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Things No One Tells You About Being a Stockbroker

While Hollywood paints an interesting picture of the stock market, being a stockbroker isn't exactly the way it appears to be on the big screen.


Since the financial boom of the 1980s, popular culture surrounding the stock market, and Wall Street in particular, has promoted a particular image of the life of a stockbroker. This image involves nice suits, fancy dinners, and high value deals being made on yachts. The reality of being a stockbroker, however, is not nearly as glamorous.

It's hardly a get rich quick scheme.

Many laypeople seem to be under the impression that stock brokers are crazy rich and that the field is full of opportunities for young professionals to make millions. The fact of the matter, contrary to what you may believe from movies like The Wolf of Wall Street, is that being a stockbroker isn't really very lucrative. The average salary for stockbrokers and floor representatives is in the mid-40,000 dollar range. While Wall Street brokers make a little more than that, it's not exactly the same luxurious occupation you see in the movies.

The uniform isn't what you're picturing, either.

If I told you to imagine a stockbroker right now, you'd probably picture a well-groomed man in a pinstripe suit with a fancy tie. While the Gordon Gekko look may have been something of a trope in the 1980s, it's a far cry from how most modern stockbrokers dress. Besides the fact that fashion has evolved in the past 30 years, modern technology means people can buy and sell stocks remotely, which in turn translates to much more casual wear for stockbrokers.

Trading stocks is not an exact science.

Another frequently perpetuated myth about being a stockbroker is that experienced brokers can accurately predict sudden changes and shifts in the market. While there are certain education requirements and training programs for brokers, it's simply impossible to predict the future. Even most experienced stockbrokers are only accurate maybe half the time. The complex and unpredictable nature of stock markets means that the best we can do is make an educated guess and hope for the best.

They're not just on Wall Street.

So many of the stereotypes related to being a stockbroker have to do with a specific breed of broker that emerged in the 1980s on Wall Street. While Wall Street remains a worldwide hub and many recent grads frequently try to figure out how to get hired on Wall Street, it is far from the only destination for those entering the field. As a matter of fact, today's technology means there's pretty much no restriction on where you have to live to be a broker. Even if you live in a small town in a flyover state, you probably have a brokerage firm within driving distance from your home, or you can always check out the best online brokerage apps for stock trading.

The job is incredibly stressful.

Another inaccuracy about the field that Hollywood likes to spread is how stressful the job is. In the movies, a stock broker's life is one of luxury, with late mornings and long lunches. You'll see brokers on yachts, drinking champagne and enjoying their vast riches. I've already shared the truth about how much money stock brokers actually make, and the fact of the matter is that the job is so time-consuming that even wealthy brokers barely have time to enjoy the fruits of their labor. The job requires long hours monitoring shifts in the market. When the market takes a turn for the worse, it not only translates to longer hours, but also to immense stress that can spill into a broker's personal life.

It's not just an Ivy League boys' club.

The "rags to riches" trope in some Wall Street films may severely overestimate the wealth that a stockbroker can amass, but it is surprisingly accurate when it comes to someone from an underprivileged background being able to find success in the field. If you have the right instincts and pay your dues making cold calls in lower level jobs, you can certainly work your way toward being a stockbroker without so much as a bachelor's degree.

Most days aren't quite so hectic.

While timing is certainly a factor in business, working as a stock broker isn't usually as hectic as they make it seem in movies. Looming deadlines can certainly turn up the heat, but it's not as though every day involves making split-second decisions at every turn. In fact, sometimes it's important for a broker to take a step back and observe the market over a span of time to find trends before making their next move.

You can't get away with being a loudmouth.

Another trope from the films is a Wall Street big wig getting away with just about anything from being all-around uncouth to being downright abusive. Whether or not that was ever true at one point, these days, you simply can't get away with such a lack of respect. Important business deals demand politeness and respect. If you don't conform to these basic standards of decency, your tenure as a broker will be very short-lived.

Brokers are deep in the red when they start out.

If you're interested in becoming a stockbroker yourself, there's something you really should know. Nobody mentions the fact that beginning stock brokers lose money on a day-to-day basis just trying to get a foothold in the industry. In order to qualify for the appropriate securities license required to buy and sell stocks and general securities, you must seek out licensed and registered representatives to sponsor you. This often means you'll have to work as an unpaid intern at their firm and earn their trust before they sponsor you, losing money the whole way. Finally, once you get that sponsorship, you have to pay even more money to take the appropriate exams (like the series 7 exam or the series 66 and series 63 exams). Only after jumping through these hoops and passing these exams can you start to pull a meager salary as a stock broker.

There is plenty of corruption.

Since the movies get so many things wrong about the stock market, you'd hope that the corruption and back alley dealing you see in films is also a Hollywood invention. Naturally, however, this is one of the few things Hollywood gets right about being a stockbroker. Even today, corruption and insider trading runs rampant, with many ill-intending stockbrokers taking advantage of others in order to chase their own greedy desires. Whether you work as a broker or interact with the stock market in any way, you must be wary of shady practices and firms that want to scam you out of your money. Check out some of the biggest investment in scandals in history if you still don't believe me.

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