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So, You Want to Be a… Financial Advisor

Financial advisors help clients manage their money and identify and achieve their financial goals

What will I be doing all day?

Financial advisors help clients manage their money and identify and achieve their financial goals. They guide clients in all aspects of their financial portfolio, including investing, estate planning, retirement planning, and saving for other major life events, such as education or weddings.

A financial advisor’s responsibilities include:

Determining the client’s financial goals

Developing a financial plan for short and long-term savings

Overseeing the client’s portfolio and keeping track of investments

Assessing a strategy’s success and changing it as necessary

Reaching out to new clients

Some are directly involved in managing investments, buying and selling stocks and funds for their clients.

The difference between a financial advisor and a financial planner:

A financial advisor is a more generalized term for someone who helps clients achieve their financial goals via a range of strategies. A financial planner is a more specific type of financial advisor, who is qualified to help a client with strategic investing and portfolio allocation.

Do I have the personality for it?

A good financial advisor needs to have strong analytical skills, be detail-oriented, and have a good sense of numbers and finance. But, most importantly, a financial advisor needs excellent interpersonal skills: patience, empathy, the ability to truly listen and understand their clients, to communicate effectively, and provide insight to help people make decisions.

What kind of career options do I have?

There are a range of specialties within the field, most of which require additional certification, but open greater opportunities and higher earning potential.

Some examples: Financial Planner, Investment Advisor, Portfolio Manager, Broker, Wealth Manager, or Financial Coach.

What kind of training do I need?

To become a financial advisor, one should have a bachelor’s degree in a finance-related field such as accounting, business, economics, or finance.

In order to be qualified to provide investment advice to clients, one must receive state licensure, which requires passing either one or both tests (Series 63 and Series 65) administered by the Financial Industry Regulatory Authority (FINRA).

Financial advisors often go on to obtain additional professional certification, most commonly to become a Certified Financial Planner (CFP) or Chartered Financial Analyst (CFA). This requires a certain number of years of work experience and passing specialized exams.

What can I expect to make?

The national average salary in the US is about $102,000. This is a field with high earning potential, and most financial advisors tend to jump to six figures quickly, with the potential to earn even seven figures. The sky’s the limit!

Memphis, TN
Years in Field: 45


My Typical Day at Work

My goal is to help my clients — both families and businesses — develop financial and investment strategies that align with their needs and goals. Our client base consists of individuals, families, large and small businesses, young couples, and retirees — people from all backgrounds and all ages. I provide every client with targeted, customized financial advice and portfolio management, delivered with a high level of personal service and professional integrity.

My day is filled with face-to-face client meetings, phone and Zoom calls, writing reports, keeping up with factors affecting the markets, and making trades and investments.

I believe one of my primary jobs is educating my clients and helping them gain a better understanding of investing, retirement, estate planning, and wealth preservation, so that they can take a proactive approach to their personal finances and make sound decisions for their financial future. I spend a lot of time with clients listening to their needs and educating them about their finances.

For example, at my first meeting with a typical couple, I discuss with them their family situation and income and get a general financial picture. I ask them what their primary goals are: retirement planning? Saving for their children’s education? Paying off their mortgage? Often, they have an employer-sponsored retirement program but don’t understand what it is, so I’ll explain it to them.

Next, we begin to develop a financial plan. I start by determining their personal level of risk aversion, assessing where they fall on the risk-reward continuum.

I explain that while many believe that more risk yields more results, in reality the best investment approach is slow and steady. Some clients have realistic expectations, while others need to be brought down to earth. Sometimes clients will ask me about an investment they’ve heard about that promises unbelievable returns, and they’re ready to mortgage their house to get in on it. I tell them, if it sounds too good to be true, it probably is. If an investment isn’t regulated, you may as well go play blackjack with your money.

Once we determine their goals, we discuss their assets and liabilities and look at their overall financial needs. This may include insurance, estate planning, etc. I offer to be in touch with their lawyer or insurance broker, and if they don’t have one, I will direct them to appropriate professionals.

I make myself constantly available for my clients, who reach out to me at all hours with questions, particularly because many of my clients live in different time zones. But my busiest work time is during stock market hours, when I make trades and investments for my clients. We offer our clients a managed money and self-managed service. Some clients are more experienced with investing and just want guidance from us, while others prefer us to manage everything ourselves. But even with those clients, I explain the investments to them and encourage them to be an active player in their finances. I’ll even encourage them not to take my word for it but to get a second opinion. My approach is, this is your money and you need to understand it for yourself.

How I Chose the Profession

I began my career in the insurance industry, working for Prudential. I’d always been interested in the investment side of the industry, and when advising clients about insurance, I began helping them look at their larger financial picture, and understand, for example, where life insurance fits in to their larger estate plan. At that time, a friend of mine offered me a position running the EF Hutton insurance division in Memphis, and after I took that position, I transitioned to the brokerage side of the field. The training was firm-based, with all the usual regulatory requirements.

What I Love Most about the Field

My clients. They are truly a pleasure to work with, and I get a lot of enjoyment from helping them.

What I Find Most Challenging about the Field

The biggest challenge we face is giving each client the time they deserve. We’re constantly striving to improve that.

I’ll Never Forget When

A few years ago, a representative from a large investment firm stopped by my office to tell me about what they had to offer to our clients. When he saw my yarmulke, he took out his iPad and showed me his family tree, which traced his lineage back to Rav Yosef Karo.  He was so proud of that moment — and so was I.

Something I Wish People Knew about Financial Advisors

It takes a tremendous amount of time and preparation. There’s a lot of information to sift through and it changes rapidly.

How I’ve Seen the Field Change Over the Years

Technological developments have made it much easier for us to do business and communicate with clients, allowing me to serve my clients better today than when I first started in the profession.

My Advice for People Starting Out

Be a good listener to your clients.


Ramat Beit Shemesh, Israel
Graduated From: York University, MBA. Licensed by the Israel Securities Authority as an Investment Portfolio Manager and Registered Trust and Estate Practitioner (TEP)
Years in Field: 20
My Typical Day at Work

I’m fortunate to have been running my own business, Labinsky Financial, for approximately 20 years, which means that my responsibilities are multifaceted. They encompass management of employees and goal setting; business-related tasks such as banking, taxation, accounting, and cash flow; and, of course, all of the elements involved in working directly with clients.

At Labinsky Financial we focus on two main areas — general financial planning and investment management. With our general financial planning, my focus is on helping clients make critical financial decisions. Most of our work is through in-person meetings, in which we help our clients understand the various options so that they can make educated, sound financial decisions.

Many times, it’s hard for people to see the big picture; I hold up the proverbial mirror to show them where they are holding in their finances so they can better understand the issues and options going forward. We try to focus on listening to the nuances in their questions and their unique situation. Anyone who has a straightforward, black-and-white question can google the answer. Our work is to help them in a more personalized manner, to give them peace of mind that they are on the right path.

My typical day is spent managing the business and my staff, meeting with clients, doing research, and keeping abreast of financial news and developments. It’s generally a whirlwind.

The financial planning side of the business services people in all stages of life — from newlyweds wanting a one-hour consultation to help them get started, to midlifes and retirees who want to develop a more focused retirement plan or determine what type of standard they can live on in retirement. We have the flexibility to see people on a one-off basis, and to also have ongoing relationships.

On the asset management side, our portfolio management clients are those who have funds above a certain minimum, people who have saved up and are looking for a professional advisor who will be able to manage their money. Our asset management clients are generally looking for a comprehensive relationship, not only for portfolio management, but also for help with all the elements of their financial life, which is part of the service they receive when they have a portfolio account with us.

How I Chose the Profession

I became interested in financial planning and investment management when I came to Israel in the mid-1990s, and subsequently became licensed by the Israel Securities Authority as an Investment Portfolio Manager. (Technically there is no official certification in Israel for financial planning, although there are home finance organizations that give courses and certificates for home finance counseling, such as Mesila, where I am a board member.)

I went into the field because I enjoyed the combination of a numbers-based profession and working with people. I find it very satisfying to help people manage their money and optimize their finances, assisting them to make decisions that will lead to improved finances.

How I Chose My Specialty

Labinsky Financial is more a general practitioner type of model. We advise on a general level in all areas, and work with other professionals when clients have specific needs. For example, for alternative investments we work with other investment management companies, and the same with tax and accounting.

We do have a niche helping olim integrate their finances from their home country to their life in Israel. After presenting at and participating in countless Nefesh B’Nefesh Aliyah fairs and seminars over many years, I wrote a book to help olim transition their finances to Israel. Happily, my book, A Financial Guide to Aliyah and Life in Israel, was very well received and is referred to as ‘the financial bible for olim.’ We also turned the book into a free online resource so we could make the information available to as many potential and veteran olim as possible.

What I Love Most about the Field

I get tremendous satisfaction from working with people over the course of time and seeing how clients can really change their entire life by improving their finances.

What I Find Most Challenging about the Field

Lack of time. I would love to be able to help even more people live a financially successful life in Israel.

I’ll Never Forget When

While it’s difficult to relate specific stories due to privacy issues, a significant group of clients that tend to repeat themselves over the years are clients facing a death or divorce. Often, it’s a spouse who hasn’t been involved in managing the family’s finances who is thrust into the position due to the death of their partner, or someone suddenly inheriting money that they didn’t expect and not knowing where to start, given that they might never have managed money before. We start from the basics, educating them about money and putting a plan in place for their future. Obviously, we can’t replace the loss of a loved one, but we can provide them with a sounding board and a partner to help them make financial decisions.

While most people are exposed to money and manage, on various levels, their bank accounts, expenses, and investments, occasionally we will encounter some truly unique situations. I had a client call us recently on behalf of a couple they knew. This couple had difficulties with managing money and a friend of theirs had stepped in to help this couple manage their finances. For over 50 years, this man had been actively managing this couple’s money, as a pure chesed, until he literally lost his sight. I must say, those were very big shoes to fill.

Something I Wish People Knew about Financial Advisors

The importance of developing trust and creating transparency to build long- lasting relationships with clients. Too many times I have seen people put their trust in unscrupulous advisors, here today and gone tomorrow. It’s heartbreaking because losing money to fraud can cause long-term damage, often leading to people being unable to retire as and when planned. Everyone needs to work with someone they trust, and it’s not an easy decision to make.

How I’ve Seen the Field Change Over the Years

One of the most significant areas of change in portfolio management is the move away from smaller, more personalized investment management companies to larger investment houses. These smaller companies have largely disappeared over the years.

In addition, today there is a wealth of information about financial planning that is readily accessible online, so if you want to do it yourself, there are lots of options available. Our service helps people digest that information and make it work for them in the right way.

My Advice for People Starting Out

It’s really important to get broad exposure and experience early on. The fact that I worked in industry, in high tech and business both in Canada and in Israel prior to starting my company and had a wide range of knowledge broadened my ability to advise clients in all types of situations and circumstances.


New York/Maryland
INVESTMENT ADVISOR and CCO, MWM (Munk Wealth Management) Group LLC, Cedarhurst, NY
Graduated From: UCLA, B.A. Economics and Registered Investment Advisor. Currently finishing up certification as a Certified Financial Planner
Years in Field: 15


My Typical Day at Work

I create and implement financial plans for clients, which includes understanding their current financial situation, identifying their financial goals, creating a plan to help them achieve their goals, implementing the plan, and then monitoring and making changes along the way. This includes investing client money in equities and fixed income (stocks, bonds, mutual funds, etc.).

For example, a husband and wife come to us and say that they have $1 million in retirement accounts; $400,000 in non-retirement brokerage accounts; pay X amount in expenses and make Y in income; and they have kids who are 13, 16, 18, and 21. They want to continue to support their children during the first few years of marriage, but also want to make sure they are comfortable in retirement. We create a financial plan for them that includes how to invest their money in a way that will achieve their goals. We even created a software program that allows us to input all of this information and see how different changes in investments, expenses, and income can change their net worth over time.

I start my day by checking what’s happening with the stock market and updating myself on the news, both financial and world/domestic/political, from the past 12 hours or so. I often have clients call and ask why the market is up or down, and I have to explain why, and its impact on their investments and investment strategy. I also speak with the MWM team in order to discuss any pressing issues, recent stock market news, or any changes that need to be made to the portfolios. I then spend a few minutes checking which bonds or CDs matured, and determine the plan for my clients’ now-available cash.

Clients call throughout the day, as do wholesalers from investment companies who want to set up a meeting to pitch us their investments (for investing our clients’ money). I spend a lot of time on the phone answering questions and helping clients, as well as scheduling and conducting meetings. And in addition to client brokerage accounts and annuities, we also manage company 401Ks.

I’m also CCO (Chief Compliance Officer) of MWM, so I often have tasks relating to our firm’s compliance with securities laws and regulations. Since we aren’t a huge wire house like Merrill Lynch or Morgan Stanley, our operations and compliance are all managed in-house.

How I Chose the Profession

I loved studying economics at UCLA — it’s fascinating how our economy works. It’s a big, complex machine with so many levers and pulleys. I also love helping people. While most people go into my industry because they want to make money, my pleasure comes from genuinely helping my clients. I gain a lot of pleasure from sharing my knowledge about economics, the stock market, and financial planning, and knowing that I’m helping clients.

How I Chose My Specialty

While I work with all types of clients (with net worths ranging from mid- to ultra-high), my personal “niche” is women, and more specifically, widows. As one of a handful of women, especially frum women, in this industry, I have seen how important it is for women to work with another female they can trust and feel comfortable with. Too often, when dealing with male advisors, women come into the situation lacking confidence and believe their lack of knowledge means they aren’t even allowed to understand what their advisor is doing. It’s a recipe for disaster.

Women are very trusting, especially older women. One woman using a male advisor even told me that she doesn’t seem to be making a lot of money, but she was comfortable in the relationship. “How much does he bill you?” I asked.

“I don’t know,” she responded.

“What are his returns like?” Again, she didn’t know. She was entrusting her finances to someone without understanding the terms.

But my real specialty is working with almanahs. I didn’t choose it, it chose me. Before working at MWM, I worked at an estate planning firm that specializes in life insurance. I worked for great guys and it was amazing training. After this, I decided to take a break from full-time work, and teach economics and personal finance at TAG high school in Far Rockaway.

Once I was ready to jump back into the career world, I knew I wanted to work in wealth management (which I had experienced at UCLA when I interned at Morgan Stanley in Los Angeles), and I started working at MWM. In my early years there, we had a few clients who had lost their husbands, suddenly and tragically. That’s when I realized that Hashem had given me my exposure to estate planning and insurance for a reason. Of course, my boss, who has a very extensive financial planning background, also taught me a lot. Word spread, and now I’m making a name for myself as a frum female financial advisor who specifically knows how to guide women during this tragic time.

These widows often have little or no knowledge of their finances, estate plans, taxes, insurance, etc. and there are so many things that need to be taken care of. It’s extremely overwhelming. I know what needs to get done and when, and who needs to do it. I’ll often act as the “case manager,” bringing in the accountant, the attorney, helping the almanah ask the right questions, and understand their options and what needs to be done. I even have almanahs ask me advice about their car lease. “My lease is finishing. I can either buy the car, buy a different one, or lease. What should I do?” They trust me and they know I’m willing to go the extra mile to help them. I was also once a single mother, so I know what it feels like to be alone without a husband to help you.

And, of course, I help each woman make a long-term financial plan. What should she do with the money from the life insurance policy? Can she spend it? Should she save it? Is the money she’s left with enough to sustain her and her family? We make a plan to help them live as normal a life as possible without having to worry.

I’ve heard some pretty sad stories. Men have committed suicide, or died suddenly due to heart attacks or after prolonged illness, and their wives are left distraught, scared about the future with young children to care for. But there are also amazing rabbanim and others that step up and do incredible acts of kindness for these women. There’s one well-known rav in particular who is very busy but is always there for almanahs. I’m always hearing stories about him, and I’ve gained a lot of chizuk from them.

What I Love Most about the Field

Helping clients. I also love the intellectual stimulation and challenge.

What I Find Most Challenging about the Field

At the end of the day, this is my job. I have a family as well. Like most women, it’s hard to create boundaries. I want to help everyone, but sometimes I have to say “no” to clients in order to say “yes” to my family, which is more important.

What It’s Like Being a Female in a Male-Dominated Field

I love it! Clients love the customer service I offer (I think it’s a female thing), but also that I’m knowledgeable and can answer their questions about investments.

I’ll Never Forget When

We had a (non-Jewish) client who was a real hermit — he had no siblings and never got married or had children. One day, we found out he passed away. I got a call from the court-appointed attorney: The client had decided to give half a million dollars to a random animal shelter out of state. Boy, was that animal shelter happy! But I also thought about all the yeshivos that could have really used that money.

We had another hermit client, an elderly non-Jewish man. We went to meet with him once in the summer. Well, turns out that he doesn’t believe in A/C, but boy does he like to schmooze! We spent hours in his sweltering house! He also had an extensive collection of medieval suits of armor.

One day, a very, very wealthy individual, whose name is on buildings, contacted us. He spent his career in real estate and never touched the stock market. I’m sure he’s had dozens of financial advisors approach him over the years, but once he was ready to invest in the stock market, he called us. Why? He’s an elderly businessman and is used to shady characters. He knew who we were and that the Munk family has decades of experience working in wealth management and knew he could trust us. Interestingly enough, many veteran businessmen are very conservative investors, because they’ve been burned too often by a bad deal or a shady character. They realize the downside of taking too much risk and prefer the approach of “slow and steady wins the race.”

Something I Wish People Knew about Financial Advisors

A lot of the work is sales and marketing. Girls in college contact me and want to know how to do what I’m doing. They think it’s just about financial planning or investment analysis. Nope! You have to get clients. I’m lucky because I have an expertise already, so I’m able to pitch my skill set and service to potential clients who need my help.

My Advice for People Starting Out

Figure out your niche and focus on it. Want to work with young doctors? Learn about everything that matters to them financially and become an expert in it. Offer seminars on topics that speak to them, such as how to manage medical school debt.

Here’s a very important lesson when you’re working in business: When you’re out walking on Shabbos, you never want to be in a situation where you have to cross to the other side of the street when you see someone. Always conduct your business in a straight and honest way.


Coming up: Plumbers


(Originally featured in Mishpacha, Issue 996)

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