First and foremost, it's not about the money

Words of wisdom from a young adviser about his first year on the job

Mar 29, 2015 @ 12:01 am

By Layton Cox

A little more than a year ago, I was calling everyone in finance I had ever met. I was drilling them with questions ranging from “How is the work-life balance?” to “How long do I have to wait to find out if I'm good at it?”

Over the past year or so, I've discovered a few things no one warned me of. For everyone who was in my shoes a year ago, these tips are for you.


I had heard countless stories of the young gun hitting it big by landing an “elephant” client. I expected to make two or three times my starting salary by the end of year one. Spoiler alert: It doesn't happen.

Don't get into this business for the money. Get into this business to help people.

(More from Layton: What I didn't expect about being an adviser)

It will be amazing to learn how uninformed the majority of American investors are. You'll be even more amazed at how idiotic your peers in the industry sound. As an adviser, it's your duty to save people from themselves and protect them from the pirates roaming the financial advisory waters.


Working for a big name firm may sound pleasant, but working for a small firm is pleasant.

The big wirehouses care about one thing: their profit. The small firms care about one thing: their clients.

Avoid the big firm rat race when possible. I would take a job at a smaller firm for a lower salary 10 times out of 10. The work-life balance is better, the staff is active, your boss is nicer and the clients are happier.


The first two pieces of advice are as true today as they were in the 1970s; this last piece of advice is specific to the here and now. As a 24-year-old financial adviser, I can promise we will see a dramatic shift from in-person advice to online-only advice.

The first robo-advisers were a target-date fund on steroids. However, more and more advisory firms are creating online portals to provide actual advice. This is great news for everyone.

For the investing public, online advice will be easier to access and cheaper to buy. Long gone are the days you needed $500,000 to talk to an unbiased adviser. Now all you need is the desire to change your ways, and someone will help you.

For advisers, online advice makes your service scalable and efficient. Instead of taking three hours of your staff's time to upload client documents, clients will be able to do this themselves, leaving you and your staff more time to focus on helping people.

I've been lucky so far. My path hasn't been the typical financial adviser's path. I've gone from working with NFL athletes to consulting on corporate 401(k) plans with hundreds of employees to starting a robo-advisory firm.

I came into the business with high expectations. The last year has been everything but what I initially thought it would be. I expect my entire career will follow the same path, and that's fine with me.

Layton Cox is director of retirement plan consulting for Pathways Financial Partners in Tucson, Ariz.


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