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Personal financial adviser salary & career outlook

As a personal financial adviser, a thorough grasp of financial planning and investment strategies is a must to help clients grow their money and provide for their future needs. Financial advisers also need exceptional analytical and people skills, and they must be honest and dependable — these are qualities clients expect. But the real key to financial success as an adviser depends on whether you're good at helping your clients make money.

Personal financial adviser careers in brief

In a nutshell, personal financial advisers help clients develop a financial strategy and manage their money. Depending on the client's career and retirement objectives, education and other expenses, and tolerance for financial risk, the financial adviser recommends an appropriate investment and savings plan. Advisers must periodically review and meet with clients to discuss updates and adjustments to their portfolios and to make recommendations regarding risk management, possible tax consequences, insurance, and buying and selling investment products. Personal financial advisers can also be licensed to trade securities, buying or selling stocks and bonds, derivatives, annuities and insurance for their clients.

These advisers serve as the connection point between people and their money, so they also need to be adept at both communicating and crunching numbers. A sizable minority — about a fifth — are self-employed. The other two-thirds work for finance or insurance companies, including banks, investment firms, insurance carriers, or securities and commodities brokers.

Personal financial adviser salary potential

Personal financial advisers' salaries vary widely depending on experience and performance. The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) reports that as of May 2013, the average national salary was $99,920 annually; however, the median salary was $75,320. The disparity between these two figures results from the top 10 percent of advisers earning in excess of $187,199 each year, while the lowest 10 percent earn $33,190 or less.

Salary potential also varies by employer and location. The vast majority of personal financial advisers find employment in the financial and insurance sector. About 20 percent are self-employed. The BLS lists security and commodity brokerage firms, accounting service providers and investment firms as the top-paying employers for financial advisers, with average salaries as of May 2013 ranging from $90,460 to $117,460. Salaries are highest in Connecticut ($136,680 annually), followed by New York at $133,110 and Massachusetts at $130,400. The Bridgeport-Stamford-Norwalk, Conn., metro area has an exceptionally high concentration of personal financial advisers, who also have the distinction of earning the highest average yearly salary in the nation: $144,270.

Outside of the New York City and Boston metropolitan areas, you can find good earning potential as a personal financial adviser in these cities, which have the following average annual salaries:

  • Wilmington, N.C.: $141,150
  • Greenville, N.C.: $138,720
  • Eugene-Springfield, Ore.: $138,540
  • Asheville, N.C.: $135,260
  • Nashville-Davidson-Murfreesboro-Franklin, Tenn.: $130,950

Some top-paying, nonmetropolitan areas may not bring in the same salaries as the bigger cities, but with a less stressful lifestyle and in some cases, a significantly lower cost of living, you might find one of these locations a good place to live — and as good a source of clients as anywhere. The average annual salaries for some of these areas are:

  • Southwestern Virginia: $129,050
  • Northeast Florida: $121,510
  • Western Montana: $109,850
  • Western Central North Carolina: $107,970
  • South Georgia: $103,390

From personal financial adviser training to professional success

Regardless of geography, results and experience are typically the two primary factors that qualify personal financial advisers as top earners. To learn the ropes, most begin their careers with a bachelor's degree. A master's degree in finance or MBA may also help establish credibility and build skills. Core courses consist of financial planning, investments, taxes and risk management.

Once they have three years of experience, advisers may take the exam for voluntary certification as a Certified Financial Planner (CFP). A graduate degree and certification can potentially help them advance into a management role or achieve success as an independent financial adviser.

Career outlook for personal financial advisers

Personal financial advisers can look forward to very rapid job growth in coming years, according to the BLS, as aging baby boomers and a growing population of very wealthy individuals seek help managing their money. The increasing complexity of financial products and investments are also expected to drive demand for financial experts. The long term nationwide projection from the BLS projects 27 percent job growth nationally from 2012 to 2022, which is considerably above the 11 percent average for all occupations.

According to state labor data collected by Projections Central, the states expected to see especially high growth for personal financial advisers through 2020 include:

  • South Carolina: 35.9% projected growth
  • Washington, D.C.: 35.2% projected growth
  • Oregon: 34.9% projected growth
  • Louisiana: 33.4% projected growth
  • Iowa: 32.6% projected growth

To make money by managing other people's money, explore a career as a personal financial adviser.

Sources:

Long Term Occupational Projections for Personal Financial Advisers, Projections Central,
http://www.projectionscentral.com/Projections/LongTerm

Summary Report for: Personal Financial Advisers, O*Net OnLine,
http://www.onetonline.org/link/summary/13-2052.00

Browse by Industry, Finance and Insurance, O*Net OnLine,
http://www.onetonline.org/find/industry?j=13-2052.00&i=52

Browse by Industry,Self-employed, O*Net OnLine,
http://www.onetonline.org/find/industry?j=13-2052.00&i=94

Occupational Employment and Wages for Personal Financial Advisors, Occupational Employment Statistics, Bureau of Labor Statistics, U.S. Department of Labor, May 2013,
http://www.bls.gov/oes/current/oes132052.htm

Personal Financial Advisors, "Occupational Outlook Handbook, 2014-15 Edition," Bureau of Labor Statistics, U.S. Department of Labor, Jan. 8, 2014,
http://www.bls.gov/ooh/business-and-financial/personal-financial-advisors.htm#tab-6