The year was 2012. I was sitting at my desk at a small hybrid financial planning firm. I was making okay money, yet I wasn’t satisfied with my career path.
I wanted out. But where? I didn’t want to simply find a new firm to work for… I wanted growth, autonomy, excitement!
All signs pointed to me to go out on my own, but there were some big problems: I had no clients to take with me, my salary was my only source of income, and I had no savings.
How could I possibly support myself while I built a business?
This is an all too common occurrence. There are many ways to earn income in this world, yet most people get stuck in the old fashioned way.
They get a job which provides them with a salary, and (hopefully) this salary grows over time. At various times throughout their career they may jump ship to another company and receive a nice pay increase for doing that… and so it goes… until it doesn’t.
What if that track doesn’t fit your true vision? What if you are stuck in a job that is just okay, but you would much rather be out on your own running a cutting edge financial planning firm that helps young professionals use money as a tool to create a life they love?
Here’s the (condensed) story of how I did just that.
Striking Out on My Own
It was now December of 2012 and I walked into my boss’s office to give my notice. He asked what I planned to do and I told him I was going to create my own business.
“How do you plan to survive without an income?” he asked with a righteous tone.
“That’s simple,” I said. “I’m going to get a job as a waiter to support myself for the first year.”
He snickered and said, “You’re not going to have enough time to build a practice and work at a restaurant.”
Needless to say, that ended the conversation. And at that moment I knew what I needed to do.
Creating Multiple Income Streams
The solution to my problem: multiple income streams. I’m revealing the 8th Wonder of the World here, so pay attention.
Rather than simply focusing on a single revenue model (typically ,this would be assets under management or commissions in our industry), I needed to create other sources of income. Not only would this provide me with the ability to pay my bills, but it would also diversify my income.
As financial planners saw during the Great Recession, this is as important as investment portfolio diversification.
Over the next 10 months I proceeded to build a business Monday through Thursday and work as a waiter (for the first time in my life) Friday, Saturday and Sunday.
At the same time, I built up a small client base, which created a consistent monthly (fee-only) income stream.
Using My Expertise to Branch Out into Blogging
I was also searching for other ways to get paid for my financial planning knowledge. That’s when a financial planner friend of mine introduced me to the world of financial blogging.
“Hmm,” I thought. “I can get paid to write about what I do for a living and also use my posts as a marketing tool for my practice? Sign me up!”
I was now getting paid a monthly recurring fee by the few clients I had, freelancing as a financial blogger for various websites, and still bringing in tips as a waiter. That's three income streams!
But let me be clear here: I was by no means rolling in the dough. In fact, I was still struggling to get by, but the gap between my expenses and my current income was narrowing. It was time to turn things up a notch.
Narrowing the Focus to Get Paid as a Financial Planner (Outside Actual Financial Planning)
In October of 2013, I quit my job at the restaurant so I could work on my business full time. Freedom! Well, not quite.
I began talking to everyone I could, sharing my vision for my company, focusing specifically on the impact I intended to make on the lives of young professionals. People loved it and they wanted to help me however they could.
That’s when I was introduced to a young entrepreneur who was in the process of creating an entrepreneurial program for high school students. He needed a mentor and he was willing to pay for it.
This was a perfect opportunity because it fit with my mission of showing the world how to think like an entrepreneur and understand their personal finances. I was creating a way to get paid as a financial planner, outside my financial planning practice.
Income stream #4 was born.
I spent a week sleeping in a Boston University dorm room and teaching high school students from around the globe how to create a business plan and pitch it to pseudo-investors. Not only was it an amazing experience, but I had more money in my pocket at the end of the week.
Creating Your Own Path
As you may have noticed, the path I took to this point was anything but traditional. In fact, it didn’t exist when I started. I just grabbed a machete and headed into the jungle knowing that what I wanted was on the other side.
That’s just it: there is no clear path to founding a successful financial planning firm. And there are multiple ways for you to use your skills and abilities to get paid as a financial planner, beyond the traditional route of bringing on clients who pay you for financial planning advice and assistance.
The traditional path involved building up a book of business at a large firm before heading out on your own. And that still happens -- but the issue is that entrepreneurial minded financial professionals don’t want to put up with the BS that goes along with working for a large institution in order to get to where they really want to be.
Although I didn’t see my exact path before I started, I took action anyway. I was motivated by my commitment to establish my own company and make an impact on the world.
I knew there were plenty of ways to make money outside of the traditional commission or assets under management model.
It took some entrepreneurial thinking and courage, but I wanted it bad enough. I needed to be flexible, roll with the punches, and never lose sight of where I was headed. To put it simply, I kept an empowering context.
I’ve realized that there are plenty of ways to get paid as a financial planner to support me on my journey.
The funny thing is that in a world that focuses so much on money, it means less to me than ever before. It’s simply my access -- my tool -- to living a life I love.
About the Author: Eric Roberge is a Certified Financial Planner™ (CFP®) and founder of Beyond Your Hammock. He works face to face and virtually with professionals in their 20s and 30s, helping them use money as a tool to live a life they love.