Broker Check

Firefighters and Financial Advisors

September 13, 2020

The importance of financial advisors

We have more in common than people think

As I saw the pictures documenting the devastating fires in California, my heart hurt. Over 20 major wildfires sweeping through multiple towns in California and the toll so far is heart-breaking – at least 24 residents have died, dozens are missing, over 4,200 structures are destroyed, and more than 3.2 million acres are burned. 

Watching the brave men and women fighting the wildfires got me thinking. How many firefighters are there in the US? What’s their training like? And would firefighters make good financial advisors?

I think the answer is yes: firefighters would make excellent financial advisors. Here is why:

We Need More Qualified Financial Advisors

According to the U.S. Fire Administration, at last count there are 27,263 fire departments and 1,218,300 local firefighters in the US. Of this total, approximately 33% were career firefighters, 55% were volunteer firefighters and 12% were paid per call firefighters.

And according to the Department of Labor, there were 245,000 financial advisors in the US.

Said another way, there is one firefighter for every 266 people in the US, whereas there is one financial advisor for every 1,326 people in the US.

Now I can’t tell you whether one firefighter for every 266 people is the right ratio. But I can tell you that there is absolutely no way that one financial advisor can provide adequate planning for over 1,300 people.

In my opinion, the number of clients a financial advisor can adequately serve is about 125 - 150, give or take. So even assuming that the average family has 4 people, it is apparent that the US is way underserved when it comes to financial planning.

Both Fields Are Very Competitive

Firefighting is a highly competitive field. In fact, while there are thousands of applicants every year, most are rejected. Today, more applicants than ever before have four-year degrees in Fire Science or related fields, which has made the field even more competitive.

The same is true for financial advisors. In fact, many estimate that close to 50% of first year financial advisors don’t make it to year two. And of the ones who do make it, most have four-year degrees in related fields, including business, accounting, finance and economics.

We Both Train Extensively

Before one becomes an active-duty firefighter, there are about 600 hours of formal training, over the course of 3 to 4 months. Averaging about 40 hours a week, that makes training to be a firefighter a full-timejob. Training typically occurs at a fire academy, which is usually run by the local fire department, a division of the state government or a university.

To enter a training program, applicants take three exams: a written test, a Candidate Physical Ability Test and an aptitude test. The written exam typically consists of around 100 multiple-choice questions and measures overall aptitude, personality, reading comprehension, reasoning, logic, observation and memory.

To become a financial advisor, many enter training programs offered by sponsoring broker-dealers, usually after taking tests that measure overall aptitude, personality, reading comprehension, reasoning, logic, observation and memory. Training programs typically last at least a year and new financial advisors are often paired with experienced financial advisors in order to gain real-world experience.

In addition, there are academic certifications that are available for financial advisors, but usually after a few yeas. In fact, there are numerous certifications available for financial advisors, and at least one of the following is recommended by the National Association of Personal Financial Advisors:

  • Certified Financial Planner
  • Personal Financial Specialist
  • Chartered Financial Consultant
  • Chartered Financial Analyst

Further, many specialty areas require licensing. For example, financial advisors who want to sell insurance must be licensed in their state. Advisors who focus on investments must also register with their state and often with the Securities and Exchange Commission as a Registered Investment Advisor.

There are some differences in our training, however. Firefighters must pass the physical portion of the firefighter exam, including being able to quickly climb an extended ladder or carry 75-pound bags of sand on their shoulders for long periods of time. Thank goodness financial advisors don’t have to pass that test…

We Both Save Lives and Dollars

Every year, firefighters save countless lives and billions of dollars worth of property. And while there are no definitive statistics on the number of lives saved, research by the Fire Brigades Union determined that more than 100 people are rescued every day in the UK. Extrapolating that to the US – approximately 325 million people in the US vs. 65 million in the UK – would put the number of lives saved at over 500 a day!

Now, in no way am I comparing lives saved by firefighters to lives saved by financial advisors. But as a financial advisor, I am asked to get involved in some very personal family crises. And unfortunately, once the immediacy of a trauma has passed – and the firefighters have left – I’m often called to help families deal with the longer-term implications. It might be creating a special needs trust after a tragic accident, helping pay for in-home care for an elderly sick parent or helping a client’s child struggling with a debilitating addiction. So while financial advisors aren’t saving people from burning buildings, I do think we help save many of the lives of our clients and their families by the work we perform.

Every Day Is Different

Firefighters respond to emergencies where they do not know exactly what they are responding to or what they might find when they arrive. And every emergency is different. As such, they apply their training and experience to every situation, because each one calls for a unique approach.

Likewise, while the process of providing financial planning might seem simple, the fact is that every financial plan is different, because every client is different. And like firefighters, financial advisors apply their training and experience to each unique situation we encounter.

We Both Want You to Plan

As firefighters progress in their careers, they often become fire marshals and fire inspectors and work to prevent fires. They conduct building inspections, make sure fire safety laws are being followed, work with city officials and visit schools to teach fire safety to kids.

Similarly, financial advisors spend most of their time working with families to plan, whether it is for retirement, education or some other dream. And we are constantly preaching that the best time to plan for your financial well-being is today, not during a crisis.

We Will Always Respond

Both firefighters and financial advisors hope you’ll never have to call us in an emergency. But if you do, we will both respond immediately. Because at our very core, both firefighters and financial advisors want to help others.

Find out how to build a solid financial plan: click here.

Important Disclosures

The opinions voiced in this material are for general information only and are not intended to provide specific advice or recommendations for any individual. To determine which investment(s) may be appropriate for you, consult your financial advisor prior to investing. All performance referenced is historical and is no guarantee of future results. All indices are unmanaged and cannot be invested into directly.

The information provided is not intended to be a substitute for specific individualized tax planning or legal advice. We suggest that you consult with a qualified tax or legal advisor.
LPL Financial Representatives offer access to Trust Services through The Private Trust Company N.A., an affiliate of LPL Financial.
This article was prepared by RSW Publishing.

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