Financial Advisor Job Description, Skills, and Salary

Financial advisor with clients

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Financial advisors help clients create viable plans for managing their finances relative to individual and family situations.

During the early stages of their careers, financial advisors spend considerable time and energy filling out their client rosters by prospecting for new customers. They meet with prospects and try to convince them to sign on as clients. They engage established clients and interview them to assess their risk tolerance and financial goals.

Financial advisors recommend a mix of investments, including stocks, bonds, mutual funds, and real estate, to help clients reach their goals for college savings, retirement, and wealth building. They recommend an allocation of assets consistent with the risk tolerance of clients and their life stage.

Where Financial Advisors Work

Financial advisors often work for large financial services businesses, but they may be stationed in small local offices for these firms. Many financial advisors operate their own businesses and work independently or with a few partners.

Education, Training, and Certifications

Financial advisors need to earn a bachelor's degree to qualify for positions. Advisors benefit from coursework in economics, mathematics, finance, investments, accounting, and taxation.

Most financial services firms have training programs to equip graduates and career changers with the fundamental knowledge and skills they'll need on the job. Financial advisors can enhance their credibility with clients by earning a financial planning certification like the Certified Financial Planner (CFP) designation. While not required, a master's degree in finance, business administration, or other similar fields often will help with advancement.

Financial Advisor Salaries

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), financial advisors earned an average of $88,890 annually in 2018. The top 10% of financial advisors earned at least $208,000 while the bottom 10% earned less than $41,590. Financial advisors working for investment firms earned higher-than-average salaries. Advisors working for community banks and credit unions tended to earn lower-than-average salaries.

Advisors who are employed by financial services firms often receive bonuses, and that compensation is not included in these figures. Compensation is tied directly to productivity in terms of fees for products sold, assets managed and/or the number of financial plans generated.

Since pay and job security are heavily based on performance, there is a high washout rate for new advisors who are unable to meet the challenge of building a viable roster of clients.

Skills Necessary

In addition to understanding business and finance skills, analytical skills and people skills are very important for success as a financial advisor. Advisors need to be able to read data, recognize trends, and anticipate where markets are going to be of the most value to their clients.

Additionally, advisors need to be likable and trustworthy. Being successful requires building a client base, and doing that involves convincing people that you can be a trusted source for information and direction regarding their investments. No matter how good a financial advisor might be with the numbers, it will be difficult to build a client base without strong people skills.

Employment Outlook

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the employment opportunities for personal financial advisors is projected to grow 7% during the decade ending in 2028, which is slightly faster than the average for all occupations.

Factors impacting growth include an aging population of retirees in need of help with financial planning and the trend toward self-managed retirement resources in lieu of company-controlled pensions. The expanded use of automated planning resources and so-called robo-advisers may limit the growth of opportunities for traditional financial advisors.