What Keeps Me up at Night?

We often ask our clients, “What keeps you up at night?” Sometimes I wonder if our clients are curious what keeps us up at night? I would suspect they would think it is a recession, political risk, or some variation of those two. Last night, I woke up from a nightmare. It wasn’t Freddy Krueger or Donald Trump. In my nightmare, my mother told me she took all her savings and invested in a private real estate deal. You must be thinking, really? Yes, it’s true. Please try not to judge me too much.

It’s somewhat embarrassing when I take a step back and think about it.  Most people worry about not getting that promotion, getting laid off, health issues, debt, and several other issues.  In this nightmare, I watched a loved one make an imprudent decision with her life savings.  I’m not saying all private real estate investments are poor choices but if that is where 100% someone’s savings are invested, they could run into serious problems.  Too much of anything can be a bad thing.  Some ice cream can be good, but only eating ice cream can lead to serious health issues and obesity.  I would never tell a client to put 100% of their savings into one stock for the same reasons.  I woke from this dream anxious and concerned. 

This is not the first dream where I woke up concerned about the financial well-being of a loved one or a client. Other nights I have stared at the ceiling questioning if a client diversified their concentrated stock per my recommendation.  Last year, I lay awake concerned that a client had not built up a sufficient emergency reserve and they had a significant health expense that needed to be paid immediately.  This stretched their budget and caused the family to go into debt to pay for this expense and destroyed their financial plan. 

Today, I was thinking about the angst from these nightmares and was wondering if there was anything these nightmares had in common?  Then it hit me.  There was a common theme with the things that kept me up at night - they are all things I can control, or at least can influence the decision.  Then, I thought about my clients’ concerns.  They too were concerned about things they can control such as: not working hard enough and getting laid off; not paying attention to their health and possibly suffering from cardiovascular problems; being irresponsible with money and going into debt and so on. 

To me, it was interesting to think that clients and advisors have similar concerns.  Those being the concerns they have a degree of control over.  I can’t control things like a recession and the reality TV star who isn’t living at the White House.  Worrying about this will only stress me out and lead to a more unhappy and shorter life.  So, I try not to let these things consume me.  But if a client does not diversify, this means I have failed them and was not able to explain why they should diversify in a manner that resonated with them.  That is my failure, not theirs.  I should have communicated more effectively to educate them on the benefits of diversification, or a myriad of other unique threats to financial plans.

Like most people, I struggle with failure. Failing a client is worse than a thousand failures that only impact me. This is what stresses me out and results in the occasional sleepless night.  That said, I am resilient. Every time I feel as though I failed a client, I grow into a better advisor and I will relentlessly focus on bouncing back twice as strong.  I will put rigorous effort into mitigating the risk this happens again, and each of my clients will reap the benefits as we partner to make sound decisions and build their wealth.    

Thank you for your trust and your confidence.  I look forward to a long partnership with each and every one of you.  

Grant Glenn, CFA, CFP®