CPA considering career change to financial advisor

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Dec 5, 2016 10:57 am

Hi all,

I recently bought a house and got married and as a result, have dug into my personal finances much more recently. This led to a sort of epiphany that I may have chosen the wrong career path (I'm currently a CPA working in Corporate Accounting). A little backstory about myself, I interned at a small financial advising firm in college but was an Accounting major and had tunnel vision with that career path, as older members of my family had gone on to become CPAs with relative success. I went on to get my Masters in Accounting and passed the CPA exam while still in school. I worked in Audit for a Big 4 Accounting firm for almost exactly 3 years and recently left for a Corporate Financial Reporting job, as many auditors do. I knew audit wasn't for me long term and was able to secure a decent raise in my salary with less stress and fewer hours than the audit job. However, I don't necessarily like what I do now any more than I did at the Big 4 firm. I just work a little less and get paid a little more now. My work suffers because of this lack of passion and I'm not sure that I have the drive/passion for this field to climb the corporate ladder for the next 30+ years.

Fast forward to today, I'm 26 years old and I'm strongly considering making a career change. I've always been more interested in business than accounting itself and my interest in Finance/investing has been an itch since my college internship, I just didn't give it enough consideration since I was already on the inside track to become a CPA. We don't have any kids yet and if I do make a career change, it would obviously be easier to do before any kids were in the picture. The biggest thing dissuading me from diving all in is the sales aspect. I don't think I would be unsuccessful but I'd prefer to have a more even split of sales vs. investing research/strategy compared to what most of the firms are (90%+ sales). I don't mind having to do a little sales, especially if I owned my own firm one day, but I'm not sure I want to give up my current career for some financial analysis dream that ends up becoming a career as a salesman.

I've talked to a couple personal contacts, one who works at Edward Jones as an advisor and one who works as the "brains" behind investment strategy for a small boutique firm, and both positions sound intriguing although working in "operations" in the back office is more rare and less lucrative in the long term. If I do make the jump, I want to own my own firm in the long-term. In the short-term, however, I currently make $80k and I'd love a position that provides a salary with a small firm to learn the ropes, get my necessary work experience for the CFP certification, and maintain some of the lifestyle that my wife and I have gotten used to without a huge pay cut if possible. My Edward Jones contact showed me the comp structure and it seems doable in the short term, although most of the work is purely getting new clients vs. investment strategy.

I would love some information from those of you in the industry of what the job is like and if a career change could be worth it for me. What is the day to day work like? What are the hours like? Should I work on a certification before starting somewhere? Is a salaried position pointless compared to being a fee-based advisor if my long term goal is to start my own firm since I'll have to start from scratch building a book? Are salaried positions common and do they pay well for an entry-level or just above entry level? Any info would be helpful and appreciated. Thank you!

Dec 7, 2016 8:25 am

depending on where you live, you will have a hard time finding salaried positions in the financial advisory field, the majority of your income will come from sales. If a salary is available it is very low compared to what you make now. A suggestion would be to find a financial advisor firm that also provides tax services and work your way into the advisor side.

Dec 7, 2016 8:28 am

The Edward Jones position is all sales. They do have a great training program to get your series 7 and other licenses. I don't know the exact amount of pay for the first two years anymore, but after that it is commission. I left EJ 12 years ago and haven't looked back.

Jan 12, 2017 12:32 pm

CPA here also. CMA and MBA to boot. Have you looked into the CFP program? Much broader than accounting - most all of the knowledge within CFP will be useful to particular individuals you meet. More interesting I feel. When was the last time your neighbor needed to know something about insurance, trusts, investments, retirement planning? Often. How about booking convertible debt? Nada!

IMHO most financial jobs outside of CPA have it beat in spades. Take a look at CFP and a planning position. You can challenge the knowledge part, are only required to take one online Capstone course ($700 - $1200), then study on your own for the exam. Exam content is not nearly as difficult as the CPA exam - just much, much broader. But readily doable.


Jan 14, 2017 12:47 pm

As someone considering a job in financial planning, I understand I may have to start off primarily in sales, but as it progresses, I can use my experience to work at a firm which is primarily fee-based, right? I know that CFP is fee-based, but I assume I could also work my way up at fee-based firms (perhaps after a few years working commission-based at a firm) in a job which gets me financial planning experience while still not working off commission for the most part.

Mar 20, 2017 9:01 am

It depends on where you live. Just keep trying, everything is gonna be okay.

May 12, 2017 10:52 pm

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