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Financial Advisor

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(6.5 out of 10)

Number of Jobs


Median Salary


Unemployment Rate

2.0 percent

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Financial advisors do what many people don’t like doing for themselves: figuring out how to manage their money. By meeting with clients and helping them determine budgeting and retirement plans, investing strategy and other financial responsibilities, advisors get their clients on track to meet their money goals. While many advisors start out working for larger financial services firms, about 20 percent work for themselves, often building up expertise in areas such as retirement planning or financial planning for small business owners. The National Association of Personal Financial Advisors notes other specialties as well, including planning for same-sex couples, newlywed investors and individuals with special needs.

This is expected to be one of the faster-growing occupations over the next decade, with a projected growth rate of 27 percent between 2012 and 2022, according to the Labor Department. That’s an additional 60,300 new positions on top of the 175,470 jobs financial advisors held in 2012. Demand for advisory services is expected to be driven by the wave of baby boomers retiring. (According to the Pew Research Center, the oldest of the boomers turned 65 in 2011.) At the same time, many companies are developing increasingly powerful online advisory tools that may meet consumers’ needs.


The median annual salary for financial advisors was $67,520 in 2012, with the lowest-paid earning less than $32,280 and the highest-paid earning at least $187,199. On top of their salaries, many advisors earn substantial bonuses.

Salary Range

75th Percentile $111,450
Median $67,520
25th Percentile $44,140


Earning the trust of clients hinges on building and maintaining a deep level of financial expertise. A bachelor's degree is necessary, and an advanced degree can be an effective marketing tool. Obtaining and maintaining the certified financial planner designation is recommended, as is membership in the Financial Planning Association or other industry groups. Advisors often obtain securities licenses and may earn substantial portions of their income through investment fees. Many advisors also sell insurance products, which requires state licensure and professional certification.

Reviews & Advice

Personal financial advisors may work for themselves or a larger firm or company. About 20 percent are self-employed, according to the Labor Department. In either case, communication skills are essential, since advisors talk to clients about personal topics, including marriage, divorce and death. “Financial planning is a very client-centric business. Personal attributes are very important, including the ability to listen, be responsive to client needs and empathy. A background in customer service or sales service would be a plus,” says Cathy Curtis, an independent, fee-only financial advisor based in Oakland, Calif.

Curtis recommends first studying to become a certified financial planner, which requires specific coursework, and gaining work experience at a small or midsize financial planning firm. “I wouldn’t be picky about my first job in the industry. I would use it as a way to learn about the business,” she says. Curtis also recommends joining a professional association such as the Financial Planning Association or National Association of Personal Financial Advisors.

Job Satisfaction

Upward Mobility good Above Average
Stress Level poor Above Average
Flexibility good Above Average
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Last updated by Casey Quinlan.

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