Learn about their experience and aspirations. — Although everyone has to start somewhere, make sure your advisor has solid experience under their belt or at least has a team to go to for questions they need answered. Additionally, ask how long they plan to stay in the industry because you want to make sure this is someone who will stick with you in the long run.
As part of our series about what one should look for when hiring a financial planner or adviser, I had the pleasure of interviewing Austin McCulloh.
After managing just under half a million dollars in AUM a few years ago as a 21-year-old financial advisor & running an online hiring agency that taught English to over 700 Chinese children, Austin decided to start his own consulting firm, Austin McCulloh Advising. In late 2020, he pivoted the business model to include a 3-Step Financial Advisor Accelerator that now helps financial advisors grow their book of business & increase their income. Financial advising, to date, has been more of an artform than an exact science, and Austin’s on a mission to make financial advising success more systematic.
Thank you so much for doing this with us! Our readers would love to ‘get to know you’ a bit more. Can you tell us a story about what brought you to this specific career path?
Of course! I started out as a financial representative as a 19-year-old and became a financial advisor at the age of 21 (this was when I obtained my securities licenses), and this experience taught me a lot, but I soon realized being an advisor wasn’t my passion. Financial advising and teaching others about financial literacy is a tremendous pursuit, but I found that I was personally energized by coaching others to develop as leaders, rather than primarily teach financial concepts.
Fast forward to the end of 2019 and my wheels began turning during a conversation with a business associate about my career path. I knew I had altered my life trajectory significantly from 19 to 22-years-old, and much of this experience & knowledge would be valuable to others, so I first started out by helping any individual “accelerate their career” through one-on-one coaching. During the middle of 2020, I began to realize that my approach was too broad, so I honed-in on who should be my ideal client and realized that I could provide the most value to financial advisors since I had worked in the industry previously. And now, here we are!
Can you share a story about the most humorous mistake you made when you were first starting in the industry? Can you tell us what lesson or takeaway you learned from that?
Funny enough, when I was studying to pass my Series 6, 63, and 65 securities licensing exams, I actually failed at least two, if not three of the exams along the way.
I was pretty embarrassed, but failing multiple exams humbled me and, now that I reflect on it, I’m appreciative for these failures. I openly admit that I was never one to try very hard in school, and, unfortunately, this mindset carried through to when I first started taking my securities exams. I’m blessed that these failures made me increase my level of effort because that’s how the financial services industry should be. Everyday Americans are trusting that their advisor is competent and trustworthy, so how can you expect an advisor to possess these two characteristics if they aren’t even willing to sit down and study long enough to pass a few exams?
These exams taught me a bit more about grit, as well as completing a task with a higher purpose in mind — in this example, my higher purpose was becoming competent for my future clients.
Are you working on any exciting new projects now? How do you think that will help people?
I am! Although I love client calls, it has recently occurred to me that I’m not a big fan of 8, 9, 10, etc. phone calls every day, so I am figuring out how to construct an online course for our 3-Step Financial Advisor Accelerator.
As mentioned in my short introduction above, financial advising, to date, has been more of an artform than an exact science, and I am on a mission to make financial advising success more systematic. I look forward to completing this course and implementing it into many financial services firms here in the United States as part of their training & development programs!
Are you able to identify a “tipping point” in your career when you started to see success? Did you start doing anything different? Is there a takeaway or lesson that others can learn from that?
Honestly, I think my “tipping point” was when I realized that motivation was overrated and drive (discipline/habits) is what truly creates the results you’re looking for. Just think about it, we see it all the time — those cliché, inspirational quotes that can get you fired up for a day or a week, but a day or a week of work won’t create extraordinary results.
For years, I had dreamed about becoming a millionaire and “hitting it big”, but I didn’t start actually achieving consistent success until I stopped dreaming about the lavish lifestyle and started focusing on how I could maximize every single day.
What three pieces of advice would you give to your colleagues in the finance field to thrive and avoid burnout? Can you give a story or example?
- Figure out what kind of job you actually want — In short, hating your job will sure lead to burnout. For example, if you enjoy talking with clients daily & communicating what’s going on in the market, look into becoming a financial advisor. If you like to sit behind a computer for hours per day & crunch numbers, look into becoming a portfolio manager. If you’re interested in mergers & acquisitions, pursue investment banking. In short, make sure you legitimately enjoy what you’re doing.
- Offload unnecessary tasks — Once you understand how to do a particular task for your job, if you dislike doing it or don’t need to be doing it, hire an administrative assistant or virtual assistant to take it off your plate. It’ll be tough to grow your firm when you try to do everything yourself.
- Find an outlet — Whether it’s a coach, Mastermind group, another coworker, or a parent/spouse to talk to, you need to find someone to talk to about both the good and bad times. Let’s face it, succeeding in finance isn’t exactly a cakewalk. So, in order to stay in the industry for the long run, it’s important to have another person to discuss ideas with, as well as vent to.
Ok. Thank you for all of that. Let’s now move to the core focus of our interview. As an “finance insider”, you know much more about the finance industry than most consumers. If your loved one wanted to hire a financial advisor (not you :-)), which 5 things would you advise them to find out about before committing? Can you give an example or story for each?
- Get a clear understanding of the services they offer and the licenses they hold. — What are all of the professional licenses they hold? Are they a licensed financial advisor? A licensed life insurance agent? A licensed health insurance agent? Are they a fiduciary? Being a fiduciary means they must legally put your best interests before their own. Do they help with Retirement planning? Estate planning? Debt management? Investments? Insurance? Long-Term Care? Tax planning? Also, do they use a Rep as PM (Portfolio Manager) approach or do they hire third-party strategists to manage client accounts?
Knowing the specific role and services that you’re looking for as a client will help you find the right financial professional to get into contact with. You can also check out sites such as BrokerCheck, a FINRA website, to see if a particular individual is securities licensed by searching for their name.
- Understand how they are compensated. — Some examples include: Do they make a sales commission all upfront? Do they make a certain fee monthly? Do they provide a free complimentary plan up front or do they charge for this planning session?
I wouldn’t say there is any “wrong” compensation structure, as each client has a different situation, but make sure to have your advisor explain why they are compensated the way they are.
- Learn about their experience and aspirations. — Although everyone has to start somewhere, make sure your advisor has solid experience under their belt or at least has a team to go to for questions they need answered. Additionally, ask how long they plan to stay in the industry because you want to make sure this is someone who will stick with you in the long run.
- Figure out how often they are required to check in with you. — Some people don’t care to hear from their advisors after setting up accounts and others want to hear from their advisor multiple times a year, so make your wants/needs are known up front, and make sure your advisor is on the same page as you are.
- Pay attention to what they brag/boast about. — There’s nothing wrong with an advisor who is pleased with how fast they’ve grown their firm, but make sure their primarily focus is on you, the client, and making sure your needs are met.
I think most people think that financial advisors are for very wealthy people. This is likely not actually true. Can you explain who would most benefit from hiring a financial advisor and why? Can you give an example?
In all honesty, unless you grew up in a family that frequently discussed financial literacy, you graduated with a finance degree, or you have experience working in financial services, you most likely need a financial advisor. If you’re anything like me or most of the people I’ve spoken with in my life, financial literacy wasn’t mentioned much at school while growing up, so it’s important to have a professional (a financial advisor) to be your “eyes” in regard to your financial health.
Here’s a common saying I frequently heard while I was a financial advisor.
If you were told you were sick with something like cancer by a doctor, you’d probably get a second opinion to double-check their observation, right? Well, if your overall health deserves a second opinion, why doesn’t your financial health? Money might not lead directly to happiness, but a lack of money and being in a poor financial position definitely increase the likelihood of extra stress, dissatisfaction, suffering, etc.
None of us are able to achieve success without some help along the way. Is there a particular person who you are grateful towards who helped get you to where you are? Can you share a story about that?
I’m a big, big fan of Ed Mylett. I have been a huge advocate for his podcast over the past 2–3 years and many of his social media posts have resonated with me.
For example, today I was driving home, and I was listening to Ed’s podcast with his guest, Jon Gordon (another individual who I highly admire and look up to). The main emphasis of this episode was about leadership and Jon mentioned something very profound; it was the idea that, in quality leadership, you need both accountability AND love. If there is too much accountability and not enough love, people grow to resent you and not listen to you. But if there’s too much love and not enough accountability, you’re too soft on people and they likely will not get high-quality results. So, the perfect combination of accountability and love shows your people that you care about them, and yet you make sure to keep them on track so that they get the high-quality results they desire.
I’m incredibly grateful for Ed’s show and what he has done for my life!
You are a person of great influence. If you could inspire a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger. 🙂
I encourage everyone to think about this question: In your actions, are you a leader or are you a boss?
For years now, I’ve had a strong distaste for the term “boss”, because it makes me think of the image below. As you can see, the boss is telling others what to do, and yet is sitting back, putting in no actual work. On the other hand, the leader is out front doing what he expects of his team members.
I genuinely believe the world would be a much better place if we had more leaders, and this philosophy is at the core of my business. The core mission of my firm is to help turn as many financial advisors as I can into leaders so that they can be a legitimate, trusted advisor for their clients, like they should be.
How can our readers follow you on social media?
Please reach out to me at any of the links below!
Email: [email protected]
Thank you so much for joining us. This was very inspirational.