I was 18 years old when I had to choose what I wanted to be doing the rest of my life. It was 2013 and the same year “Wolf of Wall Street” came out. I was always good at math growing up. I took Calc and Physics in high school, so I was going to pick a major related to math that I could make some decent money doing. I remember my senior year Calc teacher telling us that if you google the top paying careers, the majority of them are math related. I did my research and I was deciding on doing engineering or finance. I looked at the starting salaries and engineers had finance majors beat, but over the course of their careers, finance majors made more. I wanted to live an exciting life and working in finance seemed like the answer to the type of life I wanted to live. I didn’t know exactly what I wanted to do, but learning about the stock market excited me and engineering just seemed boring, too hard, and filled with nerds and I wanted to be friggen cool.
The Barriers to Entry
So everyone has heard this one before, its not what you know, its who you know, and this is especially true in finance. If you want to make the big bucks you are probably looking into investment banking. You’re going to want to secure an internship at an investment bank by the summer entering your senior year, and if you perform well there, hopefully they’ll hire you full time by the time graduation comes when you need a full time job. Investment banking is towards the top of the Finance world, along with working at a Hedge Fund, working in Venture Capital, and Private Equity. In order to get an internship at these places the competition is going to be tough. So you really need to either know someone or attend a top 50 finance school. You also are going to need a 4.0 GPA to be considered.
So when I was a junior in college I started applying to internships at different financial firms. I wanted to be a stock broker but the finance world doesn’t use that term any more, instead they just call everyone a “financial advisor”. A couple places I applied to got back to me, I interviewed there and secured a few positions, but there was one thing they all wanted me to do first before I started……..
They all wanted me to get my life insurance license first before working there. I didn’t think anything of it at the time, but one day I woke up and thought something seemed a little fishy, and so I started doing some research. It turns out these ” financial firms” are just glorified life insurance agencies, and what they do is take in young impressionable college kids or recent college graduates and tell them they’re financial advisors. Of course these kids are filled with joy that they fulfilled their dreams, so they immediately tell their families at home. They’re financial advisors at the age of 22, and so they call up mommy and daddy, grandpa and grammy and they’re all so proud. Then the day comes and they start work. Now its time to give mommy, daddy, grandpa, and grammy a different call. This time they are calling so they will open up a new life insurance policy with that new company that just hired them at. This job is most likely commission based which means there’s going to be a quota that you need to hit. So that means you’re going to be calling your aunts, uncles, second cousins, pretty much any family you have so they can get some new life insurance. Then once you run out of family members after year one, maybe two and can’t hit that quota anymore, you’ll end up getting canned.
The turnover rates at these places is 80%. So after two years of working at this ” financial advisor firm ” you’ll be jobless, with only the skill of guilt tripping your family into buying new life insurance. To make matters worse if these life insurance policies aren’t the best around, some of those family members might start to think you screwed them over. So not only did you lose your job, and leave with little experience, your loved ones now hate you too, and you have officially become the black sheep of the family instead of Car Salesman Cousin Jim. So you get fired but guess what these firms do? They keep your family members accounts and pass them over to some senior executive, and the cycle repeats year after year. Some of your family might switch life insurance companies but a lot of them won’t even want to go through that hassle, and so these accounts accumulate year after year.
So not all these firms sell life insurance, some actually manage investment accounts. In order to sell stocks you are going to need to get your Series 7 License. I actually interviewed at one of these types of ” financial firms ” and they literally wanted me to come in with a list of relatives that might consider making me their financial advisor and wanted me to write down what their net worth is. If you can actually convince your parents, rich aunt/uncles, or grandparents to let you manage their money then good for you but as I said earlier the cycle will repeat. Once you run out of family members, you’ll need to do cold calling, go to networking events, and each and everyone of these people will be looking at you as if you look like this.No one in their right mind is going to let some kid fresh out of college manage their money. Once again the cycle will repeat. You’ll get fired after two years in and the company will keep your family members accounts. Its a pretty fucked up system but that’s why I’m here, to educate the people. The glory days of finance are over so if you currently are in high school, still in college, or just graduated and are studying or studied finance I’ll tell you what to do next.
Study Computer Science. Learn how to code. The economy is looking great right now and when the economy is good Tech companies thrive. You’ll be leaving college with a starting salary ranging from $60,000 to $80,000, plus a great work life balance. While everyone else is starting their careers in finance and are working 80-100 hours a week, you’ll be working 40 hours a week, still have a social life, and your finance friends will be crying when they’re stuck in the office and you’re partying at Coachella. You may have to work more hours if you decide to work at a start up, but then you have the chance to be paid partially with stock options and if that start up becomes the next Google, Facebook, or Uber, you could become a millionaire off those stock options you were given early in your career.
Yea I know what you’re thinking, Accounting fucking sucks, but its the best way to break into the world of finance if you don’t have connections in finance or don’t go to a top 50 school. The world always needs accountants no matter where you live, so you have the luxury of living wherever you want, plus you’ll be making solid cash. Just drink some coffee, remember your debits and credits and do some accounting for a couple years. You can pursue your CPA and keep moving up the corporate ladder. You even could eventually become the CFO of a company.
That looks pretty solid to me. But if you absolutely hate accounting, but like finance, and like math I have another option for you.
Become an Actuary
Actuaries are basically paid to predict the future. They use a lot of stats to set the price of various things to determine the probability of future events happening like a person’s life expectancy, the chance someone crashes their car, or a company becoming bigger than expected etc. Actuaries work mostly in insurance, but can also work in investments and other areas of finance as well. If you want to become an actuary, you don’t need to have a degree in actuarial science, but make sure you take plenty of stats classes, and a couple finance classes so you know how to calculate interests rates, future value, present value, etc. You need to pass 5-7 exams to become a certified actuary but you only need to pass the first two to get your foot in the door. After you get your foot in the door you’ll be making around 60,000 to $70,000 and your salary will keep increasing after each exam you pass. Your company will also delegate time to let you study for the exams and I forgot the best part. Actuaries have a great work life balance. They work 40 hour weeks and it was rated the best job in 2015 by business insider.
Don’t Worry you’ll Be Alright!
If you’re reading this and you’re a finance major and are stressing out don’t worry. I studied finance and I’m glad I did for a couple reasons. I know how the stock market works, and how the economy works in general. I also know about real estate and when investing does get brought up in conversation I don’t only talk about freaking Bitcoin. That’s a valuable skill that a lot of people don’t have, so once you are making money you’ll have an edge on your peers when you start making a killing off your future investments. No one really knows what they want to do but you’ll eventually figure it out and you’ll be okay.
If I could redo college today this is what I would do. I would focus on Hard skills and avoid classes that teach Soft skills. Hard skills are your skills you can write down on a resume that can’t be taken from you, for example coding languages like Python or Java, Excel, Calculus, Statistics, QuickBooks, even writing. Soft skills are skills that are harder to define like making friends, negotiating, leadership, and communicating which are valuable but harder to put down on a resume, and its that resume that is going to get you into that interview. College is meant for experimenting but you also want to set yourself up for a good future. So learn how to code, learn QuickBooks, take a couple stats and calc classes, and prepare yourself for that dope ass future of yours so you can be taking vacations like this every year.
And live like that King/Queen you know you are.
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