In Episode 8, I talk to Daniel Yerger, MBA, CFP©, ChFC©, AIF©, CDFA© of MY Wealth Planners about his new book, Getting In the Door: Starting a Financial Planning Career, his journey to becoming a financial planner, and how the career path has changed over time.
“…in financial planning, you're in a unique and interesting place where you sit down at the table with the people whose lives you're going to change.” – Daniel Yerger
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Transcript - Real Life Planning Podcast - Episode 8
[00:00:11] Welcome to the Real Life Planning podcast. I'm Cynthia Meyer with Real Life Planning. And this is episode 10: Getting In The Door In a Financial Planning Career With Daniel Yerger. My colleague and friend in XY Planning Network and a member of my mastermind group. Daniel, welcome. Thank you for coming on today.
[00:00:31] I'm very excited to be here for the first time and thanks for having me.
[00:00:35] Excellent. So we have all these great conversations every week in our mastermind, and I've been following your progress in writing the book and publishing the book. And I'm really excited to have you on today to talk about this.
[00:00:48] I've read it twice. I think anybody who's considering a career in financial planning should definitely read it. Tell me a little bit more about why you wrote it.
[00:00:56] The core part of why I wrote the book is because I had the [00:01:00] conversation that the book, financial planning is super hard to get into in terms of really understanding whether you're getting into financial planning or something financial planning adjacent. The easy comparison here would be, if you want to be a lawyer, you have to go to law school. If you want to be a doctor, you have to go to medical school. You want to be a financial planner, you go somewhere, or you do something?
[00:01:21] The challenge is when you go to various people in the financial industry, they're all going to have some variation of a different story about how to get into the field based on how they did it. Or based on what they've seen. And some will call themselves financial planners who aren't really financial planners.
[00:01:35] And so the book was really intended to provide people with a really clear guide on- here's the lay of the land. Here's the profession of financial planning. Here's what financial planners do and then, here's how you find work in the financial planning field and compete for those high quality planning jobs.
[00:01:52] That's really needed because many consumers still don't even know what a financial planner is. How does somebody who's, thinking about [00:02:00] this from a university perspective, for example, how do they even know what they're getting into?
[00:02:05] Can you break that down a little bit?
[00:02:07] Sure. In the book and in conversations with people, I like to divide up the term financial planner from financial advisor. They can be very similar. They can be absolutely adjacent. You might even have one of each in a large organization. But generally what I try to define a financial planner as is somebody who's going to engage a client in a holistic process, that is going to focus on the accomplishment of their financial goals and the core service. The core thing that person is being paid to do is provide the planning, the recommendations, the advice, and help with implementation in that plan in varying degrees based on the client's needs and preferences.
[00:02:46] In the case of a financial advisor might do something that looks like financial planning. They might even do a holistic, comprehensive financial plan as part of what they do. But the difference is in the intent. The intent of the financial advisor is, "Now that [00:03:00] we've gotten all this planning stuff done or out of the way, here are some products or some services I'm going to recommend for you, and that's how I'm going to get paid and that's the focus of my business is getting you to the point that you're going to engage in those services or pay for those products."
[00:03:15] And so planning can be done on both sides. And planners might help with the products & implementation and advisors certainly will help with the products & implementation, but the core difference is in the intent and how they get to that point.
[00:03:28] Yeah, I think that makes sense. We both work, for those of you who are listening, we both work as what are called fee only financial planners. We're paid directly by clients for that kind of advice, planning, guidance, and coaching. We don't sell any financial products, either one of us, in our business. It does seem like financial planning to most people, they don't know, is it a document? Is it a process?
[00:03:54] I always like to say that there should be some version of an action items list or a report or something that, God [00:04:00] forbid, you the planner, get hit by a truck that your client can at least take and have something of value.
[00:04:04] The plan shouldn't live inside of you as the planner, necessarily. But at the same time, anybody who thinks that they're just going to go into a financial planning store and kind of get and buy a financial plan off the shelf. And it's going to fit in a binder or in a PDF document or something and then they're just going to go on their merry way- that's a transactional process or a transactional engagement. There's a need for that in a very limited scope. We see a lot of that in tax preparation, for example. But I think a lot of people are ultimately going to be frustrated with that as opposed to something that is more of a process that does engage them on an ongoing basis.
[00:04:38] The challenge is that the landscape is always changing. The market is different every single day. The economy is different every single day. Your business, your career, your life changes. If you're going to rely on call it a map that you had made one time for you for the next 5, 10, 15, 20, 30, 40, 50 years. How reliable is that going to be? I mean, imagine trying to get from point A to point [00:05:00] B anywhere on earth using a map that you had created 20, 30, 40 years ago. It's just not going to be reliable. The idea that you're going to generate plans and then just have that plan or that document or something forever and rely on that forever, just doesn't make any sense when you really get down to it.
[00:05:15] For the person that's thinking about considering a career in financial planning, is to think about that they're playing a role in a client's life as coaching or mentoring that process- where the client is going to come to their own wise and confident decisions about their financial direction.
[00:05:29] It's a huge part of it. It's also catching all the interrelated parts. A lot of financial planners will talk to somebody and that person will have one problem, one issue, one question that they want help with. And the planner knows enough to know that when the client says:
[00:05:43] "Oh, I'm looking at buying a business, selling a business."
[00:05:46] "I'm looking at purchasing this rental property."
[00:05:49] "I'm looking at trading one for the other."
[00:05:51] They've gone to the school of Google and they've asked some questions and it's come back with single point answers to single point issues. But part of what a planner [00:06:00] brings to the table is a knowledge of all the interrelated components of the plan.
[00:06:03] So even though somebody might come in with one problem and one question they want answered, the planner knows that question probably touches on easily a dozen other things that need to be addressed or considered as part of that decision, as part of how they could take action in their lives.
[00:06:18] You and I had very different paths into this profession, which I find extremely interesting. Tell me a little bit about how you got into financial planning. What was your path?
[00:06:28] Largely by process of elimination and almost by accident. Before being a financial planner, going very briefly back, right out of high school, I joined the army. I was a psychological warfare specialist or psychological operations soldier as the parlance goes. From there, transitioning through the reserve time towards the end of my time in service, I worked at IBM for a number of years. If anybody's ever seen that movie, Office Space, I was one of the Bobs. It was my job to go into other companies and ask people what they did. And figure out where they fit into the org chart and whatnot. From that, while I was working at IBM, and [00:07:00] prior to that, I had done an undergrad study in history and political science, which is full of interesting and useless, excuse me, things. No offense to anybody in the history & political science fields. There's a lot of hard work being done there. It's just not a lot of skills that apply anywhere outside of the fields.
[00:07:14] When I went, to IBM, I started to work on a master's degree and I did an MBA. As part of that MBA, I originally did a concentration in marketing and at one point a officer from the reserve unit I was in at the time, pointed out that being in psychological operations, you're already trained in marketing. You already knew how to do marketing from that. And so why waste the educational time and tuition studying something I already knew how to do the hardest thing. Do the thing that challenges you the most? So I switched into the finance side. Fast forward to the end of my master's program, and I decided I wanted to get into finance.
[00:07:46] But part of what I hadn't done, and part of the impetus for the book was that I hadn't done the homework. I hadn't done the pre-work. I hadn't done internships. I hadn't been to a career days or panels or [00:08:00] conferences. I really hadn't figured out the lay of the financial land very well. Even by the time I was finishing a master's with that concentration. And from that, I made the decision that I was just going to take the shotgun approach. I was just going to apply everywhere.
[00:08:14] So every single company with the word bank, credit union, insurance, mutual, financial finance, anything I could find in the field. And so I went to the college career fair. I Googled. I went on indeed.com and monster, and every job source I could think of.
[00:08:28] I got to that point of elimination when I had multiple interviews with multiple different types of organizations. Speeding through what that looked like. Banks, I felt like my career was always on the calendar. You're going to be a junior vice president for three to five years, then a branch manager for three to five years, and then a regional such and such for three to five years. There was very little focus on capability, skill, ambition, or anything like that. It was mostly just fitting you into a career track the organization wanted you to live in. So that wasn't appealing.
[00:08:52] When you go talk to insurance companies, particularly those with words like mutual in the name there's a lot of Kool-Aid drinking going on [00:09:00] there, right? You have to be willing to do that. So they're going to come in and say, "Hey, we are the best fill in the blank insurance company and we provide the best fill in the blank insurance for customers. And you are going to be blessed and privileged to sell fill in the blank insurance to everybody and everybody you don't know.
[00:09:15] It's the only solution, right?
[00:09:16] It is the only solution for every problem. It is the perfect hammer. I was a psychological warfare person. I recognize propaganda when I hear it. I'm open to the idea that maybe that company might genuinely be the best life company or the best home and auto company or something like that. But the idea of they're going to be the best everything company doesn't stand up at all.
[00:09:34] And so then I really got into finance. The companies that really would call themselves finance companies, not banks or insurance companies. That really ends up being divided into institutional and personal. Institutional, you've got your mutual fund companies, your discount brokerages. You've got the big organizations that manage billions or trillions of dollars or custody them or provide the services so that the infrastructure of the marketplace works. Then you have the [00:10:00] personal side. I decided against the institutional side, cause it seemed like every job was what I'd call a cubicle job. Show up at 7:00 AM leave at 8:00 pm Monday through Friday, rinse and repeat. And one day you might be paid millions of dollars to manage a mutual fund or something like that. But really you're just going to stare at a computer screen all day long. That wasn't very appealing to me just because I'd spent a whole lot of time now in the military being active, being engaged, being involved with people. And so the idea of suddenly just becoming a computer geek all day, didn't hugely appeal to me.
[00:10:28] Then there's the personal side. And on the personal side, now we're getting into the sticky part. Now we're getting to the part that really the book is there to help people figure out, which is, I interviewed at probably 20 well-known companies and organizations.
[00:10:42] I could probably name all of them and I'd be surprised if anybody listening, hadn't heard of any of them. I got a job offer from all of them. And the job offers, which is by the way, very flattering. If you ever want to feel good about yourself, just go apply to a bunch of financial services companies, they're going to make you feel great.
[00:10:58] But the thing that I realized I was having a hard [00:11:00] time with in those conversations was telling the difference. They all gushed about the company. They all gushed out the opportunity. Multiple people who worked there had met their spouses there. Every single one just said that it was the greatest place to work on earth and it was amazing.
[00:11:14] And we're so glad to give you this opportunity. And it couldn't tell the difference, really. When it came down to it, I was able to filter a little bit. But ultimately they all say the same thing. They all look the same way on the outside and the people who are trying to recruit you, their job is to recruit you. So of course, they're not going to go out of their way to help you tell the difference. They're just going to differentiate by saying that they do it the best. I ultimately ended up making essentially about which one I wanted to work with, had a couple of criteria that I tried to filter for. It turns out that those were smart criteria to filter for me in particular, which was number one, financial planning had to be part of it. I took an elective on it. I thought financial planning was really interesting. I wanted to make sure that was part of the process as opposed to just being solutions oriented.
[00:11:54] Unknowingly, I was pushing myself in the direction of being a financial planner and not being a financial advisor. The second [00:12:00] thing was that they could have proprietary products, cause it seems like all of them had them. I figured that was maybe a bad limiting principle to say no proprietary products, but I didn't want to be forced to use them or coerced to use them.
[00:12:11] So either it couldn't be a requirement or it couldn't be, "Hey, we'll pay you, a hundred percent of our proprietary stuff and 5% of non-proprietary stuff." I wanted it to be an even playing field around whatever solutions I was working with. Lastly, because I knew, I didn't know, I just wanted to make sure I own the relationships, the client relationships that I had. The term that I didn't know at the time was that they had to be members of broker protocol. There had to be an option for me to take my clients with me. If this particular option didn't work out. That finally got me into the finance field as essentially a 1099 contractor. I was starting my own practice using the support of a larger organization that doesn't exist anymore. It was called Waddell and Reed Financial Advisors. Essentially, they paid you a split of the revenue that you brought in the door from planning or investment management or anything else you did. That's essentially the first four years of my career was just building a practice under that framework.[00:13:00]
[00:13:00] That's in some ways similar to my experience in that I built my own business from the ground up with the support of a large organization. And that is how many financial planners start initially, you've got to bring in your own clients. But not everybody starts that way anymore, which we can talk a little bit about. You went straight into building your own book, right from the get-go.
[00:13:21] Yep. And would not recommend doing that first and foremost. I think a lot of people end up becoming financial planning firm owners or financial advisor firm owners because they can't find a place to start that isn't that.
[00:13:35] So going back to applying everywhere. Getting a job offer from everywhere. Feeling really good about it. All of the organizations that just pay you a split of the revenue you bring in the door, we'll happily hire you unless you have a criminal background or ethical issues or something like that. They really don't care, because it costs them essentially nothing to bring you in. If you do well, then they make money. And if you don't do well, they didn't really lose anything on you not making money. They're willing to give you an opportunity. So it's very easy to get into [00:14:00] that channel, but the failure rate is enormous. It's about 10% left after four years, maybe a little bit better for some organizations.
[00:14:07] Yeah. I mean, even, great programs. I did my training at Merrill Lynch when it was still Merrill Lynch, when it wasn't part of Bank of America. It was great. That was actually very good training and I got paid to get my CFP and I got paid a salary initially.
[00:14:20] It wasn't a very big salary, but I got paid a little something during the first few years of my training program, until I had enough of a book that I could live on my own. But it's still, it was a grueling couple of years. I became a financial planner in my mid thirties, after having a whole other career in politics, as a campaign manager. And really left that completely said, "I don't want to do this anymore. This is not the person I want to be in the world." And took a couple of years to figure out what I did want to do. And during that period, I was trying to work out some debts, some credit card debt and some business debts. I had some clients that hadn't paid me enough. I really had to cut back during [00:15:00] their career transition. And it was that process of figuring it out for myself that made me passionate about turning around and helping other people do it. So when I initially thought I would work in finance, I really thought I'd be a financial coach. Somebody that helped people with debt and cash management and spending to start with. Just on a whim, I went to a career night. I think it was Prudential at the time and I took some personality tests and they were like, "Oh my gosh, you should be a financial planner."
[00:15:29] And I was talking to a friend about it who had a brother who worked at Merrill Lynch. And she was like, "You should go there. If you're going to do that, you should go there." And I ended up cold calling the manager of the Oakland office and it turned out, this guy, his name's Scott Ralston, became a wonderful mentor to me. Brought me in. Took a chance. Said, " If you can raise money, if you can raise people, you can certainly raise clients."
[00:15:51] That started me off in this whole different direction. I ended up staying there for quite a while until my husband and I moved overseas [00:16:00] for a transfer for his job. We built a team there. We were very successful. We followed the whole model.
[00:16:06] It was a really different path. At the time, and I don't know what it's like in other firms necessarily, but at the time, in the area that I was, they were really focused on career changers. There really wasn't such a thing, people didn't generally get a degree in financial planning. You went off and did something else, and then you got trained by one of the big firms. Maybe you went to work for a registered investment advisor and then got your CFP. And so the path can be really different now. And it's more open up to younger folks. So talk to me a little bit about that.
[00:16:34] Like what does that look like for a young person now?
[00:16:37] The rationale for the career changers is that you're more mature, you've got business experience. You might have some more personal relationships that can help you get started. And the idea for the younger person, whether they're coming through a formal financial planning program, or whether they're just a very young career changer. Maybe you want it to be a teacher and then decided it wasn't for you and now you're finding something else. For that path, I think there's a couple of different routes and really depends on [00:17:00] your lifestyle and your ambitions. I'm going to highlight the path I think is the worst to start on. I see a lot of people doing it and it goes back to that problem with finding points of entry. I'm seeing a lot of young people just start their own firm right out of college. And I'm going to sound a little hypocritical here, right? Cause I started my practice right out of grad school, essentially.
[00:17:19] You had a lot of work experience first, though.
[00:17:21] I did and I would definitely fall into the career changer category more than the student category. I'm not very, I want to use the financial term here, I'm not very bullish on the idea of some 21, 22, 23 year old going out and starting their own firm.
[00:17:34] I've seen some be successful at it. I've seen some do very well at it. But honestly, what I'm really worried about is the potential risk to the clients and the consumers that planner might work with. Because there's a factor of, I don't know what I don't know, in there. Part of something that a Merrill gives or Waddell and Reed gave or any of the sales-based firms gave or still give to this day, whether we think that they're a good starting point or not yet, sort of the safety net of a coach [00:18:00] and a mentor and a manager and a compliance department, and usually a research team or a dedicated planning team that when you're still new and still trying to just figure things out beyond what you learned in school or learn from your own self study, is that you can say, "Oh, I've never seen one of these before. I'm going to call that department or call that mentor or call that coach. They're going to tell me exactly what it is and how to deal with it." Some of those kind of independent early starters don't have that. I'm always a little scared about what happens for them. I wish them the best and wish them luck because they've taken the hardest route.
[00:18:30] But that's the one thing I always want to get off the table right out of the gate is, I'm not a big fan of people starting firms because they couldn't get a job in the field. The question that you actually asked, what are the routes for those people that I do think are good paths?
[00:18:43] First and foremost, if you are in that student demographic or in that career changing demographic, and you're maybe one to two years from actually going out and applying for the jobs, you should realize right now that you're already competing for those jobs. You don't know it yet. You haven't gotten that headspace yet. But [00:19:00] there are people who are very serious about becoming financial planners. People who have gone through specific colleges because they are the top financial planning schools or programs they can go to. They are compared to just the CFP curriculum, which is essentially seven courses that can be taught at an undergrad or graduate level. Compared to those, there are some students who are to come out of their undergrad experience with 20 courses, 30 courses, 35 courses in financial planning done already. If you go into the job market for financial planning, you're going to be competing against them. And they are going to come out looking a lot stronger than you at face value. Your other life experiences become more valuable in that pursuit. But for that consideration, when you're at the point where you're looking to try to get into the profession you're first stop, I think, has to be your actual network, to some extent. That is getting involved in the financial planning association or NAPFA, the national association of personal financial advisors.
[00:19:50] It's getting engaged in platforms like the FDA activate Facebook page or the XYPN VIP Facebook page or building up an understanding of the community in FinTwit,or [00:20:00] financial Twitter. It's getting engaged in the community as a whole, so that you can develop your understanding of the type of firm you would like to work with or the type of work you would like to do. Because that alone will help enormously in terms of figuring out where you want to go, instead of taking the shotgun approach like I did, and just having to figure it out on the fly.
[00:20:18] From there, if the natural network that you've developed over a year or two, isn't yielding an opportunity. Nobody's coming out saying, they're trying to hire somebody who's new. You haven't built a personal relationship with somebody who's who says they'd like to bring you in or whatever the case is. From there, there's a couple of good starting points that are organized specifically for the needs of new planners. One is literally called New Planner Recruiting. I like to call it the NFL draft for financial planners because they've got a tough process to get in and get through their process. But if you qualify through their system, they're going to place you in a salaried career track position to become a lead financial planner in a financial planning specific firm. That's just huge because that is essentially a kind of a golden ticket into the career. If you're not looking for something on the lead [00:21:00] planner track, or maybe you need life flexibility, maybe you're a military spouse who knows they're going to have to move every couple of years or something like that. If you're in that boat, or if you're open to just remote work in general, Simply Paraplanner is a great platform. That platform exists entirely to place people in remote positions. Some full-time. Some part-time. Some employed. Some as contractors. But there are phenomenal positions for people who either need work-life flexibility or for people who are looking for five, ten hours a week to build their resume and build their experience and their exposure.
[00:21:31] Past those, you do have various job boards. You have the CFP board job board, you have the FPA job board, you have the NAPFA job board. You're getting into mixed waters there. You're going to find financial planning jobs, and financial sales jobs, and operations jobs, and various things like that there.
[00:21:47] But if you're looking outside of a client facing role, you might find opportunities there. And I would say your lowest common denominator, bottom tier options are going to be your career fairs or your general job fairs or college [00:22:00] career fairs. Most of those are gonna be sales jobs and not to knock the sales jobs too hard, but if you're looking at becoming a financial planner who wants to build their skills and build their expertise to help people as best they can before they get into the business of doing business, then I'm not a huge fan of that. Just because, again, easy points of entry, but you're very likely to end up cold calling your friends and family and trying to sell them a product in those positions. It is a way to get in. It's just maybe the call it the lowest tier of entry point.
[00:22:29] I wonder if you agree with this Daniel that in an early career phase of a financial planning career, the main goal, obviously other than making a living and paying your bills, the main goal is to get broader financial planning experiences. One thing to learn it in school. It's another thing to sit across the table from somebody or on a zoom call with somebody and actually give appropriate guidance when there are multiple moving parts. That takes some time to learn and people don't come out at age 22 and know how to do that intuitively. There's [00:23:00] also being exposed to a number of circumstances that helps. So not just learning from your mistakes, learning from other people's mistakes that they make in their financial life. Being able to ask questions about other people in your network, or it maybe in your firm. At what point do you think if you started in that early career phase, at what point would somebody who is entrepreneurial, at what point might they consider going out on their own, or maybe building a team of their own within a larger firm structure?
[00:23:30] I think the minimum time is probably two or three years. That is almost entirely based on quality.
[00:23:35] Thats on a lower minimum than I would think so...
[00:23:38] I'm trying to weigh the fact that there are some people who start their practices on day one, and they may have the coaching mentorship support from a larger organization. And they don't crash and burn. And they make it through. I think some people get past that and there's even some some people who are very active. I'll give a shout out to Cody Garrett who did two years in a CFP apprenticeship and is already becoming very well known for his [00:24:00] advocacy and financial planning and the kind of educational content he shares. I think his total experience levels like three and a half years right now. He's already got a firm that's out operating at full capacity. I was just referring out all the excess. I think he's an extreme example. He's are at the end of the bell curve of type A personality.
[00:24:15] But to that extent, I think that is the minimum time that I want to see somebody in there. Part of the conversations I've had with other financial planners and at a constant refrain I hear is that you don't really get it for at least a year. It's not that you don't understand what a Roth is. You don't understand a 401k is. It's not that. It's that you need so many hours of experience and perspective on how people's lives work. How their finances work. How the parts come together and touch each other to start intuitively and instinctively understand how those things interrelate. And to also start to, this is a weird thing, but start to recognize when people are using the right words without the right meaning. It's a common thing that people will come in and tell us that they have a certain thing and they're doing a certain thing. [00:25:00] Then we'll poke at it a little bit and realize it's something totally different. So they're using the right words, but not actually meaning the right things.
[00:25:06] And in that, I want to be flexible there. Can I say two or three years? Because that's spelled the 4,000 to 6,000 hours you need to get your CFP certification depending on the track you're using. But also just from a point of confidence. On the other side of that, I hear plenty of people who've been in the financial industry for 10, 15, 20 years who say, " I don't need a CFP. I don't need that stuff. I already know it all." To which I kind go great apply for the challenge status and just go ace the exam and get your CFP marks. Done. You don't have to claim that it all, you've demonstrated it. In that, I think the expansion of knowledge is a really important focus for the first couple of years.
[00:25:41] I think different people learn at different paces. I'm occasionally shocked at how slow some people's careers move. I met a person at a FBA gathering a couple of years ago who'd been in the profession longer than I was, who was still not allowed to talk to clients. In that context, I think it really just depends on who you are. But to answer the question, I think a minimum of two or three years before you [00:26:00] either start your own firm or are going to become a lead something or other on either a team or just owning your own portion of the business.
[00:26:06] I think it's a reasonable perspective.
[00:26:08] I've read it, read this a couple of different times. Where can you order it?
[00:26:12] The book is primarily available through Amazon. It is available through their resale channels, as well. So they have agreements with various other book vendors that they can order it and sell it.
[00:26:21] But primarily Amazon or Kindle. I'll be perfectly honest. I'm happy to have book sales. If somebody is really, truly hard up for it, they can send me an email and I'll just send them a copy. I'd rather people got the information then that I pay gated it. But to that extent it's largely available on Amazon.
[00:26:35] And then you'll find alternate sources carrying it just through their network.
[00:26:39] So easy for somebody to find and order. Can they read it on Kindle?
[00:26:43] They can read it on Kindle. They can read it on any e-reader should be compatible unless it's something bizarre that I've never heard of.
[00:26:50] So what did you learn about yourself by writing this book?
[00:26:53] I learned how much I take for granted in my perspective of financial planning. Part of the [00:27:00] motivation to get the book out the door in the first place was that I wrote it almost a year and a half before I publish it. I wrote the bulk of it in the winter of 2020, and like a two or three day period where I just got inspired and sat down.
[00:27:11] I'm a person who sort of grinds through something in one go for most of my type of work. And so that's how most of the book came to be. And then it was done. It was written and I just didn't have the interest in pushing it. Part of what got me around to actually getting it done and out into the world was the publishing of a career guide by the center for financial planning, which is a non-profit research and advocacy arm of the CFP board.
[00:27:34] And they had published a guide back in 2019 that I thought was decent. They published this other guide that was more for people getting into the profession as opposed to people already in the profession. It had some good information. It had good salary information. It had some good descriptions of roles and responsibilities. Questions people should ask during interviews. That sort of thing. But the biggest thing that it did was that it propagandized for some of the firms that are big sponsors of it. At one point they had a table and it [00:28:00] spans over two or three pages and it talked about the different types of firms, wire houses, insurance firms, independent broker dealers, hybrid firms, so on and so forth. And there was just some really clearly slid in languages or some very obvious omissions of fact in that table about some of the types of businesses. It described a wire house advisors as the most productive advisors. It didn't qualify that or define that. Just says they're the most productive advisors. It felt awkward to push in there. You had a sort of this feeling, reading this whole table that if somebody really didn't know the lay of the land, they'd come away thinking that essentially all firms are essentially the same or that some firms are better than others. Not in a way that I would consider appropriate to the question of financial planning or being a financial planner versus being a financial advisor.
[00:28:47] As you mentioned earlier, I mean, there are multiple paths to financial planning career. There are certainly working in, with a big private banks. The kind of, Merrill Lynch, as I mentioned, the Morgan Stanley and Goldman and JP Morgan [00:29:00] and Charles Schwab and Fidelity. Then there's there's the insurance route, as you talked about, there's the mutual fund company.
[00:29:07] There's the registered investment advisors. Those aren't all small. Some of them are enormous national firms. And then, there's the financial planning only firm that doesn't manage assets. Doesn't make securities recommendation. It doesn't make securities implementations, I should say.
[00:29:21] And then there's financial wellness. You know, I worked in corporate financial wellness programs for four years before I started my own firm. The firm that I worked for, Financial Finesse, only hired CFPs with 10 years of experience. Some of them just hire financial coaches who aren't CFPs. But there are more and more routes into this business and I anticipate that growing over time. I don't know what you think about that?
[00:29:42] I think that growth is important, but I think we're still trying to condense too much into one things. Like the idea that you're going to work on financial wellness and need a CFP with 10 years of experience sounds silly to me when something like the AFC accredited exist. The accredited financial counselor designation, which is much more focused on [00:30:00] wellness, budgeting habits, that sort of thing. Whereas the CFPs target audience is sort of a married upper middle-class couple with a couple million in assets.
[00:30:10] All those various paths are interesting to me. I think too many people are coming in with an interest in either coaching or counseling or financial planning or financial sales or investment management or portfolio management or investment research. They're all trying to be forced through this funnel of financial planning and it's causing some cognitive dissonance around what is financial planning and what is this path?
[00:30:32] I would say in general these large corporate financial wellness programs, they encompass a wide range of questions and interactions that are everything from dealing with the executive who has tens of thousands of stock options and restricted stock units and three rental properties to the person that might be getting evicted. It's the employee population and having a wide menu of skills, which is, I think, the rationale between having both the CFP and coaching [00:31:00] experience. You have to be able to answer all types of questions. But again, that's not a job for a beginner. I mean, you can't just walk into that when you're 25 and have enough knowledge to be able to perform in that environment.
[00:31:12] Looking back over your own career, what's a mistake that you made that if you had to do a differently, in terms of your career planning, you would?
[00:31:22] Ooh, that is really tricky. I say it's really tricky because it's worked out really well. So whatever mistakes I made, I apparently didn't make big enough ones to totally derail me here. It's a funny thing. It's not going to sound like a work mistake so much as a personality mistake. But I have offended people into getting me into volunteer roles if that makes any sort of sense. And what I mean by that is in my youthful interest and passion for the field and the profession, I have criticized things at various times, and that has resulted in me being called out by people who know more than me, who have more experience than me, who've done more than me, who [00:32:00] understand the history or the context of the thing that I'm criticizing. That has resulted in me being a representative on the executive committee for the financial planning association. That's resulted in me leading a study on how next gen organizations with an FPA chapters work. That's resulted in me, speaking at conferences and almost all that comes out of me being bullheaded and intransigent. I don't know if that's my best personality trait. Again, it's worked out well, but I think if I could go back to myself on day one and say, "Hey, when you start to get an opinion about this, maybe don't. All right. Or maybe at least be a little more polite about it. Instead of just throwing people under a bus and for no good reason or without really understanding the context of it."
[00:32:37] I think that's it. It's just probably be a little nicer in my early days. And I'd probably take that advice today as well as be a little nicer.
[00:32:43] We probably all could, if we look back at the person that we were in our twenties, when we were really aggressively trying to make it, and then look back from the standpoint of being able to, of course, I'm a lot older than you, but we all have these thoughts.
[00:32:54] I love how you're using your experience in your life to pay it forward. Dan, you are [00:33:00] committed to impacting and influencing the profession and to celebrating it.
[00:33:04] What do you think is the best thing about being a financial planner? As a career? You can say it in one word. One word.
[00:33:12] Can I phone a friend for a hyphenate?
[00:33:15] I guess so. One hyphenated word that's fine.
[00:33:18] Individual- impact.
[00:33:21] Ah, so break that down for me a little bit.
[00:33:24] You can do amazing things in a number of fields. You could invent technology. You could help pass major civil rights legislation. You could put together a treaty between countries that raises a million people out of poverty. You can do all sorts of amazing things in a lot of amazing careers. I was in the military for six years and there's always people say, "Thank you for your service. You're serving your country. You're making the world a better place, fill in the blank." You don't really get to see that. The world is what it is, and you're somehow contributing to it. That at any given point, working at IBM, you are working on these big multi-million dollar contracts with huge companies. You're setting up [00:34:00] support services for this or infrastructure services for that. It all supports some larger organizational mission. But you never really see the individual impact.
[00:34:07] But in financial planning, you're in a unique and interesting place where you sit down at the table with the people whose lives you're going to change. You get to look them in the eye. You get to ask them what's concerning them. You get to assuage their concerns or mitigate the problems that you're dealing with or solve the problems that they're having. You get to see the outcome of that over time. Particularly if you're doing that long-term planning process, as opposed to that transactional work is you get to not only see the problem. Solve the problem.
[00:34:33] And then witness the enjoyment and the happiness and the effect of those changes. You get to put kids through college. You get to keep marriages together. You get to get people who shouldn't be married apart. You get to help people live their best lives and not all professions get to say that. I would even say and I'm sure some people would argue with me here, but I think we probably have more of an impact on people's lives than even some doctors do. Because you might see your doctor once a year for 15 minutes in [00:35:00] an exam room and they just see you intermittently and they probably don't remember you, time to time, at your visit. But your financial planner gets to spend years, if not decades with you seeing you grow and evolve as a person and gets to be a part of that and help shape that.
[00:35:13] I think to just sum it up, one of the things that we talk about in financial planning is that your financial plan is your life expressed in numbers. And you're absolutely right. Your relationship with your financial planner, it can be more long-term than the relationship with your hair dresser.
[00:35:28] Like it could be somebody that you work with for 20 or 30 or 40 years, but it's so important to pick the right one. It's almost a sacred value that you bring as a financial planner to the relationship.
[00:35:40] Yeah, it is. I think that shows up both in the impact we have, but also even in the trust. You get to have conversations with people that they have never had with anybody. Ever. Possibly in the first 10 minutes of meeting them.
[00:35:50] It's interesting cause we have a sort of a larger institutional or industry reputation of low trust, but financial planners who are doing it right, who are working with people who really want their [00:36:00] help, get to that trust level very quickly. And we get to enjoy that enormously.
[00:36:03] Thank you so much for coming on and having this conversation today. I enjoyed reading the book. I've enjoyed talking to you about the book and I'm wondering where can people find you online and on social?
[00:36:12] So I pretty much live day-to-day in both Facebook and Twitter. Facebook FDA Activate and XYPN VIP Facebook pages. I'm out there. I'll pop up on plenty of financial planning specific financial topics. You won't find me in crypto space or money management space.
[00:36:31] Okay. Thank you very much, Dan. And I will see you at our next mastermind.
[00:36:35] Looking forward to it. Thanks for having me.
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