I have been in this industry for over 13 years now. There came a point about 5 - 6 years ago where I hit a sort of slump. You could call it a dilemma of purpose. The wealth management industry can be extremely challenging to get a start and maintain sustainable success. I will never consider myself as having ‘arrived’ or hit my ultimate potential, but at a certain point the struggle dissipated and things became easier. That was at about the point that I encountered this dilemma of purpose. There is an old adage about hitting your stride at about 10,000 hours of practice. I suppose I was closing in on that number around then after a fair share of 60 hour weeks early on in the career. I began to question how I was really helping people and if I was really making a difference in the world. Sure, it felt good to help people navigate confusing financial topics and give them confidence in their planning and investment strategy; but, was that really making a difference?
Then, something unexpected happened. Our family lost someone very close to us. While this was difficult enough on its own, the rest of the extended family looked my way to sort through the financial aspects of the loss. This meant sorting through tax issues, estate issues and making some tough decisions on what to do next. The estate was not as organized as it could have been. There was a lot of confusion around what was what, and where everything was, and the wishes of our lost loved one. I had some history with talking about financial strategies with the lost loved one and had urged going through a detailed financial planning review to get organized and look at every area of financial health (tax, estate, investments, insurance, retirement planning, cash flow). We butted heads on this. He wanted to hire me and my firm to manage his investments and I refused to do so until looking at the big picture to be sure we were providing quality advice. This went on for a number of years with neither side giving in.
As it turns out, there were a few crucial mistakes made in the short time frame between our first conversations and the passing that turned out to be very costly. If we would have been working together in a financial planning capacity, things could have looked much different in the end. The dream lake house that he always wanted (and had) likely would not have had to been forfeited. The list goes on. As I sifted through the financial records and documents, it was like reading a story of a series of financial decisions - many of them mistakes. The mistakes were not his fault. The financial world can be very complex and confusing and it is difficult to sift through all of the factors to consider when making any decision.
Obviously, this was a loss to our family. I believe that there is a gift hidden in everything - the ‘silver lining’. As a family, we were left with many memories and stories and treasure all of those to this day. He truly knew how to “suck out the marrow of life”, as Henry David Thoreua would say. We carry on this sense of adventure and living life to the fullest now and plan to pass this on to our children.
On a professional level, this is where I found my WHY. If I have the ability to help families and individuals avoid some of the mistakes that I found and avoid many of the pains associated with those mistakes - that is a big deal. A very big deal. I still carry this with me to this day, and likely will forever. If I have a day that doesn’t go well and feel like I am just not making an impact, I remember just how much of a difference quality advice can make. If you ever find yourself in my office telling me that you don’t believe financial planning is important, look out!
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