Investing and Financial Markets
Salary and Pay Rates

How much does a financial advisor make?

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2014-05-05 05:06:05
2014-05-05 05:06:05

On average, it's probably on par with most other professionals, between $50 to $80k a year.

The range is very wide depending on the company you work for and the channel of your work. Here are some data based on actual information (2010-2012 data).

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Value for your skills: "Medium" if you have a stellar character PLUS stellar sales skills. Otherwise, retail financial services is a low value career in terms of making money. However, I think financial services in general can be a great value if you consider it as a learning tool (as a skill or knowledge set). Investment services since the financial crisis of 2008 isn't the same as it was in the 80's, 90's, and prior to 2008. If you have a great personality plus amazing sales skills, there are plenty of other sales venues that are much more rewarding than retail financial services.

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Insurance-Based Financial Services Companies

MetLife Financial Services Representative (insurance-based): Average compensation nationally is less than $25,000 a year--regardless of what you've been told. They often use the phrase, "unlimited income" to attract new agents. The fact is anyone can make unlimited income doing anything--like finding a lost treasure chest full of gold coins under the deep blue sea--or selling dirt if there are enough people lined up who want to buy your dirt. In most cases, the only person that has a real job is the sales manager in the office (aside from tenured experienced agents and those with a decent book of business). 15-20 years ago, companies like MetLife used to pay a decent salary to agents--about $35,000 a year (which is probably equivalent to about $50k to $60k in today's dollars). This shows how our labor market has changed especially in the insurance financial services sector. Not very good.

Experience Requirement: Low

Compensation Range: Highly volatile (lower the compensation range/volatility, the more uniform the compensation for all experience levels--i.e. medical doctors or engineers). Lower compensation range with higher average compensation is generally what you want unless you are the one-in-a-million superstar sales person.

Barriers to Entry: Low


Wirehouse/Brokerage/Investment Bank Financial Advisor (top 3-4 firms)

Based on numbers for Merrill Lynch in the Denver complex (2011): the top 50% of 80 advisors (40 of them) make an average of $300,000 to $500,000 a year. The top 25% make more than $600,000 a year. The bottom 1/2 (mostly newbies and those with less than 10 years in the industry) make an average of $40,000 to $70,000 per year. Aside from the ones who are "successful", the average compensation for financial advisors for wirehouses is about $60k a year.

Experience Requirement: Medium to High

Compensation Range: Highly volatile (higher the compensation range, you can see one person making $45k a year and another advisor in the same office making $700k a year).

Barriers to entry: Medium to High. You generally need at least 2-3 years of successful financial services experience under your belt plus series 7 & 66 registrations (or for Merrill, pass a difficult math test before getting the sponsorship for the exams).

Barriers to success: It is very difficult to make it past 2-3 years in the investment advisory services firms. The attrition rates for newbies (without existing book of business) is probably higher than 90% for two years. 90%+ of new advisors don't make it past 2 years.


Bank Channel Financial Advisor (top 3 banks): Average compensation nationwide is about $60k.

Experience Requirement: Medium to High - Compensation Range: Medium

Expect your first and second year compensation to average around $40k to $55k.

Barriers to entry: High. Banks have the luxury to pick from a large pool of advisors wanting a more stable environment with a potential for existing book of business (bank customers). This aspect also makes less productive advisors want to work for retail banks. Retail banks also tend to operate with less actual talent and more with "who you know" type of culture. It may be best to start as a personal banker or something similar within the ranks.

Barriers to entry: High compared to what you get.


Independent Channel (i.e. LPL)

I won't list compensation for this channel, because many established advisors from other channels transfer their books to independent channels, and newbies generally do not start here. The compensation range for newbies would be too volatile compared to established advisors.

Experience Requirement: In order to survive, you'd probably need at least a medium (3-5 years) experience level here.


National Discount Brokerage (Fidelity, TD Ameritrade)

For average comp in this channel check with Higher income range are in bigger cities with people making good income.

Experience Requirement: mostly call center environment

Compensation Range: Medium

Barrier to Entry: medium


If you are looking for a career in investments/financial services, an ideal route is to start with low experience required company like MetLife, Prudential, Northwestern Mutual etc. Building a client base is extremely difficult with other more desirable channels.

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The German word for financial advisor is Finanzberater

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