"Midlife crisis is too strong a term, but at 42, I realized I still had half my working life ahead of me," says Wade Sanders, a financial consultant with IJL Wachovia in North Wilkesboro, N.C. "I believe you need to do what you want to do."
Yet at the time, Sanders wasn't doing something he wanted to do. After college, he had joined the Wilkesboro headquarters of Lowe's, a chain of building supply stores. He spent 17 years in merchandising and logistics. "It was very stressful," he says. "They expected you to give a lot of your life." This made him open to other possibilities.
All along, Sanders had been hooked on investing, having bought his first stock at the age of 16 with money from a summer of lawn mowing. That investment became the down payment for his first house 12 years later.
His brother-in-law, who was also his broker, encouraged the career switch. So two years ago, Sanders proceeded cautiously, scheduling IJL interviews at 7 a.m. to avoid arousing suspicion at Lowe's.
One bump in the road was a test Sanders took before being hired; it indicated he might not have the required discipline. "That shocked me because my life was nothing but due dates and goals," he says. "But they were right. Working smart and efficiently by myself--this is perhaps the biggest challenge for someone coming out of a corporate environment."
Selling seemed like a hurdle, too. "I'd always sat on the other side of the desk and didn't see myself as a natural salesperson," Sanders says. He admits that although he was trained to make cold calls, he hasn't made one yet.
Other marketing methods panned out. A leader in civic activities over the years, Sanders knew a lot of local people. What's more, he had built relationships with Lowe's store and field managers, as well as vendors all over the Eastern half of the United States.
One of his first moves was sending a letter to his former colleagues, offering information on their stock options as a way of initiating discussion about their investments. His typical client is about 40 years old with a net worth of seven figures from stock options.
Sanders took a pay cut, but has exceeded his own expectations. "My goal was to be back to where I was in three years, and I'll make it this year, my second year."