Perhaps forgiving the odd temp gig, job transition period, or that one time that I ran off to France to help French high schoolers with their English for a few months, I've been involved in the financial services industry since 1997.
It wasn't until somewhere around 2005 or 2006 that my work began to feel more like a calling and less like a job. I realized that I wanted to step out from behind the scenes and work directly with clients, especially those clients traditionally underserved by the industry (women, the LGBT community, unmarried people, people of color, etc.). I was sure I could do it better than I saw it being done, so without knowing exactly how I would pull it off, I began systematically working toward doing just that.
I worked diligently to deepen my skills, knowledge, and expertise. I put in my proverbial 10,000 hours working behind the scenes helping other advisors and learning from their mistakes. I became a CERTIFIED FINANCIAL PLANNER (TM) ceritficant and an Accredited Domestic Partnership Advisor®. Part of my work even included teaching other advisors how to provide better and more comprehensive financial planning advice.
By actually learning what I was talking about first, some would say I did things the non-traditional way. Believe it or not, many people still start in the financial industry by selling commission-based products first and only truly learn what they are doing after months or years of meeting their sales quotas.
Naturally, I think that's both wrong and asinine. Which is one of the many reasons why I'm immensely glad to be part of a growing number of Generation X and Y financial planners (http://www.xyplanningnetwork.com) who are trying to change our profession for the better, largely by charting our own courses.
I set up Thoughtful Financial Planning so that, unlike 85% of financial advisors, I can say without equivocation things like:
- I put my client's best interests ahead of my own at all times.
- I get paid only by my clients.
- I don't earn commissions or kickbacks.
- I don't sell anything other than my advice and knowledge.
- I believe wholeheartedly in what I do.
- I do it because I love helping others and because I want to earn my living only doing work that is in alignment with my values.
- I believe that every financial planner should be able to say things like these without a moment's hesitation and I am leading by example.
To be able to say the things above, I walked away from an easy, good paying job. I got a part-time job as a public transit bus driver (a cause that I believe in deeply too, by the way). Aside from being a good source of interesting anecdotes, being a part-time bus driver helps my modest start-up capital go further so I can afford to build my practice slowly and organically.
I believe that giving each of my clients the time and attention that they deserve is critical to helping them achieve their goals. For this reason, I limit the number of clients I take on and maintain a new client waiting list when necessary.
Right now my days are long and I am loving every minute of them. I am overflowing with gratitude to be able to earn my living doing things I believe in.