From the July 2009 issue of Research Magazine • Subscribe!

Puppy Power

Financial institutions aren't the only ones undergoing a stress test these days. Relationships between financial advisors and their clients are being put to the test as well.

As we all know, financial calamities and stress go hand in hand. With increased stress come all sorts of bad things. Studies have shown that long-term exposure to stress (bear market, housing bubble, credit bubble, etc.) can lead to serious health issues such as heart disease, depression and autoimmune disease. It can also spell disaster for otherwise solid relationships. Financial institutions aren't the only ones undergoing a stress test these days. Relationships between financial advisors and their clients are being put to the test as well.

So how do you know if your clients are experiencing an amount of stress that could be detrimental to your relationship? Get in touch with all of your clients and carefully look for signs of deteriorating health that could be caused by stress. Do any of your clients clutch their chest while talking with you? Do you have some that are constantly rubbing their temples? Do any only talk with you from a dark room wearing sunglasses? If you've answered yes to any of these questions, then your clients may be experiencing an unhealthy degree of stress.

Wouldn't it be great if, in addition to being your client's financial physician, you could also help them in more traditional medical ways? Think of the leg up you would have on your competition. I believe I've discovered a way that with minimal study, you can help your clients in both a financial and physical way. You will first need to obtain your Ph.D from WebMD.com.

While working on my own Ph.D, I learned from Dr. Koop and associates that there is a simple solution that you can provide to your clients that will improve their health. The solution: Get them a puppy. According to WebMD, over the past 25 years research has shown that living with a pet provides certain health benefits. Pets help lower blood pressure and lessen anxiety. They have also been known to boost your immune system. They can even help you get a date.

If your clients are elderly, a new puppy can provide exercise and companionship. In fact, one insurance company, Midland Life, actually asks clients over the age of 75 -- as part of their medical screening -- if they own a pet. In some cases a yes answer can help tip the scales in the client's favor. Of course, I'm speaking in generalities here. If you happen to get your elderly client the wrong kind of dog, it could kill them as well. Either way, their blood pressure will be lower as will their anxiety. It just depends how you look at it.

One word of caution: Even though you are saving your client's life, FINRA rules still apply. The adorable puppy you have designated must cost less than $100. Sorry, no designer dogs allowed.

When picking up puppies for your clients, get one for yourself too. Not only will your health improve, but quite likely your business will as well. As we all know, sales is all about meeting people. No matter how scary you look, nothing makes you more approachable to strangers than a cute puppy.

I've learned this first-hand recently. If you were to see me on the street you would be appalled at how hideous I look. However, when I took my two new puppies to my son's lacrosse game last week, I was swamped with people approaching me. Granted, not many were looking directly at me, but they did carry on a conversation with me. So my recommendation to you is, instead of fretting over a "Do Not Call" list, bag the telephone, buy a puppy and start showing up at children's sporting events.

It's not often we find something under $100 that will improve our own health, the health of our clients and increase our gross commissions. If only they came housebroken.

---

Once a mildly amusing comedian, Bill Miller now works as a recruiter for a top independent broker-dealer; reach him at writingbill@mac.com.

Reprints Discuss this story
This is where the comments go.