How to Become a Financial Advisor at 40

Did you want to be a doctor when you were growing up? That’s one of the top career aspirations of all children. Boys especially aspire to be professional athletes, while girls aim to be teachers. For all children, veterinarians, musicians and movie stars are tantalizing opportunities, too.

However, it turns out that 67% of people never go on to live their childhood dream, according to a survey by online resume builder Zety. For some, they do not have the grades or talent to pursue their favorite choice. For others, the financial realities of paying a mortgage or rent, raising a family and other “adulting” expenses cause them to set aside these early aspirations. Many seek a college degree that they believe will lead to a high standard of living, but then realize they have taken a wrong path. Perhaps, they dislike the hours required to do the job properly, the job has become too complex for the pay, they have become burned out, or for many, they simply do not feel they are making a difference.

Their disillusionment often shows up quickly. However, few want to consider that they may have made a poor investment of time and money. They even may fear disappointing family who have sacrificed to help them earn their degree, or friends who have gone down the same path with them. As a result, most people do not truly contemplate a complete career change until an intervening event, such as a layoff or health crisis, propels them. As a result, they postpone making a change until they move into their 40s.

However, a second career can be incredibly uplifting, especially for those who choose to step into the role of a financial advisor.

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The financial profession is a popular choice because it seldom requires obtaining a new degree. Additionally, career-changers over 40 are common. It is an easy transition for people who have been educators and coaches because they are used to shaping the knowledge and skills of others. Accountants, attorneys and doctors like the precision of investment management. People who have sold other tangible and intangible services understand how to attract new clients, often the most challenging aspect of the profession.

Best of all, career-changers over 40 have already experienced key life events that financial planners work with every day. They can bring empathy and personal experience to their clients who may be facing these challenges for the first time. There can be great satisfaction in the daily opportunity to help others.

However, just as other professions have downsides, the financial profession is not ideal for all.

Attributes of a Successful Advisor

Willingness to Discuss Challenging Topics

The people most suited to the profession are open to talking with family, friends and strangers about money. Financial literacy is not common in our society, and many people are embarrassed to detail the steps they have or have not taken toward their financial goals. They may have heavy debt, experienced bankruptcy, have gambling habits or have a child that they cannot stop subsidizing to their detriment.

Perseverance to Attract Clients

Financial professionals need perseverance as they seek new clients. They will need to heavily network in their communities, among other professionals and on social media to attract clients. Rejection is common. They must have emotional maturity to continue to steer clients who do not follow recommendations. They also need to determine if they have the financial discipline to manage uneven pay, which can vary based on market performance and other factors outside of their control.

Attention to Detail

The financial industry is heavily regulated. The right candidate must be able to study for and pass challenging licensing exams. They must be detailed enough to maintain required files and records. They also must be aware of and adhere to the restrictions on marketing and advertising services, among other requirements.

The Importance of Interviewing Current Advisors

For those who are driven to make a difference, these professional challenges often inject new enthusiasm for the career-changer. A career as a financial planner taps into an independence and entrepreneurial attributes that are worth exploring. Additionally, it can be lucrative with hard work and integrity.

Many career-changers easily see the rewards of a financial career, which are numerous. But they may consider the challenges too lightly. About 90% of new financial advisors leave the industry in the first three years because they do not have a viable process to acquire new clients.

Before jumping into the profession, a prospective financial advisor should interview several current financial advisors. This is the step that many people skipped in their first career. Talking with people who are already doing the job can present an unbiased view of the job. Shadowing a planner for a couple days is the most effective way to see what their actual day-to-day work entails. Aim to do so with both a successful veteran advisor as well as a new advisor to get an accurate view. Ask them for the unvarnished truth; most will happily tell you both the good and bad of their situation.

You can easily find financial advisors in your community by researching them on the internet. You can reach out to industry associations, such as the National Association of Personal Financial Advisors (NAPFA). and the CFP Board lets 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.

Here are three topics you will want to discuss with a current advisor:

How to Structure Your Practice

You will want to ask for their opinions on how to structure your services. For instance, you may choose to be a fee-only planner or be a hybrid, receiving both fees and commissions. There are pros and cons to each type of structure.

You will want to also consider what kind of clients you want to serve. Choosing a niche is especially important as financial advisors are becoming commoditized. A niche will allow you to develop an expertise and depth of knowledge that will set you apart and make it easier to attract similar clients. When talking with advisors, ask them about their own niche. An interesting conversation can emanate from understanding what challenges they incurred having too broad a market and how they overcame them.

You will certainly want to understand how successful advisors attract clients so you can feel comfortable asking for referrals from clients and other professionals. These veteran advisors can share real-life examples of processes that gave them the edge.

How to Choose Your First Firm

There are numerous types of firms that hire financial advisors. The choice of firm will dictate the early training you will receive, whether you will have a mentor to draw advice and support from, the kinds of services and products you can offer to your clients and how much independence you have in how to market yourself. Some may even offer “orphan” clients from other advisors who have left the industry, but their clients still need financial advice.

The advisors that you interview can tell you the difference between wirehouses, aggregators, independent firms, broker-dealers and career firms. Understanding the kind of advisor you would like to be and the niche you desire will help you winnow down your choices. You may also choose a small firm that is interested in developing another partner to ultimately transfer the clients to in a succession plan. The choices are endless, but all have positives and negatives to understand.

Also, you do not have to stay at the same firm forever. You may choose to seek the training and early mentorship that some firms specialize in offering, but later move to a more independent firm or even create your own solo or boutique firm once you are on solid footing. By talking with a current advisor, you can learn about the complexities involved in a firm change so that can you understand what constitutes a realistic roadmap.

How to Get Started

The experienced financial advisor who describes a scenario that sounds attractive can also make warm introductions for you to the hiring manager. They will be able to describe the process and hiring criteria so you are better prepared before your first interview.

Not all firms will require a college degree, but it is important to know if they do. Prospective advisors must be able to pass a detailed background check that will screen for red flags such as a past criminal record, even if it is long in your past. Some firms will accept prospects that have complicated finances themselves, such as a bankruptcy, alimony or child support payment issues. However, you will need to be prepared to explain these circumstances in detail if they are present in your personal situation.

While you no longer have to have to be employed with a financial services company to take securities-related exams, it can be optimal to wait to see what support the firm offers to help complete them. This may entail fee reimbursement and tutoring services. Some firms may even offer a small financial stipend while you are simultaneously working and studying; however, this “draw” may be repayable if you leave the firm early.

The Bottom Line

Becoming a financial advisor is a common second career, so don’t be hesitant to investigate to see if it is right for you. It’s a lucrative career choice for many, but also can give caregivers invaluable time flexibility without derailing personal goals. There are no age limits, and some advisors may ultimately be able to work from their dream locale.

Most importantly, the industry is going through some positive changes in diversity. Parents seeking to return to the workforce after raising children are finding open arms in this field. A transfer of baby boomer generation wealth is meeting a critical lack of financial literacy, further constrained by high prices, high inflation, crushing debt and low savings rates. Women and minorities are able to attract and resonate with more people who definitively need professional help in managing their finances and reaching long-term goals in these challenging economic times.

The human factor is seeing an emerging importance in people’s choice of work. Financial advisors truly have the opportunity to serve others and create both satisfaction and security for themselves and others. People who have learned this lesson from a dissatisfying first career experience bring an unmatched empathy to this role.

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How to Become a Financial Advisor at 40 originally appeared on

Update 10/12/22: This story was published at an earlier date and has been updated with new information.

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