Plenty of financial advisors cope with stress badly, don’t sleep enough, don’t eat right, seldom exercise, rarely unwind. Is this any way to perpetually do battle in the competitive financial services arena? Certainly not. Time to send in wellness coach Julie Wald, who discusses the pressing need for self-care in an interview with ThinkAdvisor.
First, lose that old-hat image of wellness as a pursuit of only hippie-dippy folks. Wellness went mainstream nearly 20 years ago. In fact, today it is a $4.2 trillion global industry.
Customized wellness plans are like financial plans, says Wald, founder-CEO of Namaste New York, who crafts them for clients: With either plan, simply wishing won’t make it so because reaching goals takes work.
Instead of striving for wellness, many financial advisors, and others, try to manage stress with digital-device addiction; “binging for five hours on Netflix,” as Wald puts it; or resorting to unhealthy habits like heavy drinking and excessive recreational drug use.
According to Wald, 46, wellness — “a major marker for people’s level of health, happiness and satisfaction,” she says — has four components. In the interview, she discusses them and her approach to working with clients to achieve a state of desired wellness.
Twenty-five years ago, Wald was a clinical social worker simultaneously teaching yoga and meditation. She and husband Michael Wald founded Namaste in 2003, two years after they began helping Wall Street FAs suffering from high anxiety following the 9/11 World Trade Center attacks.
Today, serving executives, celebrities and athletes, the firm has about 100 corporate clients too, including “some of the most conservative [financial] institutions on the planet,” Wald says, noting how wellness has gone mainstream.
One of her services is contracting with firms for their FAs to recommend Namaste to prospects and clients as a value-add.
ThinkAdvisor recently interviewed Wald — finishing a book, “Inner Wealth” (Scribe Media), slated to be published this winter — on the phone from her New York City office. She talked about “inner wealth” vs. “outer wealth” and how employee wellness programs can make firms healthier.
Here are highlights of our conversation:
THINKADVISOR: Your upcoming book is titled “Inner Wealth.” What’s inner wealth?
JULIE WALD: It’s very important, of course, to have external resources, like financial resources, strategically planned to, hopefully, create outer wealth, so to speak. Inner wealth is about creating a feeling of abundance from the inside out. It’s about feeling mentally, physically and emotionally in a growing, expansive place. You can have a lot of money — but if you’re a mess, it doesn’t matter.
What’s the definition of wellness?
Wellness is where health care ends and a state of physical and mental well-being begins. It’s a major marker for people’s level of health, happiness and overall satisfaction in their lives.
Is wellness about disease prevention?
It’s a component of preventive health care to the extent that it deals with stress levels, sleep, fitness, nutrition. All those greatly impact our ability to prevent disease because they enable us to proactively cultivate health and well-being.
What goes into a wellness plan?
The process is very similar to what someone might go through with a financial advisor in making a financial plan. So, it’s not just having a goal and wishing. If, for example, you want to leave an inheritance to your children and don’t have a plan for how you’re going to achieve that, you’re just wishing. Same with your health and wellness. You need a plan.
What are the chief facets of wellness?
We divide wellness into four major components, or pillars: movement, stillness, touch and nourishment. The [idea] is to make sure all of them are part of a person’s daily life [ongoing].
How does your firm work with financial advisors?
We interface mostly in supporting their clients. Many advisors come to us, saying, “I have a client who’s a hugely successful entrepreneur, but their stress level is through the roof. I’ve got a handle on their finances, but I don’t know how to help them with their anxiety.” So we work with the advisors to deliver value to their clients.
What sorts of wellness plans do advisors themselves need? Many are your clients too.
It goes back to the four pillars. Advisors need to put some thought into what ingredients they need in their life: More fitness? More sleep? Eating healthier? They’re [typically] out wining and dining clients and eating restaurant food all the time.
How do they achieve what they perceive as an ideal state of being?
We give them very specific goals: You’re going to practice yoga X times a week. You’re going to go to bed by 10 p.m. You’re going to meditate every morning — and this is how you’ll do it.
How do the wellness programs you provide to financial services firm employees help companies themselves?
Firms are only as healthy and thriving as the people who work there. If they’re burned out and stressed, their performance levels will be much weaker. So wellness creates abundance for the firm as well as a level of [employee] loyalty, as we’ve found in working with our corporate clients for over a decade.
What do you do for the firms’ advisors in a group setting?
We’ll do group meditation or educate the advisors around stress management practices. For example, eating super-clean and healthy may be a big obstacle for them because of all those restaurant meals. So, in workshops, we’ll provide details about nutrition and how to order healthy [food] at a restaurant.
What promoted you to start a wellness company?
Just after 9/11, the financial industry was [experiencing] major stress, particularly in New York City. All of a sudden, it became much more about quality of life and much less about the rat race or climbing the ladder. So there was this big awakening in terms of prioritizing health and wellness.
What did that mean to you?
At the time, my husband Michael and I were, on a private level, working [on wellness] with some very influential people in the financial industry. Then we started to deliver wellness services to the [broad] financial world, including many advisors, large banks and other firms looking to support their employees. Our business just spread like wildfire.
I suppose that was because you were able to fill a need that had emerged.
Right. Historically, wellness was for hippies or other people on the fringe. Suddenly, wellness was hitting the mainstream; and people like financial advisors needed guidance and support around it. Now we’re providing wellness services to some of the most conservative institutions on the planet!
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