Career Makeover: From Economics Teacher to Financial Advisor

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After a 12-year career as a successful economics teacher, Randy Gappen was burned out. At the beginning of his 13th year teaching high school seniors, he decided it was time for a change. Edward Jones was seeking fresh talent for their financial advisors training program and Randy applied. After months of intense training, self study, and exams, Gappen began his new career as a personal financial advisor.

See average salaries for high school teachers and personal financial advisors.

Positions for personal financial advisors are expected to grow by 30 percent between now and 2018. Projections suggest that a growing number of advisers will be needed to assist the millions of workers expected to retire in the next ten years. And as more members of the baby boom generation reach their peak years of retirement savings, personal investments are expected to increase and more people will seek the help of experts. According to the Occupational Outlook Handbook, median salaries for financial advisors are around $69K and general salary ranges are between $46K and $119K.

But Gappen wasn't thinking about these statistics when he decided to make his career change. His childhood dream was to be a stockbroker and this dream was reignited when he saw what Edward Jones was offering. Was the change easy? Not exactly. Was it rewarding? Absolutely! Here's what Gappen has to say about his journey to becoming a financial advisor.

"The biggest challenge was going from something secure, teaching, to something not as secure or stable; sales. Add to that the fact that I was in sales previously before teaching and didn't do particularly well with it. I took a risk of doing something I always wanted to do."


Did people support you or discourage you from making the change? What did they say?

"Some of my friends thought I was crazy changing careers in the middle of a recession. Many of my friends felt that a job is a job and I should appreciate what I have. I just felt I wanted more...more money sure, but job satisfaction as well. Colleagues at the school I taught at as well as my wife, were very supportive."

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What type of training was involved and how long did it take you to make the transition.

"The training I've had so far has been thorough, however I'm still in transition. It is the type of career that requires continuous study to learn about the different products and how they help people. And then there's daily reading about the market, economy, and politics associated with it. The training started off with about 8 weeks of paid study at home for the Series 7 exam. After passing that there was a week-long course on getting to know your customer which included product knowledge, prospecting, corporate history, and procedures. There have been two additional week-long training courses dealing in product knowledge and business management."


What are the most rewarding aspects of being a financial advisor?

"The most rewarding part has been to help people who really had no idea what investments they had or how much they were even worth. I still feel like I am in my role as a teacher. For me, its not about making the sale, but rather educating my clients on what they have, where do they want to go with what they have, all based on their tolerance for risk."


What advice do you have for others who are thinking of making a career change?

"If you really have a dream job or career that you've always wanted to do, then go for it! Don't rush though. Find the company that best agrees with your own internal moral compass. Most people are afraid to change their situation. It's definitely more draining to stay in a field that doesn't agree with who you are naturally."


What type of person is a good fit for a career as a financial adviser?

"Someone who is driven, doesn't mind meeting people face to face, patient, and of course, is interested in the financial markets. The bottom line these days though is to be sincere about wanting to help people."

Who's Hiring: Financial Advisors

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