Written by: Corey Janoff
I started my career as a financial advisor fresh out of college at age 22. I chose this business because I wanted a career where I could be my own boss and control my schedule. I didn't want someone else telling me how many hours I had to work and what my time would be worth. I would instead work 12 hours a day for myself than 8 hours for someone else.
Being a traditional financial advisor (where you serve your own book of clients) is essentially entrepreneurship. Many financial advisors start their own company (like we did with Finity Group) and are entrepreneurs. As a financial advisor, I am the business, and the clients are my customers. I have to attract clients who are willing to pay me for the value I add to their life and serve them well, so they keep paying me as satisfied customers; otherwise, I go out of business. Thankfully, I've been able to do a pretty good job of that.
Ask any entrepreneur what it was like in the early years. They will tell you stories about working 16 hour days, not seeing a consistent paycheck (even not seeing any compensation some months), and walking uphill in the snow both to and from work. The majority of new businesses fail within the first five years. The ones that make it have to fight an uphill battle to establish themselves. The same goes for financial advisors. Only about ten percent of people who start a financial advising career make it past five years (we have a much better record than that at Finity, knock on wood). Starting a business and succeeding is hard. If it were easy, everyone would do it.
When I started this career, I laid out a mental game plan for myself. If I wanted to be my own boss and take vacations whenever I want to without requesting time off, I was going to have to put in the work. My plan was as follows:
In my 20's, I would bust my butt to be successful and build a solid practice of dedicated clients. Nothing would be given. Everything had to be earned. Failure wasn't an option. Take good care of the clients, and the money will come.
Everybody has to pay their dues at some point if they want to be successful. I would rather get it out of the way early while I was single with no kids. I would routinely work 60-70-hour weeks in my 20's. Monday through Thursday, I rarely came home before it was dark out, even in the summer. I would work almost every Saturday, but be home to watch USC football games in the fall. If SC had an early game on Saturday, I would often go into the office on Sunday to finish what I didn't get to on Saturday and prep for the week ahead.
Assuming things went according to plan, I could put things on cruise control and take my foot off the gas a bit. Odds are, I would be getting married and have kids, and I would want my kids to know their dad.
Four years into this decade, things are still going according to plan.
I'll want to scale back a little bit at this point as kids get older and are likely playing sports. I won't want to miss a game. Depending on the sport, I may even want to help coach. I may bring some of our junior advisors into my practice to better serve clients while I'm running all over town to soccer tournaments and whatnot.
50's and beyond
Kids will be out of the house (hopefully). The school and sports schedules won't dictate our lives. We'll be able to take vacations at non-peak times. I may end up working more in my 50's to eliminate boredom. I don't know. A lot can change in the next 20 years. One thing for sure, health willing, is I will be exercising and golfing a lot more.
Is it Wrong to Work Less?
Things have seemed to happen mostly according to plan thus far. In my 30's, there has been a significant decrease in work hours compared to my 20's. I got married at 28, and we had our first kid a month before my 30th birthday. While I still probably worked more than my wife would prefer with a newborn in the house, I scaled back considerably. Once our second was born a couple of years later, I tapered my schedule even further.
A computer algorithm would say I should keep working hard to maximize economic output. But is that necessary? If I worked X amount more, I could take on an extra 100 clients, which would bring in Y more dollars.
Yeah, it would be cool to work more so I can make more money and buy more things that would provide marginal enhancements to my lifestyle. But I already have everything I need. I live in a comfortable house in a good neighborhood. I have a functional car. I can afford groceries and all of my utility bills. I am saving enough for retirement and the kids' college funds to be on a healthy track for both of those goals. So I'm good with not working more.
If I kept plowing ahead, I would probably be helping twice as many clients, making a high six-figure income, and playing some excellent golf courses worldwide. I would also likely be single and childless and on track to die of heart disease in my 50's. On days like today, though, when my oldest son intentionally peed all over the rug in the bathroom, sometimes I question my life choices and think how much better my golf game would be without kids.
What is Important to You?
For me, being a competitive golfer was never a consideration. As I mentioned earlier, I wanted to establish myself early on so I could afford to step off the gas a little when I got married and had kids. I want to be present and involved in their childhood. So far, so good.
I knew there would be some sacrifices along the way. You have to sacrifice for what you want. While friends were out at bars and traveling during their 20's, I was mostly working. Don't feel bad; I had my fair share of vacations and fun, but it was more work and less play. Like Jake and Elwood, I was on a mission.
Financial planning is all about you, your goals, and what is important to YOU. Nobody but you gets to decide what you want in life. Some people may influence what you want and what is important to you, but you have the final say.
If you want to achieve those goals, what are you willing to give up to get there? Because you can't have it all.
Practice Being Content
Contentment | noun | "a state of happiness and satisfaction." We live in a society where we are continually being bombarded with images of what we should want in life and stuff that supposedly can help us achieve eternal happiness. We are always looking over the fence to see how green the grass is on the other side. Often, we leap over the fence, only to find that weeds grow over there too.
A common misconception about money is that more money equals more happiness. If we have more money, we can afford to do that thing that our friends posted about on Instagram, making us happy. If we have more money, we can afford that nicer house in that nicer neighborhood, and that is the only thing keeping us from being totally happy all the time. If we had more money, we could…the list goes on.
Billionaires have the same conversation. The 8-seat private plane is nice, but if only I had more money, I could afford the 12 seat plane to take the rest of our family with to the Bahamas. So-and-so just bought an NBA franchise, while I only have an MLS club, but I would sure like to be a part of the NBA owners circle as a basketball fan. If only I had more money…
It sounds ridiculous to think billionaires lie awake at night thinking about money issues. But you know what? To the average American, it sounds absurd that you lie awake at night thinking about money issues. No matter how much you have, you'll always want more. And that's OK.
It's OK to want more. But at some point, we have to ask ourselves, how much is enough? Let's practice being content with what we have. You're reading this blog on the internet in America (most likely). You have electricity, take hot showers, and go to the bathroom in a toilet flushing. Yeah, it would be nice to have heated tiles on the bathroom floor, but you can still be happy even without the heated tiles!
Do I want a nicer car? Sure. Is it going to make my life any better? Absolutely not. I am content with what I have. The more we can practice being content, the happier we will be.