directly to those who seek to join our ranks within the financial services industry, and those who have newly joined the game and wondering how on earth they go about continuing to stay in the game.

First, Let’s Define who we are Talking about

I’ll use the term agent and advisor pretty much interchangeably today. Before the people at FINRA get upset with me, hear me out. I’m not trying to say the two are the same. I’m merely stating that what I’m talking about today is equally applicable.

Careful where you get your Information

I get phone calls and emails from people who want to “do what I do.” They come asking me what I think about joining an array of financial services firms.

Lots of people want my advice on what company to work for, who has the best training program, or who has the best system to ensure my success.

The answer, sadly, is no one. Here’s the deal when it comes to the career system. You’ll be working with someone—as your manager—who is not a skilled agent.

He or she worked for as little as possible as an agent, generally hated, and moved into management because it was loads easier (and came with a much more consistent paycheck) than being an agent who needed to meet with clients and have an income that was dependent on those clients’ buying something.


So, for these people, everything they tell the “young” unsuspecting agent-in-training is theory—for the most part. Success for most agents in the career world is not about calculated or methodical process that drives someone to success.

It’s a big question mark. A lot of throwing spaghetti at the wall and seeing what sticks. And I mean human beings trying to earn a living, not theories for agent success.

I'm afraid there is no company, or program that has “cornered the market” on what can or will make you a successful agent or financial advisor. You know–the type who gets to wake up every morning and drive to work in his or her gold plated European luxury car (so hold up on that yacht loan application for just a minute).

Find a Mentor

The best piece of advice I can give anyone is find a mentor. Someone who is actually working in the job function you'd like to have and who has actually had some degree of success with it.

Be ready to pay these people (generally in the form of splitting business) for the privilege of learning how to do what they do. And don’t be surprised when they don’t jump up and down with excitement when you bring them a $5,000 IRA to open up, or a $100,000 term life case.

Also, don’t get all heart broken when your first attempt at setting up shop with your mentor of choice falls from the sky in a ball of flames. People you generally want to work with are busy, and making sure you are successful is not at the top of their to-do list (this is why sometimes you have to settle for the sales manager who works in theory—at least for the time being).

This Job is not as Glamorous as you Might ThinkInsurance Agent as a career

Despite all the shiny brochures and images of opulence, this career can be brutally demoralizing and leaves many penniless optimists in its wake.

Largely because people are ready to live the life style they hope to have with this career success, but are not even remotely interested in putting in the work required to get there.

And the list of barriers that are attempting to keep you from reaching that success seem to grow each year.

The industry in its entirety is struggling through a huge shift in delivery of information, and insurance distribution in particular has rapidly changed from a dedicated career sales force to independent brokers making up the lion’s share of the business.

It’s tough when you’re new, and there are so many things you’ll need to be ready to do that most people aren't willing to deal with in order to be successful. Some of it seemingly demeaning; some of it hugely time consuming (I often work well into the evening because there’s a pile of emails that need a reply or applications that need to be completed and sent off to carriers).

So, it’s a tough world out there. This career is not for the faint of heart. Getting the job is easy (pretty much anyone can). It’s keeping it and not going broke that remains the challenge for most.

5 Responses to “Why It Sucks to be a Financial Advisor”

  1. Fred Starr says:

    From personal experience, you can add maintaining your health as another challenge.

  2. DHK says:

    “Hire ’em in masses
    Teach ’em in classes
    Sell all their family and friends…
    and fire their ***es.”

  3. Shaun Snapp says:

    This last quote is hilarious. Is this a real quotation? If so, it describes the financial advise industry as a bit of a multi level pyramid scheme.

    Image a new broker, advisor, etc.. they think that being signed up with a big name means that they will be given a steady stream of clients, but come to find out they have to prospect themselves. Desperate to keep their new job, they pitch products to their family and friends. However, most the stuff is selected for a high profit margin, not because it is good quality. After they can’t meet their quota, the new broker, advisor gets let go. But the big firm got to burn the relationships of the broker, advisor, and there is nothing that the broker, advisor can do about it.

    How many times has this exact scenario happened.

    • Brandon Roberts says:

      Additionally, don’t forget the numerous times the sales manager reminds all of the the sales staff that the company has a referral hiring bonus! Convince one of your friends to throw all of his or her financial security through the shredder and come work for us. You can earn $2,000 if they come aboard and actually sell something.

  4. Tom T says:

    I wish I had read this before July of 2012. I was excited when I went to work for a top office on Long Island. What I didn’t know was that it was a top office because most of the Agents there had: a. careers that dated back to the 1980’s; b. were advisers who were recruited from other companies; c. retirees on a second career; d. all of the above. Needless to say, my office and Management were supportive but only to a certain point and the New York City/Long Island area is one of the worst areas to attempt to break into this business with nothing more than an ALH license. It’s funny because, I still get calls from recruiters who, “found my resume on CareerBuilder”, and “think I’d be a great fit”. It’s fun when I recite back to them their pitch and they don’t know what to say. Not saying ‘young’ people can’t make it starting out, but you really need to have the right personality, which I did not. Nor did I have the resources to start out. Too bad all I saw was the potential $$$, but didn’t know it would end up costing $$$$$$.

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