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Financial Advisor Salary: How much do Financial Advisors make?

In this blog you will learn how much money financial advisors make, what financial advisors get paid, and how much a typical financial advisor salary is.

Maybe you have just started out in the wealth management industry seeking to set up some salary goals for yourself, or perhaps you are a veteran who is looking to benchmark your pay versus the industry. Or maybe somewhere in between…The subject of how much Financial Advisors get paid is often a confusing one and the topic is devoid of much accurate information. In this blog you will learn what the available research says about how much money financial advisors make, what financial advisors get paid, and how much a typical financial advisor salary is.

By the way, I made a video on this topic if you want to watch it before you dive in to the rest of this blog. Please subscribe and follow me on YouTube for more financial advisor related content.

What the Bureau of Labor Statistics says about Financial Advisor Pay

One of the reasons that the question of how much financial advisors make is such a nebulous one to answer is the lack of clear information, even from the major reporting services.

Below I am going to show you some data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics. This is what the BLS is saying about how much what they call “personal financial advisors” make as of May 2019:

Source: US Bureau of Labor Statistics. Occupational Outlook Handbook. Business and Financial. Personal Financial Advisors/Pay.

I have doubts about this figure being accurate – I will explain why in a minute – but first off I want to say that I am not sure exactly how they are defining this term. As you can see pretty nebulous – like “credit intermediation”?

Hello?

What does that even mean?

Its dubious to me that this financial advisor salary data is accurate because these are not the terms that financial advisors use to define themselves. And it’s unclear what this term “credit intermediation” even refers to. Most financial advisors want nothing to do with helping people get out of credit card debt. Is that what they mean? Or are they talking about lending, about providing a line of credit almost as an investment banker does.

Can we really be sure the BLS is tracking financial advisors as we define them (the person who helps you with your IRA rollover) with these numbers? It does not seem like it.

“Securities, commodity contracts, and other financial investments and related activities.” This sounds more like a portfolio manager, investment manager, hedge fund manager, or trader. This does not sound like the typical job description for a financial advisor, the person who helps people retire and send their kids to college.

“Management of companies and enterprises.” Is that like a CFO?

But nonetheless, the BLS states:

The median annual wage for personal financial advisors was $87,850 in May 2019…The lowest 10 percent earned less than $42,950, and the highest 10 percent earned more than $208,000.

Source: Ibid

Whoa, whoa, whoa. How can this be accurate?

Ummm, 10% of financial advisors make less than $42k? WTF.

First of all, if a financial advisor is earning less than $42k, they are probably a junior advisor of some sort. It is good that the BLS is using median instead of mean, because that may have helped decrease some of the skew to the left tail. At least they got that part right.

But let us be real for moment. When we ask how much financial advisors make, we are not really interested in how much junior (associate) advisors make. That is because junior advisors may or may not be licensed, and even if they are, they are not really fully in relationship development mode. They are not out there at the Chamber of Commerce meeting reeling in new people to sell whole life insurance to. This really caps the upside of their compensation.

Once a junior financial advisor does start to accumulate clients they probably become promoted to be senior financial advisors, and that is the point where they start earning the higher salaries. And good for them, because making $40k a year here in the US is a tough way to live!

My point is that the BLS really should have separated out junior financial advisor pay from this reading.

Only 10% of financial advisors make more than $208k? WTF.

I also have doubts about the accuracy of the statement that “The highest 10 percent earned more than $208,000.” The BLS says that they did not include bonuses when they surveyed financial advisors who work at firms as opposed to being self-employed. That definitely will take down the measurement a notch.

But wait a minute – they were able to find financial advisors who work on salary? How’d they do that? I’m dying of curiosity.

Please tell me, all of you who are familiar with this industry, who the heck offers their financial advisors a salary? I have heard of Buckingham Strategic Wealth and Edward Jones paying their financial advisors a salary, and that is it.

A financial advisor is a salesperson and we all know that salespeople get preeeeeety lazy and complacent when you give them a salary. It would be interesting to see how many of the financial advisors surveyed about their compensation were paid on salary as opposed to getting paid the old fashioned way (like most of the industry does!)

10% make more than 200k? From what I have seen, a lot of the Financial Advisors I am dealing with tend to be making a lot more than that, way more than that. I have found it is not uncommon for a financial advisor to earn more than $200k.

I doubt this line about only 10% of advisor making more than $200k is true, because if it were true than there would not be many people wanting to actually be financial advisors. There are hundreds of thousands of financial advisors in the US. If this data were true, there would be maybe 20.

But let’s say all this BLS data is true…

If the median wage of Financial Advisors were less than $90k a year then that it is breadcrumbs in relation to the amount of liability you are taking and how hard you do have to work and keep up with your certifications.

Some of these clients are such pains in the neck. In a bad market, imagine the stress of every single client calling you ready to fire you, and you have to talk them down from the ledge figuratively of course. And then in an easy market they want to hassle you on performance and say how they could have done it better in an index and following Cramer or CNBC, and what are you getting your fees for. Then they want you to act like their personal butler to make it up to them or something. It’s not an easy job.

So here’s a better question. Regardless of how much the BLS says financial advisors make, what should they make?

Or even better, how even can financial advisors maximize the amount of money they make?

Both of these questions I am going to address next. But first, I have a question for you.

Are you enjoying my blog so far?

If so, I encourage you to follow my podcast as well. I focus on financial advisor lead generation and marketing, and I do it in a highly entertaining way just like how I’m entertaining you with this blog. Please subscribe here.

How much Financial Advisors make is highly related to how Profitable their practices are

I am going to talk about that, I actually have it sketched out, and I can talk about practice profitability and how Financial Advisors should be paid, but first I want to say something about profitability. It is not selfish to be concerned about how much you are taking home and how profitable the practice is. I had a vendor to my own firm that he went out of business. He was someone I relied upon a lot and it looks like he could not sustain his business, and he went out of business, this was really harmful to me and my firm. It caused a little bit of confusion. Luckily I was able to take advantage of other resources but it was really not a good feeling.

You have people that are depending on you and the more profitable your firm is, the greater stability there will be and you can compensate your people, and the more value I think you can give that back to your clients. So, you are not being selfish in wanting to maximize your profitability, and having said that, it doesn’t mean you have to go about this in a self-serving way.

The question then becomes; how do I maximise my compensation as a financial advisor? But how do I do this in a way that keeps the client’s best interests in mind? And that is what I have sketched out and is what I am going to look at.

Right here I am going to show you.

First let’s start by looking at the traditional model.

The traditional financial advisor profitability model stinks

Let’s say that a Financial Advisor is traditionally going to be having between 100-150 clients, let’s say you have 120, on an annual basis you are putting up about 1400 hours of work and on a weekly basis this comes out to around 29 hours a week. That’s a whole heck of a lot of hours, doesn’t mean too much time for that much else considering that you have the operational aspect of the firms, the administrative aspect and training to manage employees. All of this at a firm of this size it probably wouldn’t just be you, you would need some other support resources.

So this comes out to be a per hour rate of $125, not great on a per hour basis, annual revenue coming in at $180,000 and then the profit margin let’s say at 70%. Now this is assuming that you are an independent and you are not working at a big brokerage house and not a W2 employee because if so they are going to take a big pay-out.

Let’s say you are an independent, you have your own firm and you are getting 70% of your revenues taken home as your top line revenue. So this comes to pre-tax take-home of $126,000 assuming a 70% profit rate. After taxes, this is not that far off the BLS data.

It’s funny right? So funny I forgot to laugh.

The fact is that making this amount of money as a financial advisor stinks relative to all the stress you have to go through. Most financial advisors I know are running around like their hair is on fire. Wouldn’t you rather make more money without having to be like this?

A better paradigm for Financial Advisor profitability: The 70 Deep Model

Let’s re-examine the financial advisor profitability chart.

At 120 clients in your practice is that really a comfortable practice? I mean you are making a living; your clients are getting a service, but wouldn’t you rather do what I am calling the ’70 deep’ model which would advocate for fewer clients but having much deeper relationships with them.

So, if you have 70 clients, let’s say they are larger clients, let’s say these are ultra-high net worth clients of maybe $2,000,000 to $5,000,000 portfolio size, you are spending 840 hours a year instead of 1400  because you are assuming 1 hour per month on each client. On a weekly basis you are spending much fewer hours than in the traditional model, your revenues are coming in higher because you are making more because you are having more time to spend on each client. This allows you to really delve in deep into some of the deeper, more sophisticated planning aspects. And like I said these are larger clients, so not only do they probably have larger asset base, but there is also more to do for each clients, and it all comes out that much better in terms of profit margin.

Let’s say that maybe you are taking home a little bit more. Again, this is not totally awesome but I would assume that as a financial advisor you would be wanting to make more than that. But it does allow financial advisors to make higher compensation because with 70 clients you can burrow down deeper.

When you get these 70 clients, you are providing more sophisticated services, you have the freedom of time where you can then go up in asset size and get clients with even deeper needs.

Let’s say you created a strategy where you do this in a very deep, thorough and deliberate (careful) way, where you were very selective about who you worked with and you weren’t running around trying to scramble for the next client because you are deeply entrenched with these 70 clients here. They feel serviced you feel served. Less client turnover better for your practice, less for you to mentally be preoccupied with and then you can focus on getting even bigger clients. Your referrals will probably increase as well because with these 70 clients you have these deeper relationships and hopefully they could maybe pass on a word or two about you if you are doing a good job.

Financial advisors should increase value & profitability to increase the amount of money they make

So the point I am trying to make is here, financial advisors, is that it is overall a lot more advantageous for your compensation and the profitability of your company for you to use what I am calling the ’70 deep’ model, and for you to focus on fewer clients but really to maximize the value of what you are doing for them.

That means knowing them deeper, providing higher value and delivering more sophisticated solutions that really make a difference in their lives.

It’s not to say that with more clients you would necessarily not be able to do that, but we all have the same amount of hours in a week and if you do the math on it like I showed you in the spreadsheet, there quite simply isn’t enough mental time to focus when you have more clients that you need to take care of.

So in short what I am saying is to serve clients better, use the ’70 deep’ model and that will help you to maximize your compensation, the value of what you are doing for your clients and the overall profitability of your firm which will reward everybody in the long run.

Build your pipeline of high net worth clients!

Now how do you go about doing this?

I am publishing a lot about the topics of financial advisor marketing and financial advisor lead generation. I have a podcast on this, I have newsletters that I write on a weekly basis.

I also have a membership program, helping people to be able to develop business with these more sophisticated clients. For example, the profitability worksheet I discussed in this blog is a tool that I provide to everyone on my membership.

In order get to the 70 Deep Model, you really need to have to break away from the typical ways that Financial Advisors communicate, and go about prospecting in a higher value way. That is really what I talk about with my content.

So I hope that you will stay with me and join my podcast and/or membership, links to both are below.

Subscribe to podcast:

https://saragrillo.com/subscribe-to-podcast/

Sources

US Bureau of Labor Statistics. Occupational Outlook Handbook. Business and Financial. Personal Financial Advisors/Pay. Retrieved on July 3, 2020 from https://www.bls.gov/ooh/business-and-financial/personal-financial-advisors.htm#tab-5

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Should Financial Advisors Buy Leads; are Lead Generation Services Worth It?

Sara Grillo - Financial Advisor Fishing For Leads

Ask any financial advisor and they’ll say the biggest challenge for their practice is getting a reliable stream of high quality, qualified prospects in the door. Should financial advisors buy leads? This article provides an analysis of the major lead gen companies as well as the pros and cons of outsourcing lead generation for financial advisors, RIA firms, CFPs, and wealth managers.

Are Financial Advisor Lead Generation Services Legit?

We’ve all heard the incredulous statement, “Nobody looks for a financial advisor on the Internet.” The biggest question that most financial advisors have about lead generation services is about their legitimacy. The logical assumption is that if finding qualified high net worth individuals with money to manage is so hard for a highly credentialed financial expert, how could it be possible for some third party firm?

Let’s start with the question of what a financial advisor lead generation service is, shall we? A financial advisor lead generation service is a company that seeks to capture leads for financial advisors through the Internet. Many lead of them target individuals seeking financial advice through what is called pay-per-click advertisements.

How do these financial advisor lead generation services work? When somebody types in, for example, “financial advisor in Milwaukee, Wisconsin” or “how to get 401k advice in Tucson, Arizona”, ads come up which refer the person to a lead generation website where they can search for a financial advisor.

Once the lead is gathered, usually it is qualified and verified before being passed on to the financial advisor subscribing to the lead generation service. But do verify that before you sign up for the service.

Do people really seek financial advice through the Internet?  The times they are a’changin.

Can a financial advisor get leads through the Internet? Yes! With the digital boom, this is a huge opportunity for financial advisors serving the Internet-friendly Generations X and Y. They trust the Internet so much that they’ll go so far as to work with a Roboadvisor, for goodness sake.

If are a financial advisor looking to get leads online but does not want to buy them, you’ll need to put a repeatable process in place that you can execute inhouse. The video below talks about financial advisor prospecting on social media and gives some ideas of the approach to take.

Do Financial Advisor Lead Generation Services Work?

Are financial advisor lead generation services worth it? My experience working with these companies has been that some leads are true financial advisor leads, while others are not legit. Check for the refund policy before you sign up for the service.

One important thing to keep in mind about a lead generation service is the highly competitive entry point. Think about the online buyer’s mindset. By the time somebody has launched a financial advisor search, and especially if they’re doing this through the Internet search engines, they are “in the market.” The competition level has increased dramatically and it’s likely they’re already talking to a few other advisors, both online and through their own personal network. Everyone has that one uncle who thinks he knows how to trade stocks!

Then, the lead generation service itself sends the prospect multiple financial advisor profiles, not just one. You’ve got competitors coming at you from all angles. The analogy I would make is it’s like applying for a job on Monster.com. Once the job opening is posted, word is out and you’re competing with every qualified candidate on the street.

Now, that’s not to presume that you can’t successfully close the lead. It means that you’re not the only player in the game at that point. You’ll probably have to work harder to earn the sale than if you had come up with the lead organically.

The other aspect to consider is population density. If you live in a rural area, you might end up having to travel far to meet these leads if the conversation progresses.

Are Lead Generation Services for Financial Advisors Worth the Cost?

Most of these services render a subscription fee and some have an additional charge per lead. While many financial advisors cringe at the cost of a lead, consider this point.

If you had to create your own lead capture functionality on your own website, it would cost way more than a few couple hundred dollars a month. Consider the cost of an SEO consultant probably starts at about $500 per month at minimum, and that’s not even taking into account the amount of time your marketing person would have to spend producing content to place onto your website, as well as the thousands for your Google Adwords budget. And SEO isn’t immediate, either. It takes a few months before you typically see results. We’re talking about thousands upon thousands of dollars here. If a lead gen service is willing to do the work for you, you’re probably not overpaying.

However, on the other hand, there are several ways that financial advisors can get leads other than buying them. These include:

  • SEO keyword optimized blogs and YouTube videos
  • Social media platforms (LinkedIn, Facebook, Twitter, Instagram)
  • Creating podcasts about retirement, college planning, and other wealth management related topics
  • Writing email newsletters
  • Attending in person networking events
  • Getting new leads through referrals/word of mouth

I’ve gone into more detail in this video below.

The cost advantage of creating an inhouse lead generation system, instead of outsourcing it, is that once you establish a repeatable process that works, the return on investment can be quite favorable. In other words, the cost of a financial advisor lead can become lower once you establish your own way to find new leads.

Looking for an affordable way to generate financial advisor leads?  Check out my membership here.

Analysis of Financial Advisor Lead Generation Companies

Let me start off by saying that I am not officially endorsing any of these companies; this rudimentary analysis is meant to inform and educate only. If you are interested, you should do your own research and contact the company directly. In the analysis below, I identify what I perceive to be what makes each financial advisor lead generation company different from one to the next. This is based upon my experience which is anecdotal and can not be presumed to apply universally to every person to participates with these companies.

What are the major lead generation companies for financial advisors? If you are a financial advisor who wants to buy leads, you may want to look at:

  • SmartAsset
  • Paladin
  • WiserAdvisor
  • GuideVine
  • Right Financial Advisor

I’ve analyzed each of these financial advisor lead companies below.

SmartAsset

SmartAsset attracts high net worth investors to their site by writing informative articles and offering other online resources to them. They then compel the investors to exchange their email address for these resources.

In my experience, I have found mixed results. I have seen that many financial advisors who buy leads from SmartAsset haven’t been exactly satisfied, however I have also heard from a few advisors that did have some amount of success in getting a few new clients. In my view this probably has to do with the way the leads are collected. If you are curious to learn more about this company then please contact me directly.

Paladin

Paladin provides not only lead generation services but also turnkey digital marketing services for companies without the marketing resources to set up a website, create a branding campaign, etc. They even offer compliance support. Paladin has been in business since 2003. I like that the company offers several different levels of lead gen service (Platinum, Gold, Silver) depending on what the advisor needs.

WiserAdvisor

WiserAdvisor has been in the business almost 20 years, and from what I can see this is the longest track record in the game. WiserAdvisor is strictly in the business of lead generation.

What strikes me about Wiser Advisor is that there seems to be much more third party commentary on this company than all their competitors. Perhaps this is a result of the company’s long track record. You can read what investors and even other financial advisors are saying in the 50+ reviews on TrustPilot and several other Internet sites.

GuideVine

Started a little over five years ago, GuideVine is the new baby on the block of financial advisor lead generation providers. While it maybe doesn’t have the longest track record, it does come with a few more bells and whistles than the other options. For example, advisors can make a video to introduce themselves to prospects and include it as part of their profile. GuideVine even has a team that will assist you with creating this video. The video feature is pretty significant, considering that seeing is believing and being able to experience the financial advisor on video is helpful to building trust.

Right Financial Advisor

Right Financial Advisor has a unique video chat feature that enables investors to connect with an advisor before meeting. It’s a great way to ease the pressure and make the investor feel more comfortable with the advisor.  From the LinkedIn company page it appears the company been in existence since 2013.

Financial advisor outsourced lead generation vs. financial advisor organic lead generation

Should financial advisors outsource their lead generation, or should they find leads themselves? The point I’ve made earlier in this blog can be summarized as this:

While outsourced financial advisor leads services may work sometimes, they can be very hit or miss.

So where does this leave us? Instead of buying financial advisor leads, you may want to consider organic, inhouse marketing done by the financial advisor him or herself.

The cold market gives most financial advisors the shivers. The way to warm it up? Branding. While brand is something that most financial advisors put last, taking the time to create a truly unique message will allow you to tap into underserved markets and drive leads to the sales funnel. Most financial advisors, however, lack the time and resources to dedicate in order to achieve effective branding.

In the video below, I discuss how financial advisors can build a luxury brand.

Sara’s Upshot

Did you decide that it makes sense to buy financial advisor leads? For financial advisors who want to get leads themselves instead of buying them, consider joining my monthly membership here.  It teaches financial advisors how to get leads from online sources such as LinkedIn, Facebook, and YouTube.

Additionally you may want to consider following my podcast which is focused on financial advisor leads.

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The #1 Marketing Asset every Financial Advisor should Hold in the Portfolio

Sara Grillo - Social Media Video Marketing

There were three times in life when my career almost brought me to a nervous breakdown. The first was my last semester at NYU Stern when my professor threatened to fail my thesis if I didn’t change the topic at the last minute. The second was after Lehman crashed and I realized I was competing with literally thousands of qualified candidates to get back the position I had lost. The third was when I had my second child in two years and struggled to meet the grueling demands of the financial advisor quota I faced, and this led to me to skip maternity leave. Needless to say, at all three points I was ready to bite the head off a rattlesnake.

It’s no coincidence that both of these remarkable experiences were caused by the same heavy pressures that so many financial professionals face. Over the last 20 years I worked in a variety of industries but I can honestly say that finance is one of the most stressful occupations one could have. Why is that?

  • Unlike many other industries, most people in finance confront the reality on a daily basis that a market downturn they have no control over could cast them out onto the street.
  • When I was a FINRA-registered rep, I lived in constant fear of a lawsuit due to a compliance breach. It’s always lurking even for the most cautious.
  • Heavy regulation has precluded any real degree of product differentiation unless you are dealing in hedge funds, CTAs, or commodities. For most financial products there are very few core differences from one to the next, making it hard for the brokers and advisors who sell them to present a true competitive advantage.
  • Most financial advisors market their practices through word of mouth. In a bad market, all the good you’ve done is forgotten and nobody has anything nice to say about you. You’re literally as good as your last trade. Regulation also precludes advisors from publicizing any client testimonials. So this all makes it very hard to get street cred, especially if you’re starting out.

And on and on…

The good news it that with a little bit of creativity, which to be blunt is the last thing on any financial advisor’s mind given all the stress they’re under, you can refocus the lens through which the world sees you. It all starts with strong branding. I outline my formula for accomplish a good, solid business image in this piece about business branding. Themed messaging that is unique and goes deeper can intrigue the reader and cultivate a following, but it doesn’t come easily.

Financial advisors should also pay attention to where their online content is placed. Distribution through sites such as LinkedIn, Facebook, and many more is how you reach the targeted audience and ultimately earn back your marketing spend, which to be blunt is the treasure at the end of the rainbow for us all. Agree?

Many financial advisors are wary of social media such as blogging and online video because of the heavy compliance regulations that their firms uphold. This will never change and is something out of your control. You have to work with it, not allow it to make you avoid the digital world altogether. Don’t get me wrong; I’m not saying go 100% Facebook all the time. The best strategy is a hybrid approach that combines in person, digital, and phone prospecting. Why is this? Some prospects don’t like cold calls. Others don’t use LinkedIn. Others are people you’ll never meet at any networking events because their schedule doesn’t allow for it. Diversification, my financial advisor friends, is the only way to ensure that if one method becomes compromised it doesn’t mean an empty pipeline.

Sara’s Upshot

Like anything else, building your brand takes time and commitment.

Authenticity is what matters most in any financial advisor who wants to get new clients. Learn the no BS way to use social media to get new clients by joining my membership here.