Make This Year Stress-Free (No Matter What The Market Does)

Even when the markets are quiet, you can’t run your practice effectively if your body and brain aren’t cooperating. And when markets are stressed, managing your personal resources is your top professional priority.

About a year ago, FlexShares did a survey that revealed that stress level among advisors are 25% higher than in the population as a whole. That was back in the "easy" Goldilocks economy.

Since then, the market has corrected twice as the zero-interest-rate era recedes and ambient volatility creeps back up from the calmest levels in history. While I know you’re keeping it together, odds are extremely high that collective blood pressure in the industry is up with the VIX.

Volatility isn’t going away. The Fed won’t go backward unless the world rewinds to 2008. And that means we’re living with the “new normal” now.

If you’re holding a lot of stress, this is the time to audit the way you deal with it and experiment with ways to enhance your personal reservoirs of energy, attention and calm.

This isn't feel-good chatter or introspection. This is all about giving you access to tools for remaining not only viable but competitive and enthusiastic. 

Think of it as a new type of practice management workshop, driven by scientific research and statistics. It’s a little more than chicken soup for the soul. It's coaching.

And it’s essential because you’re the only career asset you can’t replace.

Human as resource

As I see it, Advisor Wellness is a response to two facets of wealth management culture. The first is the way we tend to swallow stress in order to give our clients the smoothest ride possible. The second is technology.

I’ve often seen advisors hide personal distress because they don’t want to show any hint of strain or weakness — especially in front of the clients. 

It’s natural when you think about what we do. We inhabit a world of numbers where the messiness of everyday life gets abstracted down to a liquidity event. 

Most advisors chose that world. It’s where we excel. It’s why 75% of the people FlexShares talked to say they absolutely love what they’re doing.

But clients are alway messy. We choose how to interact with them and their emotional biases. Some orientations are more efficient than others.

Refusing to acknowledge that we’re under pressure is only efficient in the short term. Over longer periods, people break down and burn out, becoming less productive and less viable.

We can tell this is happening because it tends to accompany a lower feeling of overall life satisfaction: the world stops being fun.

And when you’re already using the best technology around to extend your personal resources, even a slight decline in efficiency can be disastrous.

Once upon a time, people worked 45-50 hours a week and weren’t available when the office was closed. When you went on vacation, you were gone.

Now of course we have the ability to follow capital around the clock. Weekends are when we catch up with paperwork or schedule time to meet with clients we couldn’t squeeze in during the week.

We’re already running on overdrive. No matter how much technology you throw at the situation, no matter how you automate your personal capacity, you’re going to hit that wall.

Then when some external factor shocks the system — a market correction, you catch a cold, a relative dies, you need to move the office — you need to scramble for the resources it takes to function.

That scramble registers as strain. It drains your batteries. Advisors are tired. Your muscles probably ache. You might not be sleeping well. 

Control what you can control

For a lot of your fellow advisors, the strain has come from trying to stay on top of a shifting regulatory environment and grow in the meantime. 

People haven’t had clarity on compliance in an extremely long time. Arguably nobody’s felt safe in the last decade, when the credit crash changed the industry landscape and left a lot of psychic trauma behind.

We all want to thrive. But we don’t want to waste our effort building something that the wrong swing on Wall Street or Washington will wipe away. 

Not being able to plan effectively is the biggest symptom of anxiety. When we can’t see the future, we get tense.

It’s just like the way we say that “markets hate uncertainty.” We all hate uncertainty. Stretch that cloudy outlook across years and it becomes a serious drag.

Working around the drag creates habits that might not be bad, but they’re probably less efficient than they need to be. They’re not our best selves. 

Strip those habits away and we can compete more adroitly, serve our clients better. With healthier practices, we can even let go of relationships that aren’t working out (passing trouble clients to a partner) while focusing on the ones that matter.

Happy advisors grow their businesses easier. Bigger advisors are happier.

Knowing what you can control and letting go of what you can’t is a traditional route to happiness. We can’t control the market. We can’t control the Fed.

Younger advisors work on their professional patterns to manage time better and nurture rewarding client interactions. Older ones tend to get out of the office to recharge.

Exercise, diet and downtime actually help. There’s a concrete relationship between what you have to give and what you give yourself. You want to maintain your personal “machine.”

After all, no matter how good your technology is, you’re the one who has to push the buttons and then communicate the results to your fellow human beings. 

If your personal system is failing, you can’t do that. That’s what Advisor Wellness is all about.


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