SINGAPORE — Long working hours, a bad reputation and a stigmatised job. These are just some of the (negative) associations that come along with being a student financial advisor. So why then do some young adults want to pursue such a career?
This is part of a series where Yahoo Finance Singapore will focus on different aspects of millennials and finance. In this eighth (last) part, we speak to student financial advisors who share more about why they decide to enter the industry as well as some challenges they face.
While he was still studying in polytechnic, Caleb Tay and his friends lost a five-figure sum of money after dabbling in night trading. Learning the hard way, Tay saw the need to be more financially equipped.
However, there was no one he could speak to about the financial markets despite there being a lot of resources available online. Tay also discovered that there were many other people who were facing the same problem as him.
Driven by the need to stand in the gap, Tay soon found himself in Advisors Alliance Group (AAG) as a student financial advisor.
“Not everyone has the passion and the mental capacity to learn to invest and trade. I want to be the bridge to investing to let others leverage my knowledge and passion to reach their financial freedom,” shared Tay, now 24.
“Now, I don’t want to just be an ‘insurance agent’, I want to be a full-fletch financial consultant with practical knowledge of the markets and create lifetime partnerships. My clients are also my partners. If they do better in their career, so will I. It’s a win-win partnership,” added Tay.
For National Technological University (NTU) undergraduate Catherine Seah, joining the finance industry was something she never considered. But all that changed when the 21-year-old joined AAG as an intern during her first year in university.
“I never wanted to join this industry due to its negative stereotypes but as I started learning more, it opened my eyes to see the job of a financial advisor for what it truly is,” shared Seah, who joined AAG as a student financial advisor after her internship.
“Beyond the numbers and figures, there is this idea of how we should properly steward whatever we have. I’m glad to be in a position where I am able to help my friends recognise and plan for that!”
Time management is key
But it is not always a bed of roses. Having to juggle the long working hours and demands of the job on top of studying can be quite a daunting task.
“Being a student financial advisor entails that we have to make some sacrifices here and there, and that’s when we need to be clear about our priorities,” advised Seah.
One tip is to always have a schedule by the hour. Start by writing down the non-negotiables like lectures, tutorials and family time into your calendar, then schedule your other appointments around those timings.
“I make it a point to wake up at 6.30am every day and make sure I go to bed knowing exactly what I’ll be doing the next day. But since everyone is different, what’s most important is to stay true to your purpose,” said Seah.
To keep herself constantly occupied and productive, Seah also adds that it is important to have a micro-schedule (by the hour/day) and a macro-schedule (goal for the week/month/quarter/year) planned out.
“I wanted to do something more with my university life than simply going around school playing or attending lessons. I wanted to grow as a person and be exposed to the outside world”, added Seah.
Attitude more important than skills
However, Seah admitted that she felt unequipped when she first started out, especially since she is pursuing a degree in Sociology, which is very different from finance.
Thankfully, there are many different courses that student financial advisors have to undertake. This includes insurance, investment, retirement, and estate and legacy planning.
“The technical skills of financial planning can be picked up along the way as long as you are willing to put in the time and effort to learn”, said Seah. “What is more important is having good values, a good heart, good people skills and an attitude to learn.”
Echoing a similar tune, fellow student financial advisor Reyna Foo, said: “We must have the desire to seek growth by learning constantly. When we stop growing, we are unable to add value to others and our skills will be irrelevant.”
The 24-year-old lists the ability to empathise, communicate and articulate as crucial soft skills that student financial advisors should have. Meanwhile, hard skills would include public speaking, data analysis and financial planning.
“Nobody comes in having 10/10 of these qualities. When I first stepped foot into the industry, I doubted that I was able to succeed given my natural market, school schedule and commitments,” said Foo.
“This career has allowed me to grow so much as an individual and I’m thankful that I gave myself the opportunity to be doing much more than just being a student in my university life.”
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