From the March 2012 issue of Investment Advisor • Subscribe!

The Financial Advisor Balancing Act

Will your life legacy read like a resume or a storybook rich in relationships?

American culture exalts accomplishment and makes it a focal point for self-worth. Our industry is no different. In our recruiting interviews, reps list off accomplishments in terms of advanced college degrees, professional designations and the all-important production level. While all these achievements are admirable (who doesn’t want to build a lucrative book?), is it the legacy you want to leave?

Building Personal Legacies

Many of us grew up in families where accomplishment held much higher value than relationships, and we struggled to find role models for strong interpersonal skills. My father was a partner in the accounting firm Price Waterhouse for 15 years and later vice president of Bethlehem Steel. Success in business held great value for my father. Even in retirement he would recall his glory days in the business world, but he lacked glory in his personal life.

On the other hand was my grandfather, a high school graduate who owned a business in the small town of New Knoxville, Ohio. Everyone knew my grandfather and would listen attentively to his stories. Getting to know people, sharing stories and experiencing the humor in life were my grandfather’s priorities.

Following my father’s funeral, we gathered for a meal. Sitting with my cousins, the stories started to go back and forth—but the stories were about my grandfather, not my father. This experience spoke volumes to me as to what had lasting value in a personal legacy.

The Cabin on the Lake

At a broker-dealer conference I attended some time ago, the president of the insurance company that owned the BD told us the best investment he ever made was to purchase a cabin on a lake because it was an investment in time with his family. This gentleman had a graduate-level education, multiple designations, vast experience with all types of investments and a career path that would be the envy of many. And his best investment was a cabin?

No Cabin? Try a Family Vacation

A family vacation is an outstanding alternative to a cabin, but one that financial advisors often times don’t make a priority in their schedule. In my youth, our family took vacations from Chicago up to Lake Tomahawk in northern Wisconsin, and these times brought fond memories and bonding. Since starting my own family, I’ve made a concerted effort to plan a two-week summer vacation each year. This gives us time to connect and build memories, just as I experienced in my youth.

It’s also nice to take vacations to the same place each year to build traditions. To quote author Susan Lieberman, “Family traditions counter alienation and confusion. They help define who we are; they provide something steady, reliable and safe in a confusing world.”

Take Care of Yourself to Take Care of Your Clients

Many of the advisors we talk to cherish the relationships they have with their clients and spend many hours servicing their needs. In doing so, priorities can get skewed to where the family gets shortchanged. “I haven’t taken a vacation in three years,” is said with pride. Besides the likelihood of burnout, striking any sort of balance with your family is near impossible. Life is a balancing act and those who make the time to build quality relationships with family and friends will look back and say, “I got it!”

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