Transition advice

or Register to post new content in the forum

19 RepliesJump to last post



  • Allowed HTML tags: <em> <strong> <blockquote> <br> <p>

Plain text

  • No HTML tags allowed.
  • Web page addresses and e-mail addresses turn into links automatically.
  • Lines and paragraphs break automatically.
Nov 18, 2005 3:03 pm

I currently work in public education but am considering making a move into becoming an FA.  I'm restless, even bored, in my current position (school counselor).  And when I look at the payscale I get depressed.  I think being an FA would be a good fit for me, and I am hungry to work hard and make more money, while still feeling like I am helping people and making a difference in their lives.

Two things that scare me:

1.  Risk.  I have two children, 2 and 4.  My wife works, but makes less than I do.  We're debt free, other than our mortgage, but I've always been a salary guy.  Stepping out of that security zone is a mental hurdle for me.  If it was just me and my wife, I'd have no problem.  When I think of my kids and the rate of success in this field, I get nervous.

2.  Situation. I want to be in a position where I am most likely to succeed, obviously.  I'm still trying to learn what that is.  I've looked into EJ some, as I have a step-mom who works for them.  She keeps encouraging me in that direction.  I also have an uncle who is a VP for RayJay.  I'm wondering if you guys have any advice on what kind of situation I should be looking at.  I have no finance, sales, or business background.  But I do think I have good communication skills, drive, and work ethic.  I think I could learn the technical end of things without a problem.

Any insights would be great!  Thanks.

Nov 18, 2005 3:18 pm

Unless Step-mom is good-nighting you with a bunch of accounts, I’d go to Raymond James…more flexibility of business structure, a much broader product lineup and much better technology tools.

Nov 18, 2005 3:22 pm

Do you think Raymond James would take me on with my background?  I wasn’t necessarily implying that my uncle could get me on there.  And my step-mom isn’t an FA, she’s a branch office administrator, so she can’t Goodknight me.   But she loves EJ.  It sees, from the talk on here, that most firms was sales experience or some kind of business background.  Not EJ, but others.  True or no?

Nov 18, 2005 3:38 pm

I was a teacher. Thought I needed a change and joined EJ. Went through training, got liscensed and sold. Brought in business and made some bucks. Was doing well and was about to open an office. A teaching job opened and I went back. 

You have hit on some of the considerations. Here are a few more:

You had better like to go out and knock on doors (cold calling) because you will be expected to do so for at least the next 2 to 3 years - all kinds of weather, residential and business. EJ has quotas here. And when I say "knock on doors", I mean this literally. I did it in long johns and boots. Despised it. Most people though I was nuts. Knocked on about 800 doors to get 20 clients. This was probably the main reason I left. Saw the writing on the wall.  I was going to have to do alot more door knocking. I suppose some of this depends on your community. Mine is economically challenged.

If I had it to do over, I would consider a fee based firm rather that commission based. At EJ, you start every month at zero $. They will tell you about trail commisions, but this is a long way off. So the pressure is to sell.

Liked the helping aspect, but was worried about doing the right thing. Drank the kool-aid and hoped for the best. Bothered me at times. I don't think (hope) I hurt anyone. Always felt like I was begging for client trust.

Get used to this - "more, more more". They were never satisfied.

Forget time off. You work any day the market is open. Consider this in June, July, August, etc.

I was in St. Louis 3 times within 8 months and it was no vacation. Good training. Learned alot. Roomed with strangers and busted hump.

Mainly came down to a lifestyle decision. I enjoy teaching, like kids, and when the dismissal bell rings, I'm done for the day. In life, money isn't everything. In the brokerage business, money is everything.

Was willing to go part time, but they wouldn't have it. Could not figure this out. I was leaving either way. If I was willing to at least work the existing book and perhaps grow it, wouldn't this be better than nothing at all?

Nov 19, 2005 9:09 am

Honestly this is a very tough business.  I would not make the move without a substantial nestegg to get you going maybe a years worth of living expenses otherwise you'll probably fail.  It took me 5 years to finally make more than my first career job.  Now things are looking up my trails are growing, I've done some fee based stuff that is giving me steady income streams. Toss in new biz and I have a good paying job with alot of potential.  It was very difficult to get here, I thought about quitting the biz 100 times, but this is what I truly wanted to do.

None of these firms tell you they expect you to fail.  They have a number 1 out of 20 willl make it (whatever that # is).  The others will find clients that will be cherrypicked by the branch managers and senior reps when you fail.

The biggest thing in this biz is there is only one person who can make it happen, that's you.  You need to be self motivated and figure out how your going to get clients.  Don't think anyone walks in the door saying here is some money I want to invest, it happens but rarely and if I look at my book I can count on one hand the number of clients I got from situations like that and I work in a bank.

Nov 19, 2005 9:53 am

Bottom line.......if you can live on $40,000 per year for 3-5 years, and can spend considerable time away from your family. You have the right scenerio for survival. Patience, tenacity, ambition and intelligence will get you there. You don't really even need to be that intelligent. 

Nov 19, 2005 11:25 am

Contemplating - I think you've gotten some excellent advice thus far.

I think that you likely could succeed, but you have to create the conditions for success.  The work is not especially difficult, but the psychological pressure can be immense in this business.  You will frequently (and correctly) feel like there are an infinite number of competitors for a finite number of clients and that you are getting little support from your employer.  The fact is that every firm out there views you as a raw material and will basically treat you like a dog until you prove yourself.

My guess is that your current salary is not especially high and that is both good and bad.  The good thing is that it is easier to replace a lower number.  The bad thing is that a higher number might make you a bit hungrier for success.

I work for a firm that uses a branch system as opposed to the lone ranger model at EJ.   I don't think the firm matters as much as the branch in this type of system.  Specifically, what is the branch manager like and what is the reputation of the firm in your community.  I'm not sure that a good manager can help you succeed, but I guarantee that a bad one can help you fail.  I'd make a point of talking with several brokers in the branch as part of the interview process.

Finally, as noted by a previous poster, it is absolutely essential that your wife be on board with this move and that your finances be able to support it also.  I made about $95K in the job I left in 2000.  2005 is the first year that I will exceed that number.  My finances were OK during these past years, but it was not much fun to have months early on where I made $1,000 and got jabbed by my wife.  My wife is great and she really has helped, but the reality is that both she and I have an expectation that I as a husband and father will take the lead in providing for my family.

Nov 19, 2005 11:27 am


These posters have left you excellent advice and insight that I wish I had had before getting into the business.  Good luck with your decision.

Nov 19, 2005 1:36 pm

Hey comtemplating,

Let me know if you would like me to help you with rolling over your 403B into an IRA... Also, check to see if your states pension allows for lump sum distributions- I am an expert on that as well...

Nov 19, 2005 5:19 pm

One way you can make some seed money is to take all of those teachers out of crappy VA based 403B’s and put them into a mutual fund based 403B.  American funds is approved in most districts check with district.  You can do a 90-24 of their existing 403B (tax free transfer) and get them started in a good plan and make some $.

Nov 19, 2005 5:39 pm


Hey comtemplating,

Let me know if you would like me to help you with rolling over your 403B into an IRA... Also, check to see if your states pension allows for lump sum distributions- I am an expert on that as well...


That was pretty slick dude.

Nov 19, 2005 10:58 pm

I don’t know if RJ would take you or not, but I see it as a more flexible firm as far as how you set up your business (you can be a statutory employee or (once you have some experience) an independent).  I would sure ask them before you settle on a firm just because you think they will accept you.

Nov 21, 2005 1:07 pm

You should call your uncle at Ray Jay if:

You can sit down and put a business plan on paper.  Accounts or people you know that will bring in $4m your first year and $10m your second.  RJ will give you a salary, that you negotiate.

forget EDJ, do some reading on this forum.  Good luck.

Nov 21, 2005 7:20 pm

repwork nice post.

Failure rate in this industry is 70% on the test and 95% in the industry.

You have to be able to communicate, network and communicate some more! You have to have the inner desire to start a new business from scratch. You have to have your family on board to support you after being blown off by a customer after a 13 hour day. You will not have a vacation for 3 years. 

With this being stated there are obvious rewards. Often those with the money are the ones who manage money. Some have more then others, but they have alot more then you or I. It's an extreme challenge and if you win, you win big!

Personally I wonder what the success rate is for different careers who become (or try) PFA/brokers? We know life experience and diversity can be a big plus. Meaning the more people you can associate (or have networked) with and talk to the greater chance of success. We know communication is a critical skill.

Well just worked a 12 then took the train for 8 hours to get to this location to work another 14. The good thing is I am making the bucks!

Nov 21, 2005 7:27 pm

"One way you can make some seed money is to take all of those teachers out of crappy VA based 403B's and put them into a mutual fund based 403B.  American funds is approved in most districts check with district.  You can do a 90-24 of their existing 403B (tax free transfer) and get them started in a good plan and make some $."

I hear you with that one. I used to work for AXA, where my primary market was targeting teachers and 403B's. 97% of my clients were 'provided' 403B TSA's. Not necessarily a bad product, but my previous firm's "high encouragement"  to use their proprietary TSA quickly became too heavy handed.

As for 90-24 exchanges, there is a new rule floating through the halls of govt that would make 403B more similar to 401K. That means that people would be able to only transfer 403B's between ELIGIBLE plan providers in their district ( while employed with that district of course.). Presently, you can transfer 403B money into ANY type of investment, regardless of whether it is on a school districts approve list, as long as it remains in 403B form.

I have had tremendous success in helping my clients consolidate similar plans (403B, 401K, IRA, etc), and then having them max out their 403B's. There is opportunity there.

Nov 22, 2005 9:13 pm


Here's a sight that may answer a lot of your questions. You may already have been on it, but just in case.

Here it is:

Hope this helps.


Nov 28, 2005 4:06 pm

contemplate - boy I don't envy you but truth is most have gone through your transition.  I wouldn't worry about all the technical stuff, starting off it's more a pure numbers game than anything.  If you have a niche group you can market in and a couple other areas to focus it helps.  Sales is more about psychology than it is expert knowledge.  Some other firms to consider and it hurts me to say it:

AG Edwards, decent training and they have all the platforms to build a business.  If you can get into Merrill in a team, which is not the easiest, that certainly will help - that's not necessarily specific only to Merrill.  The downside is that you become somewhat captive, however, considering your background and current situation, it maybe something that you really don't have any issues with. 

Some points to consider in building a market plan: the 403b business is really over rated - very low velocity on the assets and typically apethetic clients; meaning lots of accounts to make decent money.  Consider your educational experience, an area that could be invaluable is get involved in your college alumni association and focus a lot of your marketing there to fellow alumni.  If you were a fraternity member in college, focus there at the national or local level.  People don't trust anybody when it comes to their money but if they can relate to you at some level it really helps to break down those barriers.

Try and get into unions or trade associations via speaking, education seminars, sponsor their events etc...if you can get a few clients from there and you treat them right word will spread like wildfire - remember early, don't go for just the elephants but don't go for all the $50 a month people either; you have to figure out the balance.

To start out at Jones isn't necessarily a bad thing but I think they tend to eat their young a bit more than most simply because of the one person office and the door knocking thing - some regions are probably better than others though.  With the wirehouse branch, you have some other folks to fall back on for support, help, ideas etc.. though some are better than others.  That's why I think AG Edwards makes sense because the atmosphere tends to be a bit less cut throat.

Good luck, don't rush, work some business plans and do as much research as you can handle.

Nov 29, 2005 1:12 pm


I appreciate your words.  I have a phone interview with Jones coming up, but I have been thinking about other options as well.  You mentioned relating to others.  I think another thing I could connect with people on is that I have a seminary degree, so I have natural connections with both schools and churches.  I'll look into AG Edwards.

Nov 29, 2005 1:19 pm

Those are great avenues to prospect too.  Approach them when you can about doing classes or seminars - use your back ground it’ll help you tremendously.