Advisors Feeling Overwhelmed

Long hours lead to stress and health issues, study shows

As markets fluctuate and clients demand more tension, maintaining a balance between physical and mental health is essential to the quality of planner's businesses, according to a new study conducted by the Financial Planning Association (FPA) and Vestment Advisors, a Minneapolis-based consultant.

The 2008 Financial Advisor Survey on Physical and Mental Health, in which nearly 300 advisors--all FPA members--participated reveals some interesting results about how health and business success go hand-in-hand. "This report provides increasing evidence that if planners don't take care of themselves, they may find themselves unable to take care of their clients," said Ian MacKenzie, chief marketing officer for FPA, in announcing the results of the survey. "Some planners may feel like they have to push themselves to unhealthy levels in order to succeed, but there is a fine line between being passionate about one's work and becoming completely consumed by it."

The bad, if not surprising, news from the survey: 90% of advisors reported that recent market changes have increased their stress level. The good news is that most of these advisors are not struggling with keeping their clients--41% of respondents reported they have maintained their clientele during these market changes--and many are seeing some level of growth. In fact, 48% of respondents say they have added clients during the recent economic turmoil. "So while our economy faces its most volatile time in decades, placing increased strain on these advisors, they are actually growing their practices," the report reads.

Though growth is usually a positive occurrence, there's an issue in this instance--an increase in work without a plan to manage it. Prior to September 1, 2008, 71% of respondents reported spending less than 14 hours per week with their clients; however, in a follow-up survey, nearly 57% of those same advisors reported spending more than 15 hours per week with their clients. To boot, 77% reported that client demands were the most stressful demand on their time. In conjunction with these results, 37% of respondents indicated that their health was terrific. The remaining 63% were asked, "What is keeping you from improving your health?" Fifty-five percent answered that a lack of time was causing the problem.

So, with lack of time directly affecting stress levels, which in turn may cause health problems, researchers looked at what, specifically, affected advisors' long hours at the office. The survey found that nearly 73% of advisors said they are dealing with too much paperwork. The other task most frequently identified as a problem was compliance.

In response, FPA and Vestment agree that advisors with better time management and delegation skills will have more time and therefore get some relief from stress. As the report states, "...paperwork and properly handling compliance is a critical part of the business, but advisors may be best served by outsourcing or delegating these responsibilities. With those duties off of their shoulders, they can focus on prospecting for new clients and retaining existing clients."

Additionally, the report argues that the industry does not reward the hardest working advisor as much as it does the most effective advisor. "Advisors must learn that working effectively means being healthy, enjoying what they do, and leveraging every bit of their practice," it says.

Katherine Vessenes, president of Vestment Advisors, agrees. "Vestment Advisors has seen numerous advisors, highly stressed, with severe health issues, all caused by poor business management," she says. "We are excited to work with FPA as they share our desire to develop programs that not only improve advisors' health, but also improve their businesses at the same time."

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