4 Reasons Financial Advisors Should Invest in Education and Self-Development Early On

Why Advisors Should Invest in Education and Self-Development Early On“If a man empties his purse into his head, no man can take it away from him. An investment in knowledge always pays the best interest.”

— Benjamin Franklin

Warren Buffett is perhaps the most successful investor there ever was. Not from just one or two big hits, but from a long string of investment successes over more than six decades. But he didn’t get where he is now without studying very hard at Wharton, then at Columbia, where he studied with the legendary Benjamin Graham.

Further, like a Roth IRA, self-development pays off the most when you do it aggressively early in life. The benefits of learning and knowledge compound over time (as long as you keep learning).

Here are four reasons why you should start investing in education and self-development as early in your Financial Advisor career as you can.

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#1. You’ll provide better service to clients.

The most obvious benefit of professional education is this: You’ll provide better service to clients. You’ll give better advice. That’s what it’s all about. And, of course, that’s going to come back around to benefit you, in the long run.

To do this, invest in courses, seminars and certifications that develop your technical skills. That is, they directly contribute to your knowledge of “hard” subjects within our profession. Everyone’s situation and practice is different, but any newly-minted investment professional should be regularly investing in courses from institutions like The American College for Financial Services, The College for Financial Planning, and Business schools.

You should also be looking to your local chapters of your professional organizations. The best ones frequently have guest speakers, seminars and events. LIMRA is good at this in many cities, as is the Financial Planning Association, the National Association of Independent Financial Advisors and the Society of Financial Service Professionals. You should definitely join one or more of these organizations, if your business model matches up, and support them and yourself by taking the courses and seminars they offer at the local level and at their various conventions.

#2. You’ll be more productive.

All the technical expertise in the world is useless to you unless you get off your duff and work. Expertise x productivity is nothing when productivity = zero. But when you ramp up the productivity, and you’ve developed the industry technical expertise to deliver the goods, you will benefit tremendously, in proportion to the benefit you provide your clients.

Personal development helps you build your soft skills – which are just as important as the hard technical skills of investment and financial management/planning. And perhaps even more important, since they are more transferrable to other industries and contexts.

But productivity is a skill, just as reading a cash flow statement and balance sheet is a skill. You have to work at it. And one way you work at developing these skills is by taking personal development courses, attending seminars and reading the best books in the field.

Subjects might include:

  • Communication
  • Motivation
  • Time management
  • Habit-building
  • Self-help
  • Sports and hobbies
  • Leadership
  • Self-knowledge

YouTube is a tremendous resource for some of these topics, and getting better every day.

Naturally, though, you have to apply what you’ve learned! But if the training is any good, you’ll want to put your newly-acquired knowledge into action.

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#3. You’ll benefit from the experiences of others.

Former Marine General and Secretary of Defense James Mattis was famous for advocating a reading list for military officers. “If you haven’t read hundreds of books, you are functionally illiterate,” he wrote in his autobiography, “Call Sign Chaos.” “and you will be incompetent because your personal experiences alone aren’t broad enough to sustain you.”

This is true in any complicated endeavor, of course, and it’s certainly true of anybody who is bold enough to think that successful professionals in other endeavors should trust them with their money!

Think on that for a second: As you develop as an advisor, you will be asking brilliant people from all walks of life — physicians, professors, lawyers, teachers, entrepreneurs and successful business owners – to trust your advice when it comes to their money.

You owe it to them to devote as much time and effort into mastering your profession as they did theirs. They’ll expect nothing less.

Your reading list should include the best writing you can find in a variety of subjects, including:

  • Ethics
  • Investing
  • Financial planning
  • Estate planning
  • Economics and econometrics
  • Market history
  • Psychology
  • Practice management
  • Selling
  • Leadership and management
  • Time management and efficiency/personal improvement
  • Technology
  • Marketing/Advertising
  • History

If you’re weak in any of these, start boning up. As a financial advisor, you’re going to have to tap every one of these skill sets at some point.

Michael Kitces has taken to publishing a reading list for financial advisors every summer. So if you’re at a loss, you could start there.

One note: Don’t let your reading list be a reason you’re procrastinating, or indulging in avoidance behavior. This is for after you’ve done a prodigious amount of prospecting, appointment setting and meeting with prospects and clients!

Those of you who know me well know I’m a big believer in the power of storytelling. So I’d suggest Storyselling Revisited: How Top Advisors Persuade, by Scott West and Mitch Anthony.

Get the 2-CD set / mp3, Say It So It Makes a Difference to hear hundreds of stories, analogies and power phrases, all designed to help you simplify your message and better communicate with prospective and current clients.

#4. You’ll be healthier.

Maybe it isn’t fair, but it’s a fact: Healthy, fit people out earn people who aren’t. Employers aren’t hiring people who are grossly overweight, or who smoke. Why would you expect people engaging a financial advisor to behave any differently?

Self-development also means developing yourself physically. Take time to work out regularly. Get to the gym. Engage in sports. If you smoke, quit. Develop your body along with your mind, and care for it like you care for your clients’ money.

It’s not too late. Studies show that a moderate exercise program pays tremendous benefits even late in life. (However, if you have known health conditions, you speak to your doctor before initiating an exercise program).

You’ll be more productive. You’ll open more accounts, and you’ll probably save a bundle over a lifetime on health care costs and lost productivity due to illness. A 2011 study found that health-related productivity losses cost employers as much as $260 billion per year, and may amount to even more than direct health care expenses.

Since most of you are self-employed, every dime of productivity loss in your business comes right out of your pocket. Take care of yourselves.

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