7 Steps to Career Advancement

You can be extremely successful if you work for others if you master the following career advancement techniques.  That’s right. Being self-employed isn’t the only way to do well financially. Let’s go through 7 of the most effective steps you can take in order to advance your career.

Step 1. Embrace the Capitalist

The most important concept to keep in mind as an employee is that your company is not in business for your benefit. You are employed for your employer’s benefit.

This may sound harsh. But once you understand this concept you can use it to your distinct advantage. Rather than look for (and ask for) ways the company can help you, look for ways to help your boss and contribute to your firm.  Just do that well and do that often. You’ll see your career advance quickly.  At the very least, you’ll find it much easier to ask for a raise.

Step 2. Dream Big vs. Be Realistic

It’s great to have big aspirations. But you should take a reality check too. Let’s say you want to be a regional manager at your firm and you are currently a branch manager. Find out what is required in order to achieve your goal. Then ask yourself if you have the time and resources to achieve your goal. Work out a realistic plan considering your current skills, time, resources and obligations.

Run your plan by a few other people who currently have the position you want. Ask them for feedback and recommendations. Have you considered everything? Did you make any false assumptions when you made your plan? Are your forecasts realistic? Make sure your plan is feasible – and then put all you have into it.

Conversely, if you see that career advancement in your industry is a non-starter, consider changing your career.  There is nothing wrong with changing direction when you see a dead end ahead.

Step 3. Create Value

You can create value for your firm in many ways. But the most important skill set you can possibly acquire for career advancement is the ability to communicate well. Take courses on business writing and don’t stop. Join Toastmasters and hone your speaking skills. No matter which direction your career takes, these two skills will pay off big time.

Of course there are many other ways to make yourself more valuable to your employer. Take courses that are industry-specific if they better equip you to do your job. Talk to your managers to see what kinds of courses they recommend. Interview the people who are doing what you want to do. Find out what challenges they face and what kind of training helps them most in their position. Even if you have to pay for those courses yourself, you should make those investments.

Step 4 Go Shopping

This may sound really shallow but the truth is that attractive people advance faster than unattractive people. That’s fine. Make yourself as attractive as possible as long as it’s professional. Even when it comes to “casual Friday” – select your outfit carefully. People size you up quickly and the first information they have about you is what you wear. Put some thought into your wardrobe each day.

Step 5 Invite Competitioncareer advancement

Keep tabs on other employers who might be interested in your skills. Talk to people who work for other companies to learn about these firms and the industry as a whole. Connect with others using Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn. But if you are using social media to find a job or just get better connected in your industry, be very careful.  Social media can be a great resource or a tremendous waste of time.  Be sure to use a social media strategy.

Read industry journals and attend conferences. If you can, deliver a speech and/or write papers and articles for industry magazines. This will help you network with other professionals and much more. By simply being more aware of what’s happening in your field you make yourself more valuable to your current employer.

Even if you aren’t currently looking for a new job, you never know when opportunity will knock. Keep your resume, recommendation letters and references up-to-date at all times. The last thing you want is to be invited for a job interview and not be prepared.

Step 6 Be Proactive

If your firm has a job board, review it from time to time. Visit job offer sites like Monster.com. Find out what’s happening with freelancers in your field by visiting Guru.com or Elance.com. This will help you understand how in demand you are in the market and it will help you decide about opportunities as they present themselves.

Step 7 Good Samaritan

Always help others. This is the cardinal rule of success in anything in my opinion. Look for opportunities to assist other people in your network or otherwise – even if they can’t help you. Napoleon Hill wrote a wonderful book decades ago called, “Think and Grow Rich”. He interviewed hundreds of extremely successful people and found one common theme: Successful people found a way to help others get what they want. By so doing, they ultimately became successful. But they put others before themselves.

I suppose that’s why they call it the golden rule!

Career advancement isn’t a mystery. Implement these 7 steps. Be conscientious and conscious at all times. Look for opportunity but be patient. Suit up and show up. You’ll be sitting in that corner office before you know it.

How are you managing your career? If you’ve advanced recently, how did you do it?

Original Article

Neal Frankle


Neal Frankle is a Certified Financial Planner with more than 25 years of experience, author of the Wealth Pilgrim blog, and a featured contributor here on the “CIF Blog”!

California Institute of Finance Alum is Appointed by Governor

Cecelia Cuevas is a Alumni of California Lutheran University’s “California Institute of Finance’s” Financial Planning MBA program.

California Governor Brown appointment:

CIF Alum. Cecilia CuevasM. Cecelia Cuevas of Fillmore has been appointed to the 31st District Agricultural Association, Ventura County Fair Board.

Cuevas has been a senior financial advisor for Merrill Lynch since 2004. She holds a Bachelors of Science degree in Business Administration from the University of Southern California, and a Masters in Business Administration with an emphasis in
Financial Planning from California Lutheran University.

In addition she was the director of development and communications for the American Red Cross of Ventura County from 2002 to 2004 and development director for the Coalition to End Domestic and Sexual Violence from 1997 to 2002. She has served as mayor pro-tem for the City of Fillmore from 2006 to 2008 and city council member from 2000 to 2006. Cuevas is the immediate past president of the California Coalition Against Sexual Assault.

Congratulations Cecelia! We are all very proud of you!

Visit our website to learn more about CIF’s Financial Planning MBA.

Behavioral Barriers: The Role of Biases in the Public’s Aversion to Fixed Annuities

by Dr. Somnath Basu and Brian J. Barclay
This paper was originally published in the Fall 2011 issue of the Retirement Management Journal, then re-published in the November 30, 2011 edition of the Morningstar Perspectives.
Dr. Basu is a Professor of Finance at California Lutheran University and the Director of its California Institute of Finance. Dr. Basu is well published and is an award winning teacher. He has significant consulting experience with US Fortune 100 companies, advising institutional money managers and in developing proprietary finance and planning software. Brian J. Barclay, CFP, holds a Masters Degree from the California Institute of Finance at California Lutheran University. He is also a member of the Financial Planning Association, Los Angeles chapter.

Slick SalesmanYou could call it an anomaly of human cognizance; the strange phenomenon of how a seemingly rational investor can flip a mental switch and instantly become so bigoted towards a product/solution designed to provide them with the relief from financial burden that they so desperately seek. Whether it be the trusted family advisor or the slick salesman wearing alligator loafers, initiating a conversation that includes an annuity solution is cause enough for many clients to not only balk at the recommendation, but even go as far as to reconsider their entire planning engagement altogether.

Perhaps it is the lost link in Maslow’s Hierarchy, or Pavlovianly ingrained in our psyche by constant media bombardment; regardless, the issue
remains that fixed annuities are scrutinized for everything they are not and cast aside for everything they are. Putting aside the controversies surrounding their variable counter-parts, it is apparent that the publics’ aversion to these products is rooted in something much deeper than inappropriate distribution by a questionably motivated sales force, but largely psychological factors, rooted deep in personal biases and manifested in specific behaviors. It is the role of these negative biases and the corresponding mental conditioning that prevents the average investor from even considering a fixed annuity as a viable option for a portion of their overall retirement plan, despite exhibiting the exact behavioral symptoms that such a solution seeks to alleviate.

The Mounting Challenges

Increased cause for financial anxiety and concern surrounding retirement needs is most certainly warranted. As the baby boomers continue to grey, and their
needs shift from accumulation to distribution/decumulation, the demand for sustainable sources of income that can last throughout a prolonged period of retirement become paramount. With Social Security (a system never intended to provide for more than a fraction of income needs) growing more and more strained, coupled with the paradigm shift of employers moving from traditional defined-benefit plans to more predominantly defined-contribution plans, more and more pre-retirees are forced to reevaluate what their impending retirement will look like.

Include advancements in medical care with an increasing standard of living, clients now find themselves having to stretch their incomes even further than originally expected. Increased longevity has dictated to the prudent advisor that a client reaching age 95 is no longer an anomaly, but rather a reality, or in some cases, a distinct possibility. Thus a rational person would think that such circumstantial uncertainty would be the ally of a
solution that promises fixed payments for a set duration (potentially for life), however in the case of fixed annuities, that correlation is missed more than made and aversion to such a solution continues to exist.

Health Implications

Despite this seemingly irrational repugnance, the demand for a consistent and reoccurring retirement income scheme remains prominent. If we were to breakdown and simplify fundamental retirement expenses into three general baskets; needs, conveniences, and luxuries, we find that client tend to mentally account for the economic decisions that go into addressing such concerns. The satisfaction of the most basics of needs is prioritized first, as it translates into good health, both physical and mentally.

Nutrition, exercise, adequate shelter, proper medical care, and a comfortable family situation are all the components required for good health, and are necessary for a person to continue to enjoy their
retirement with a true sense of human dignity.  We also observe that a great deal of non-medical mental impairments can be traced back to the stresses associated with the management of personal finances. Thus not having to worry about continued service of those basic needs through consistent income is crucial to preserving good physical and mental health, and should be uncompromisingly planned for before conveniences and luxuries can be taken into consideration.

Real Retirement Satisfaction

What is the rationale behind this cognitive impairment? Why does such apathy exist in the potential exploration of a solution that seeks to provide the level of retirement satisfaction universally sought? To the average pre-retiree, large amounts of assets or high degrees of liquidity are not necessarily all that are needed for them to feel safe and secure to enter retirement. Research into the emotional aspects of the retirement mindset illustrates
that retiree’s prefer the comfort of knowing they have a steady stream of income into perpetuity, rather than being relatively “rich” at retirement (defined as a large amount of their own money readily available to be spent as they wish). In addition, the heavier the reliance on the social insurances, the less satisfaction they have with their own retirement.

When personal consumption is financed with guaranteed streams as opposed to liquid savings, those with greater levels of annuitization tended to be more satisfied during retirement and maintained their satisfaction levels longer throughout.[1] Greater satisfaction was also expressed by individuals who engaged in long-term planning; from attending a retirement-planning meeting, or through the purchase of product, such as an insurance policy for long-term care. Retirement satisfaction itself is derived from employing the correct behaviors, not simply achieving or maintaining a certain asset level.

It is
the behavior itself that was identified as the root of given retirement satisfaction. Note that the opposite is true as well. A study from the Boettner Center for Pensions and Retirement Security at The Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania tabulates the strong positive relationship between the lack of a fixed retirement income distribution scheme (explicitly a fixed annuity) and the number of depression symptoms. It is not difficult to understand why an uncertain retirement income plan for a pre-retiree can have such dire consequences.

Perceptions of Retirement

With systemic obstacles mounting and an explicit desire to maintain living standard levels, it would seem rational that fixed income contracts be presented in the suite of solutions available to a client. Experienced advisors know that this assumed rationale is generally missing in clients and know well the aversion (mainly due to the negative connotations of any annuity-named product) and some
have even come to accept such behavior as simply the norm.

They seek to avoid being placed in the unenviable position of either broaching the unpleasant topic with the client, or taking the path of least resistance and offering another solution. This can be a troublesome predicament for the advisor not only from an ethical point of view, but also a competency point of view choosing the sale over the solution, as well as a reinforcement of the public’s misconception of what resources will actually be required to replicate and sustain their desired lifestyle throughout their golden years. Moreover, most suitability analysis should offer such decisions as fixed streams and hence it is a competency issue as well – being psychologically forced into offering an inferior/unsuitable solution because of client behavioral biases dictate so.

The risks of outliving assets, increasing medical expenses, and the complexities of capital markets are all downplayed by this appeasement and
reinforce the view that as long as current habits are maintained (e.g. contributing to the match of one’s retirement plan, and saving cash when possible), desired retirement outcomes are achievable. This perceived lack of risk can be responsible for the inadequate allocation of resources and mar the reality of retirement with misconceptions and denial.  To the client, failure to take such actions does not in turn frighten them, nor does the anticipation of taking action in the future delight them into action either. Unless the advisor chooses to challenge the mindset and risk the relationship, cognitive dissonance continues.

Confirmation Bias

Upon experiencing a personal financial success, clients tend to find outlets to share such accomplishments with others. War-stories about incredible entry points in equity positions, or intuitions about large commodity market swings where they experienced a significant upside, are traded with other like-minded individuals
who demonstrate the same behavior and provide reinforcement.

The development of abundant social media forums has exacerbated such behavior, allowing clients to form confirmation biases, reinforced by the online community. Research in this area has again demonstrated that people will seek out information only when it is consistent with client’s prior beliefs.  This causes the client to ignore any conflicting views and data or to simply dismiss its validity because they are convinced that they are right and all who disagree are wrong. A bias (psychological name – availability heuristics) is triggered in us that our preconceived notions were actually true and real (perceptions that are now believed to be “confirmed” as correct) and that their predictions will have a greater likelihood of actually occurring. Finally, the bias becomes entrenched as a heuristics; in the case of fixed annuities, the bias will result in recalling only the negative information and not the advantages, and
conclusions that this product could possibly afford. With such an attitude, the proper product due diligence is not even performed.

Value of Discussion

Given misguided retirement perceptions and the role of such biases, we can begin to see from a behavioral standpoint, where an aversion to the product can stem from. As the goal of most retirees to secure an income stream for their remaining years, it is the role of the advisor to revisit this discussion and probe to find if the aversion is based in experience or rooted in deeply entrenched biases. The financial counseling provided by the identification, understanding, and discussion of relevant biases can be just as important to maintaining a client’s overall financial health as much as portfolio performance. Value can also be provided by not skirting the issue and addressing detrimental behaviors together, in order to move into a much deeper level of the advisor/client relationship.

If you are either
a current or former CIF student or faculty member and have a blog or article that you would like to re-post here, or if you would like to be a guest blogger for the CIF blog, please email Brent@echelonseo.com.


1. Ackert, Lucy L. and Richard Deaves. Behavioral Finance: Psychology, Decision-Making, and Markets. South-Western Cengage Learning, Mason OH, 2010. Pg. 96-114.

2. Mitchell, Olivia S. and Stephen P. Utkus, Pension Design and Structure: New Lessons from Behavioral Finance. Oxford University Press, New York, 2004. Pg. 28.

3. Panis, Constantijn W.A. “Annuities and Retirement Well-Being.” RAND Corporation Working Paper, DRU-3021. Santa Monica, CA. 2003. Pg. 260-270.

4. SmartMoney.com. “What’s Wrong With Variable Annuities?” Published August 1st 2010, http://www.smartmoney.com/personal-finance/retirement/whats-wrong-with-variable-annuities-9512. Accessed October 1st, 2010.

5. Weber,
Elke U. “Who’s Afraid of a Poor Old Age? Risk Perception in Risk Management Decisions.”  Oxford University Press, New York, 2004. Pg. 53-64.


5 Reasons to Attend FPA 2012

The following article is a guest post by CIF Alumnus Brent Carnduff. Brent is the owner and founder of Echelon SEO, an Inbound Marketing Agency specializing in marketing for Financial Services. If you would like to be a guest author on this blog, please contact Brent.

>Having just returned from several days of education, networking, and meetings in beautiful San Diego, I am already excited for FPA 2012. Just in case you missed it, here are 5 reasons that you might want to think about attending FPA 2012:

  1. Stay on Top of Current “Best Practices” and New Trends in Financial Planning: The conference offers four days full of informative sessions on how to better serve your clients.
  2. Network with other Financial Services professionals: Join the thousands of other financial services professionals that attend the conference! In addition to meeting others in the sessions and in the exhibition area, this year the FPA 2011 offered a Sailing Regatta, a guided tour of San Diego, and of course the Casino themed Closing Night Bash!
  3. Earn Continuing Education Credits (CE): There were over 20.5 hours of CE credit available at FPA 2011.
  4. Catch Up with Friends: It was great to finally meet some of people that I have met and worked
    with previously online. In addition, the staff and Alumni from the California Institute of Finance at California Lutheran University got together for a friendly and informal reunion on Friday night. It was a great opportunity to catch up and to network.
  5. Finally, the FPA 2012 will be in San Antonio, Texas from September 29th to October 2nd – should be a great event!

Did you attend FPA in San Diego this year? What are your thoughts on it? Please feel free to comment below.

An Open Invitation to CIF Faculty and Alumni

CLUA recent U.S. News article Students Influence Business School Brandsdiscussed the changing landscapes of business school branding. It suggested that social media has taken branding, at least partially, out of the hands of the administration and transferred it to the students, alumni, and professors.

As such, we would like to recruit you to become brand ambassadors for the California Institute of Technology at California Lutheran University. If you are a CIF faculty member, student, or  alumni, we would like to invite you to submit
“guest” blog articles to this blog.

These articles can be original articles, or re-postings of articles that you have already written for your own or company blog. Topics can include your experiences at CIF, the outcome of your time at CIF, where you are now, economic opinions, or anything financial planning.

All authors will be provided room for a brief bio, contact information, and a link back to your website or blog if appropriate.

Please submit all inquiries and articles to Brent@EchelonSEO.com. We look forward to hearing from you and to sharing your great content. Thanks for taking the time to visit our blog.

P.S. You can also find CIF and contribute on:



LinkedIn: California Institute of Finance LinkedIn Group