“Don’t Panic!” was the book cover message on Douglas Adams’s brilliant sci-fi spoof, “The “Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy.”
In times of volatile financial markets — such as now — advisors need to push this message to their clients as well as to themselves. Advisors can’t “stress out” in these, well, stressful times.
Sometimes stress can be good, raising adrenaline levels that increases energy levels and stimulates brain functions. But too much stress can overload both your body and brain.
To help client stress levels from getting too high, take these steps:
Control Your Own Stress Levels
Doctors handle emergencies by first taking their own pulse. That is, they deal with their own stress level before working on patients.
You can do this by taking a few deep breaths, and then remind yourself about how the financial markets have historically worked. In the course of modern times, most advisors have seen the financial markets take substantial drops — ranging from the late 1960s and early 1970s, to the early and then mid 1980s, then again in the 1990s, and finally 2008.
And every time the financial markets have recovered, often in short order. Or put more simply: financial market declines have never been permanent. Therefore, get a grip, rely on your experience, and focus on communicating your financial wisdom to your clients.
Educate Your Clients
Remind them of what they already know. It’s generally best to keep this as simple as possible: for instance, reminding them about how the markets tend to move in cycles: falling a bit, and then recovering to new highs later.
And point out that “we’ve taken steps in your financial plan” to allow for these market cycles.
Inform Your Clients
Make your advice specific and honest.
“Yes, this isn’t fun. You may see your portfolio lose some value, but the good news is this is not permanent.”
This is important. When someone is stressed, telling them what to do can make them even more so.
They’re not thinking rationally; their brain has moved into flight, fight, or freeze mode, which means they can’t make decisions. By telling them what to do, you’re just forcing a decision that they can’t make.
Instead, encourage them by simply letting them know you are there for them. Don’t do “what ifs.” Have them focus on the now, such as thinking about their family and current life, like ask what they are doing on the weekend.
Give them positive things to think about.
Remember, the best thing you can do for your clients during these stressful times is to be calm, and use your rationality to help clients keep current events in perspective, avoid making “knee-jerk” decisions, and to determine best alternatives available.
Educating, informing and encouraging keeps everything in perspective.