The annual holiday letter to family and friends has become a modern American tradition, notable for its senders’ preening hints to the superior life they enjoy.
Service-oriented businesses have adopted a sterilized version of the holiday letter, paeans of client appreciation together with photos of charitable and volunteer efforts.
But why be bland? Across the pond, retired British Royal Navy officer Nick Crews has electrified his country with a tough-love-style email to his children that has gone internationally viral. Dubbed the “Crews missile,” the letter expressed bitter disappointment with his adult children for not making something of their lives and careers.
While hectoring clients that they’re slackers when it comes to preparing for retirement is unlikely to trigger a rush of new assets to manage, the starkness of the Crews approach may offer a sort of benchmark that can stimulate a more frank and useful holiday client communication. Herewith excerpts of the Crews email, together with suggested modifications.
What Your Peers Are Reading
Crews’ missive begins with an attention-getting opening:
“With last evening’s crop of whinges and tidings of more rotten news for which you seem to treat your mother like a cess-pit, I feel it is time to come off my perch.”
Your letter would need to set a more upbeat tone, and be written in a manner intelligible to Americans, but evocative language was a good idea. Something like:
“The holidays bring joy, warmth and glittering lights to our year end. A ritualized setting of goals has become traditional as well. But, before we set 2013 resolutions, shouldn’t we assess how we did the previous year?”
The above gets to the point right away, contains no untranslatable words like “whinges,” and most importantly omits use of “cess-pit.” Crews’ letter continues:
“It is obvious that none of you has the faintest notion of the bitter disappointment each of you has in your own way dished out to us. We are seeing the miserable death throes of the fourth of your collective marriages at the same time we see the advent of a fifth.”
Here Crews expresses frustration, and that is of critical value. Frustration, when sufficiently intense, is what allows breakthroughs to occur. An advisor should introduce some tension here:
“In speaking with clients, I have found the level of frustration to be high. Some clients are financially hemorrhaging while others whose finances are more stable are nevertheless not fully engaged in a financial plan that can realistically meet their goals.”
The above sets up two common problems, either of which an advisor is equipped to help with. Crews continues:
“We are constantly regaled with chapter and verse of the happy, successful lives of the families of our friends and relatives and being asked of news of our own children and grandchildren… We have nothing to say which reflects any credit on you or us … Mum and I have been used to taking our own misfortunes on the chin, and making our own effort to bash our little paths through life without being a burden to others. Having done our best … to provide for our children, we naturally hoped to see them in turn take up their own banners and provide happy and stable homes for their own children.”
An advisor might put it this way: