On Being Judgeable

We are professionals in a highly people-centric, story-shaped, often misunderstood business. My experience bears witness to a public that imagines financial advisors are primarily stock traders and CPAs who spend entire careers only crunching numbers. To move beyond these errant images demands a focused commitment to becoming more, not less, judgeable, likable, engaging, and yes compassionate. I continue to benefit from the work of Columbia business professor Heidi Halvorsen, author of No One Understands You …

Expressing Condolences

Some months back, I came across an article in The New York Times by Bruce Feiler titled “The Art of Condolence.” I have written about this topic here before, but he had me re-thinking it, remembering how important it is for advisors to get this right as we reach out to clients going through loss. The article identifies seven bullets to keep in mind when we express condolence.  Of the seven, three bubbled to the …

Advising Couples Toward Retirement

I came across an online Forbes article by Robert Laura titled “When Couples Argue About Retirement” that snagged my imagination. The 2015 article shares links to a starting-point questionnaire. That instrument has both partners answering retirement lifestyles and time management questions. Other open-ended questions focus on mortality, values, and family. In the article, Laura raises an issue that, for most of us, is the elephant in the room when we talk with clients about retirement …

THE ADVISOR STORY

The caring advisor (and others who want to know their history) chooses to invest time, energy, and reflection in coming to terms with his or her personal story. I think every advisory training program should dedicate an entire day to focus on self-awareness. Everyone in class would be asked to write a two-page autobiography focused on people and experiences that have shaped their formative years. Parents Who were my parents? What memories do I have …

Retirement Conversations

Carey sat in my office a couple of weeks ago to discuss an investment in his retirement. During our time together, I suggested a strategy not only for this contribution but for those that would follow in the next several years. Once he decided, he said, “I’ve been thinking a lot about a question you asked me months ago.” Leaning in a bit, he continued. “You suggested I ask myself not what I am retiring …

Families with Special Needs

There may be no more difficult and demanding family challenge than caring and providing for a special needs child. Over the last 40 years, I have been with couples in the hospital when they first learned their newborn had Down Syndrome or another cognitive disability. Families face every day a focus and discipline few of us ever know when caring for a child who might have cerebral palsy or some other physical challenge. At 13 …

A Storied Life

In the early 1970s, my generation was experimenting with competing lifestyles. Rock and roll had morphed into heavy metal, and many moved to the beat of Janis Joplin, Cat Stevens, The Rolling Stones, and Led Zeppelin. Some of my friends were dangerously using illegal, even lethal psychedelic drugs such as LSD, heroin, and speed. Others had escaped from the confining cage of parental expectations; instead, they hit the road to explore America! Hair was long; …

Good, Bad, Best

Someone wiser than I offered me sage wisdom years ago, that I pass on to you. Lost in memory is the specific moment in my much younger life when I heard this sentence, but its precision and power still walk the corridors of my soul. “The most difficult decisions in life,” my mentor observed, “are not between what is good and what is bad, but between what is good and what is best.” Each day, …

Discovering the Cadence of Care

Introducing a client-care practice culture starts with one gesture, one conversation, one thoughtful question at a time. My pastoral training and years of experience do not give me a pass when it comes to being purposefully engaged and fully present with another human being. Yes, it may flow easier for me because I have honed these skills for more than three decades; but, I know each one of us is capable of learning our clients’ …

Checking the CRM Boxes

What we know about a prospect or client is the heart and soul of CRM (customer relationship management). Publicly traded company Salesforce (symbol CRM) is one of many enterprises addressing this process. This is not an endorsement to buy or sell Salesforce nor a comment on its products, but rather an observation that CRM and its competitors’ robust technologies create a process that uses what is known about a client to drive marketing, sales, retention, and …