Inside Finance Manager Careers

Things you need to know, but nobody tells you

Biggest Surprises

"Education Does Not Necessarily Reflect Compensation...
I work at the Chicago mercantile exchange. Most people would be surprised at the backgrounds of the people in this profession, for example my operations manager is an English major and I one worked with a highway engineer. It is also not necessary to have a significant education to make really good money." (Operations; 2013)

Career: 15 years of experience, currently based in Illinois, female
School: Studied Liberal Arts at Moraine Valley COmmunity College in Illinois; completed Associate degree in 1996

"The Only Thing That Stays The Same Is Change...
I was so surprised to find out how wrong I was about my job in finance. I used to think that any job that dealt with finances had to be boring. Boy was I wrong. I am able to work on a vast amount of different issues and come up with as many solutions. I love my job." (Finance Supervisor; 2013)

Career: 5 years of experience, currently based in Missouri, female
School: Studied PSYCHOLOGY at MISSOURI WESTERN STATE UNIVERSITY in Missouri; completed Bachelor degree in 2000

"Numbers Affect Everything...
I was surprised how numbers and formulas affect everything in a business" (Manager; 2013)

Career: 6 years of experience, currently based in Illinois, female
School: Studied Finance at Eastern Illinois University in Illinois; completed Bachelor degree in 2005

"Social Skills And Working Together Well Are Just As Important As Degrees...
I think what surprised me the most is how down to earth a lot of people were and how much they enjoyed doing a lot of social things as I thought most accountant or managers were very uptight. I actually enjoy working with them more then I enjoy working in a lab as my degree was in chemistry." (Finance Manager; 2013)

Career: 3 years of experience, currently based in Pennsylvania, female
School: Studied Chemistry at UPENN in Pennsylvania; completed Associate degree in 2012

"The Work Environment Is Calm...
What has surprised me the most is the work environment. I expected it to be uptight and fast, but it's fairly calm." (Finance; 2013)

Career: 2 years of experience, currently based in Illinois, male
School: Studied Mathematics at Depaul in Illinois; completed Bachelor degree

"The Reality Of Finance Degrees...
Most people think that people who go to college end up working for big companies. I most find it easier to do it themselves successfully." (Business Owner; 2013)

Career: 3 years of experience, currently based in New York, male
School: Studied Economics Of Finance at ESC Prague in New York; completed Bachelor degree in 2012

"Patience, Not Action...
Futures trading isn't necessarily the high paced, pressure filled profession most think it is, especially when trading online. It's more about patience, and waiting for the right opportunity." (Futures Trader; 2013)

Career: 6 years of experience, currently based in New Jersey, male
School: Studied Finance at Lehigh in Pennsylvania; completed Bachelor degree in 1999

"Finance Is Fun ...
Most people would be surprised to know how exciting accounting and finance really is. Big decisions are made based on financial and operational insights drawn by finance professionals. We are in the heat of the battle, the success of the business depends on us !" (Finance Director; 2014)

Career: 25 years of experience, currently based in Illinois, male
School: Studied Business at Washington State University in Washington; completed Bachelor degree in 1984

"I Was Surprised At The Demand Of Preparing Financial Records...
I was surprised at the amount of detail required to manage finances for a corporation. It was a lot more than I expected though I'm perfectly capable of handling the job. I was surprised at how needy people can be within the corporation. Some demands are unreasonable." (Administrative Asst.; 2014)

Career: 4 years of experience, currently based in California, male
School: Studied Admin at American River College in California; completed Associate degree in 2010

"Starting with the mid-eighties the changes in technology happened so rapidly that continuing education was a must. The college graduates entering the job market had many skills that the existing staff did not have." (Financial Officer; 2013)

Career: 30 years of experience, currently based in Florida, male
School: Studied Accounting at Niagara in New York; completed Bachelor degree in 1973

Best & Worst Things About This Career

Corporate Finance Sr Mgr: "The best part is working with my business partners - by working with them, you learn more about the business and can take your skills and apply them with real relevance. Anyone can read a financial report - but what is important is what does it mean for our business. Where are the areas we can improve, what is the overlying strategy. Sometimes financially a decision doesn't seem to make sense from a pure profit perspective - but if you understand the business and the strategy, you can make a better decision. Worst part - getting non-financial people to understand the what it means in the big picture and not just their small subsection of the world." (2011)

CFO Of Small Business: "Best part of the job is knowing I'm making a positive contribution to the company when I see the opportunity to save money or help in improving the employees benefits such as switching from simple retirement plan to a 401k plan. Worst part of the job is dealing with payroll problems which happens every so often since we call in payroll to an outside service. I have to depend on someone else to get it right and then sometimes have to tell them why it is wrong and direct them on how to correct it. It can take a few tries to correct the problem which is frustrating to me. Another negative part of my job is that I work pretty much alone; in fact I can do a lot of my work right from home. This can be appealing to one staying home with children but you tend to be isolated from the rest of the office happenings." (2011)

Financial Planner: "I love being able to help my consultants. I am a career coach to them, talking to them about what their short- and long-term goals are, how to achieve those goals, and what training or classes they need to take to get to their goals. My company helps people prepare for retirement, which is a very fulfilling goal to help people understand and learn how to meet. By helping my consultants be more effective at their jobs, I feel that I help educate more people about this sometimes confusing, and always important, aspect of their future. What I don't like is the paperwork. There are lots of legal formalities and documentation that needs to get done, and much of it is tedious and boring. Some managers like the structure and detail of the paperwork, but I am much more of a people-oriented manager. I really enjoy working directly with the consultants, and I don't like all the paperwork that is involved." (2011)

Portfolio Manager: "One of the best parts is that my work is very intellectually stimulating. I enjoy trying to understand the world economy and having to think about what is causing things to get better or worse in different parts of the world. I also get to do a fair amount of travel to meet with clients and to do research. The worst part is that sometimes I make wrong decisions that look poorly on me. For example, suppose I invest heavily in stocks because I thought the economy was going to do very well, but then there was a recession and stocks lost value. It feels bad to know that my decision cost people money, and it can also be tough having to explain my poor decisions to clients after the fact." (2011)

Assistant Financial Manager: "The worst part of the job might be the monotony of paying bills, generating checks, stuffing envelopes, mailing the bill payments and filing. The accounting department is not a revenue source for the company - which means that it does not directly produce income for the organization. As such, it can be taken for granted and asked to do a lot of miscellaneous tasks. The best part is the variety of work, being able to multi-task and do many different things during the day. Making sure the transactions of the company are recorded in the right place to produce an accurate and useful financial statement is rewarding." (2011)

Chief Financial Officer: "The best part of my job is developing the people that work for me so that they can achieve both their professional and personal goals. The worst part of my job is preparing and/or reviewing overly detailed financial reports that must be submitted to my parent company." (2011)

Finance Manager: "I am detailed-oriented so I enjoy it when debits equal credits. It is very satisfying at the end of the day to realize that you have helped your company function in a clear and precise way. Making sure that cash flow is able to support your business and ensure that your employees are paid correctly and on time is a vital concern. We have a fantastic staff and working as a team with all the agents and other managers is a constant source of satisfaction. Calling clients who are behind with their payments is the duty that's most distasteful to me." (2010)

Asset Manager: "I really enjoy traveling to different places throughout the country to visit the properties in my portfolio as well as devising problem-solving strategies to improve performance. There is nothing better in business than turning a non-performing asset into a success story. Unfortunately, my job also requires that I review tax returns generated by my properties on an annual basis. I find this rather tedious since I'm not really interested in taxes, but it's truly a critical part of my job to ensure my portfolio is providing the necessary returns to our investors." (2010)

Director Of Finance: "The best part of my job is the constant changes in health care reimbursement for nursing care centers. These changes represent constant challenges in my position and keep my job from being boring and dull. Sometimes, I have to implement these changes into our financial and clinical software and then train the staff members. The worst part of my job is the long hours preparing for the year-end audit. Sometimes, I have to work weekends to complete all my work." (2010)

Career Background

Finance Manager

  Job Tasks
  Work Environment
  How to Prepare for the Job
  Job Outlook

Career Video

Career Tips

"Be A Detailed Person...
Make sure you are detail oriented and prepared for tough questions. Money is very important to everyone!" (Administrative Asst.; 2014)

"Enjoy Your Work...
Do what you enjoy, and you will be more successful." (Finance Director; 2014)

"Take Computer Classes...
Make sure that you have a good technical background" (Operations; 2013)

"Manage Yourself... It's Better...
Give your self a chance to earn and provide for yourself while being your own boss. By taking the reins of your life you can manage yourself while at your business more effectively." (Business Owner; 2013)

"Mathematics Is Useful...
To be successful in the Finance field knowing all types of algebra. Also, knowing all types of graphs." (Finance; 2013)

"The Possibility Of Promotions And The Ability To Make Great Pay...
When working in finance you do build a lot of contacts as well as a vast amount of knowledge about finances. There is great pay followed by great possibilities of promotion." (Finance Supervisor; 2013)

"Personality Is Important...
While it is important to get good grades in school, make sure to build up your personality as well. Many things can be taught on the job but personality is something that can make or break you." (Finance Manager; 2013)

"Focus On The Process...
While the money can be good, don't focus on it while trading. You have to love what you do, and be willing to spend a lot of time learning about the markets, and yourself." (Futures Trader; 2013)

"Take A Business Class...
If you are interested you might want to take some business classes before you decide if this is what you want to do. I took business classes in high school and that is what steered me toward this career." (Manager; 2013)

"Communicate Succinctly...
Strong computer skills are essential. You learn many tricks and tips from others, but if you don't know the basics - you are starting behind the curve. Excel & Access are critical tools to to data mine and provide the best support to the business. Don't wait for someone to teach you the business - take the initiative to study the company's products, mission, marketing campaign. Who are the competitors and what are they doing. Learn to write in bullet points - get to the key concept without burying it in many words. Lots of words aren't always better - be concise. People don't have the time to decipher through paragraphs upon paragraphs to get the point of what you are asking or stating. Also, stop yourself from the writing emails in "texting" language. Text shorthand is not appropriate and undermines your credibility in a business environment. Make the most of internships - ask questions, take notes and study them." (Corporate Finance Sr Mgr; 2011)

"Don't Worry About Mistakes...
Don't be afraid to ask questions and let the person in charge know this is the first time you are doing something and may need a little direction. Then do it to the best of your ability and don't be afraid to make mistakes. No one is perfect. Learn from your mistakes and try to be involved in as many different areas as possible. I learned the inside operations of a company through internal auditting, and then learned the reporting side from my public accounting experience. Some of my odd jobs allowed me to learn about computers since I left the work force when computers were just coming into play in the office setting. Then when I reentered the work force as the chief accountant, after seeking some help from the company's outside accountant I was fairly confident I could do it. But I am always learning along the way as I have done in changing from the simple retirement plan to the 401K plan. I was told by our outside accountant that it was much more involved, and it certainly is, but the rewards to the employees and the owners, I have found to outweigh the negatives." (CFO Of Small Business; 2011)

"Learn To Art Of Motivation...
1) Take lots of courses on how to effectively manage and motivate people. It is not an easy task to be able to motivate a team of different individuals with different personalities, needs, goals, etc. 2) Get as many financial certifications as you can. The more you know about financial planning, the better you will be able to answer the many questions that come up. 3) Set aside time to do the paperwork. Much of it is due at specific times, and it's easy to procrastinate and wait until the last day. This will only make it harder to get done and it makes you look sloppy." (Financial Planner; 2011)

"Psychology Plays A Role...
To do well in this business, you clearly need to have studied economics and finance. But it's just as important to understand something about human psychology. Markets are not machines -- they consist of people trading with each other. And though people are pretty rational most of the time when it comes to making decisions about money (that's where the knowledge of economics and finance comes in), they are also driven by a host of emotional traits that they may not even be aware of. This is what the field of "behavioral finance" is all about, and understanding what some of those other factors are that drive people's behavior is crucial to successful investing. Finally, you need to be able to communicate clearly, both verbally and in writing. When you start out in the business, you will usually be an analyst, and you will need to prepare written reports about companies. You will also likely need to make presentations to portfolio managers or to clients, so the ability to speak articulately is important." (Portfolio Manager; 2011)

"Small Accounting Departments Provide Broad Exposure...
Working one's way up in an organization is a great way to learn the ropes and become a financial manager. Working in a small accounting department enables one to be exposed to get involved in the different aspects of the accounting department: the accounts payable, the accounts receivable, the general ledger, human resource management and insurance issues. Study the basics of accounting, business administration and bookkeeping. Look at the financial statements to tell a story about the company - what it does and how it does it." (Assistant Financial Manager; 2011)

"Stay Positive...
Have a positive attitude at work even if you are doing something you dislike. An employee with a good attitude and decent skills will almost always win over a person with a bad attitude even if their skills are superior. Do not be afraid to take chances and make mistakes. Network with as many people as you possibly can." (Chief Financial Officer; 2011)

"Accounting Degree Offers Many Options...
Finance is a very large and varied field. I was able to begin as a part-time cashier in a grocery store and was soon asked to work as a cash office assistant when I attended college. This gave me hands-on experience in dealing with the public and working with figures. An accounting degree will lead to many opportunities and, depending on your interests, you can go in many different directions. Travel has always been a passion of mine so that is where I decided to concentrate." (Finance Manager; 2010)

"Learn Real Estate Accounting, Finance And Law...
The great thing about the real estate business is that there are so many areas you can focus on. Whether it be sales, development, management, or the financial side of things, there are careers for every interest. The main advice I would give to someone interested in real estate would be to learn as much as possible about accounting, finance and law, which play a role in every aspect of real estate. Someone coming out of college with a strong understanding of these disciplines will make himself very marketable to real estate firms." (Asset Manager; 2010)

"Organized And Independent...
1. You have to be able to multi-task on a regular basis. On a any given day, for example, you must be able to manage staff problems, attend various meetings and prepare numerous accounting schedules. 2. You have to be organized to function in this position. You have to keep track of various deadlines and commitments which are important to the finance committee and the auditors. 3. You must be able to work independently, since you will be responsible for the overall financial condition of the organization. And you be able to delegate duties and follow through on various projects." (Director Of Finance; 2010)