From Auto Mechanic to Financial Advisor: How a Financial Planner Shifted into High Gear


At age 15, Dan Murphy took a job in an auto body shop. For almost a decade he worked as a mechanic with no long-term career plan. A few years later, he was married and the father of two children. That’s when he realized, “I don’t want to be a mechanic for the rest of my life.

Ambitious by nature, Murphy attended technical school to deepen his knowledge of auto bodywork. He also qualified for specialized training to repair Toyota and BMW vehicles.

But at 23, Murphy made the life-changing decision to reinvent himself as a financial planner. In high school, he had enjoyed a stock picking game that a teacher used to familiarize students with the stock market. After receiving an inheritance at 18, he liked to research how to invest it.

“I made a commitment,” said Murphy, now an independent consultant in Shoreview, Minnesota. “I was like, ‘This is what I’m going to do at all costs. “

Murphy spent the next four years learning about personal finance and honing his sales skills. To enhance his resume, he quit working as a mechanic and accepted a sales management position with a tool retailer.

During this time, he listened to the audiotapes of motivational speaker Zig Ziglar to learn how to think and act like a great salesperson. “You can have anything in life that you want if you just help other people get what they want,” Ziglar said. Murphy loved it.

Yet despite his positive attitude, Murphy encountered roadblocks. At a large investment firm, the hiring manager overheard Murphy’s story, laughed, and showed him the door. He applied for a few other financial planning jobs to no avail. “I spent four years hoping and praying that someone would give me a chance,” Murphy said. “And when someone did, it completely changed my life.”

Murphy’s entry into the business took place in stages. In his first interview at an Ameriprise Financial field office, the interviewer asked, “How many people do you know with $ 50,000 to invest?” And “How many people do you know with $ 5,000 a month to invest?” “

“I don’t have any wealthy friends,” Murphy replied.

The Ameriprise interviewer suggested that she apply to the company’s call center that served low net worth clients. During this interview, Murphy was asked experiential questions such as “Tell me about a time when you managed a portfolio.”

“I couldn’t answer these questions because I didn’t have these experiences,” Murphy said. “But before I left, I became honest. I said, ‘Look, I don’t have the experience you want. But I’m the kind of person you want. If you are looking for someone who will outdo everyone else, this is me.

He got the job. He paid $ 30,000 per year plus commission.

Over the next six years, Murphy answered customer calls and helped solve their financial problems. Eventually, he joined an independent broker, then joined an AIR firm. He is currently starting his own business, Greater Good Financial, from which he donates 20% of his income to non-profit organizations.

“It’s my way of saying, ‘I’m not here for the money,’” he said. “I hope to build trust this way. And I choose charities that give others the opportunity to invest in themselves, as I have been looking for in my four years of trying to get into the industry.

Although Murphy has achieved two professional designations (Chartered Life Underwriter and Chartered Retirement Planning Counselor), he would ideally like to add the more recognizable: Chartered Financial Planner. But he cannot because the board of the CFP requires a bachelor’s degree or higher diploma to award the title.

“I sometimes lost [a prospect] who asks me if I am CFP ”, he declared. “I say no because I don’t have a university degree. I understand the need for a box in which to fit people. But I would change the CFP rules to make them more based on experience.

During his early years at Ameriprise, Murphy saw many young advisers flare up. As recent college graduates, they thought they would learn the ropes and earn $ 80,000 or more.

“I’ve seen so many of them fail,” Murphy said. “They had degrees in finance and some had MBAs. But it is a difficult business. It’s a lot of stress. And it really is a sales job. You need human skills to be successful.

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