The financial services industry has long presented itself as one with high earning potential. As the saying goes, “there’s a lot of money in the money business”. For financial advisors, in particular, the career is often held out as one where advisors have ‘unlimited’ income potential… or at least, an earnings opportunity that is limited only by the hours of hustle that the advisor is willing to put in to build their book of clients.
Yet, while the average established financial advisor does earn significantly more than the median US household ($192,000 versus $68,700, respectively, according to the latest Kitces Research study), what’s even more notable is that when it comes to overall wellbeing, the average financial advisor actually outscores the typical American on all 18 subscales of the Comprehensive Inventory of Thriving! In other words, the career of being a financial advisor isn’t only one of above-average income, but it is rewarding across all domains of wellbeing, from relationships to engagement to mastery and meaning… with a particular focus on self-efficacy and accomplishment. In other words, the career of being a financial advisor is particularly conducive to those who are good at setting goals and being able to take action to achieve them… who then work with clients to help them set and achieve their own goals, too!
Unfortunately, though, one of the hardest aspects of being a financial advisor is simply figuring out what path to pursue to be a financial advisor, in an industry with choices from employee to independent, broker-dealer to RIA, large national firm to local boutique (or even just hanging one’s own shingle as a solo advisor!). For which it seems that every successful financial advisor says “their” channel and business model is the best… and in practice, relatively few advisors change channels at all throughout their careers!
However, as our 2020 Kitces Research study on Advisor Wellbeing reveals, not all advisor channels and business models are truly equal when it comes to advisor wellbeing. Instead, the reality is that the ‘best’ channel and business model for an advisor depends on their own intrinsic motivators and preferences. For instance, advisors who greatly value their autonomy may eschew the wirehouse model and pursue independence, while those who value income the most will tend to start their own firm (even though doing so is far more time-consuming), while those who value their time over just maximizing income may prefer an employee career path rather than trying to ‘eat-what-you-kill’ as an advisor who has to get their own client base.
In order to explore this further, we’re excited to announce our latest 2021 Kitces Research study on Advisor Wellbeing, specifically to delve more deeply into the intersection of what leads to the greatest levels of happiness and wellbeing as an advisor, and the motivators that lead us to become financial advisors (and to choose certain channels and business models over others). Notably, this year’s Wellbeing survey is shorter than our ‘typical’ Kitces Research study, and it’s our hope that every advisor will take a few minutes to share their own experiences and perspectives for this important research!
Thanks in advance for your participation and willingness to contribute!