I quit working at the 100% commission based financial advisor job just a few months after I started and began to look for another job. I was still in school, but the prime period for on-campus job recruiting had passed, so I had to do a lot of work researching companies in the area and apply for jobs without the assistance of any type of on-campus interviews or job postings.
I had enjoyed working with clients in my former job, and would have stayed at the job if there was a way that I could have made a decent living while also offering only investment products that I was comfortable with ethically. This would have also been easier if I had clients with a lot of money to invest, but generally speaking, anyone with a lot of money is going to want a financial advisor who has experience and isn't just a recent college graduate with little to no real experience. I had seen something that I liked doing, but needed experience to be able to do it well. How then, was I to get the experience?
The solution I found was to get a job at a large financial services company working in one of their call centers. It wasn't what I initially had thought I would be doing, but it ended up being ideal for what I needed to learn. Starting out servicing accounts and talking to clients without initially having any ownership stake in their financial plans, I was able to see firsthand the consequences of many different decisions, both good and bad. This experience proved invaluable a couple of years later when I was placed in a position where I was again a financial advisor and had a responsibility for the financial success of my various clients. One of the main things I was able to take away from this experience was the understanding that even though a portfolio may look ideal on paper, the plan is useless if an investor isn't going to stick with it. Keeping this in mind, I was able to build more customized solutions for clients, which resulted in happier clients, more referrals, as well as more income for me.
Over the course of seven years with that employer, I had a total of 6 different job titles (one for only 2 months), and was able to see my pay increase from a $35,000 to over $150,000 just a few years later.
While I truly enjoyed many aspects of my work in financial services, I chose to leave the industry for a career in corporate finance to further develop additional skills. Below, I have detailed my annual income over the years to further illustrate this point.
You'll notice that my total income has come down a bit in recent years. One of the things I was looking for in a career move was more stable income. Although my income in 2012 was over $160,000, only $45,000 of that was guaranteed base salary with the rest being highly variable, whereas now my salary is over $100,000 with a much smaller portion of my income coming in the form of variable bonuses. I also have higher growth potential with my current job whereas I was nearly at my peak earning potential in my previous role. Also, because the majority of my pay in 2011-2013 was paid in semi-annual bonuses, I had to live on a much smaller income during the year until those paychecks arrived. I knew that I wasn't going to spend the rest of my career in that job and chose to save and invest the majority of those bonuses while living on little more than the base salary.
One other thing worth pointing out is that my income didn't decrease from 2008 to 2009, rather my 2008 income included a relocation bonus for when I moved across the country. My income was relatively flat from 2008 to 2009 because overtime and bonuses were slashed amidst the financial crisis.