In 1995, Billy Peterson was the top quarter horse jockey in the country. Today, he is president of Peterson Wealth Services in Utah, a Raymond James financial advisor shop.
When he was a jockey, he wasn't his own boss. He worked when the starting gun sounded and stopped at the finish line. Now Peterson specializes in giving investment advice to jockeys and former jockeys like himself.
We spoke with him to discover how he stumbled into advising, what he does all day, and why he says it's always best to take the high road, even if it doesn't get you to your destination as quickly.
Ready to Race: 7:30 A.M.
In the office early, Peterson uses his morning to review market data and horse racing news. "I look for information on my current clients or prospective clients, or just my friends and colleagues," he said.
Peterson's personal interest in his horse racing clients goes beyond just knowing how their horses have fared in recent races. If he sees that a client or a prospect won a big race, he'll reach out to them with a phone call or congratulatory card to emphasize his attentiveness in what's important to them.
Lunch, Maybe: 12:00 P.M.
After morning meetings and organization, Peterson will grab lunch if he has the time. More often, Peterson spends his "lunch break" writing – he works as a special correspondent for several racing publications, which helps him grow his practice.
Back to Business: 1:00 P.M.
Afternoons vary for Peterson -- sometimes, they'll consist of a workout, while other days it will be more office work. "Back at the office, I discuss outstanding issues with staff, contact clients and prospects, and network with professionals or volunteers for my foundation."
Peterson's foundation is a charity organization called Livastride, which he founded to help children and teens reach their full potential.
Quitting Time: 6:00 P.M.
As his own boss, Peterson has his evenings to himself. "Usually, baseball practice or a trail run in the nearby Wasatch mountain range," Peterson said. "My son has played competitive baseball for three years now. I have coached him since he was four." As Red Sox fans, the family often spends evenings watching games on TV at home.
When all is said and done, Peterson said he's in bed by 11. "Unless we have a co-ed softball game," he added. "Some of those games can keep us out late."
FINS: What do you do to decompress when you have time off?
Peterson: I love coaching youth baseball, trail running, and horse racing. I met my wife trail running, so we enjoy doing that together. I also travel to visit with my clients, many of whom do not reside in Utah. I travel to Texas, New Mexico, Arizona, and California, predominantly.
FINS: What do you like most about being a financial advisor?
Peterson: The freedom of schedule, the deep satisfaction that comes from knowing you are helping people with things that they wouldn't accomplish on their own.
The ability to travel and meet interesting people is also a big plus. Most of my clients are horse owners or are involved in horse racing in some capacity. It makes my job even more fun because we get to talk about their racing plans, see their horses...my clients love to share details about their horses with me. The horses are almost like their kids -- they can do no wrong. I know that's why I have a good business; my niche is so unique.
FINS: What do you most dislike about being a financial advisor?
Peterson: I dislike that people tend to place so much weight on the short term. It's very hard to get people to stop reacting to the day-to-day market shifts and to what's on TV.
FINS: How did you become a financial advisor?
Peterson: As a jockey in my early 20s, I was always interested in saving money and spent a lot of time studying financial magazines and reading up on investment options. The other jockeys began asking me for advice on how to best invest their money. It made me feel good to be able to dispense advice on a subject I was passionate about and also know I was making a big impact on their future.
The vice president of Hollywood Park [a California-based thoroughbred racing venue] suggested I meet with his friend who was the manager of a PaineWebber office in Long Beach, Calif. Soon after I decided to retire from riding, and pursue a career as a financial advisor. I was the nation's leading quarter horse jockey in 1995, so this raised a few eyebrows (and I took a very large pay cut in the first few years).
FINS: What advice would you give someone, either just starting their career or midway through their career, who wants to be a FA?
Peterson: Always, always, always take the high road. You won't become successful as quickly that way, but the rewards that come from having a solid character, honesty, and integrity are worth far more in the end.
Write to Kelly Eggers and Jeremy Greenfield