Happy 2021! Like most of you, after experiencing 2020, I am thrilled to welcome the new year. There’s something about the promise of new beginnings that resonates deeply, which is probably why so many of us make New Year’s resolutions. It’s the chance to start off on the right foot, fresh and clean, and think about what we want to change and achieve in the year to come.
Usually, the top resolutions have to do with money (e.g., save more for retirement, pay off debt or find a new job). Between wild market fluctuations, furloughs and job losses, there was a lot of financial uncertainty in 2020 that may cause many people to seek professional advice.
But what does success mean for financial advisers? As you think about the year ahead, consider what will make it a great one for you. Given all that’s happened the past 12 months, many advisers are taking a long look at their practices — and their lives — and are coming up with different metrics for success in 2021.
During 2020, many advisers worked remotely, some for the first time in their careers. Although there are downsides, many suddenly found they had more time in their day. Zoom calls brought efficiencies compared to meeting clients in person, commute time was nil and advisers embraced the opportunity to rethink their workday. Whether it was finding time to exercise, eating healthier meals not served in a car or getting outdoors, advisers relished their newfound time. No one misses hours commuting in traffic, and it seems likely a hybrid model of in-person and remote work will be the preferred practice moving forward.
One key victory has been the increased flexibility. Some advisers have taken the good advice they give to clients (e.g., live a full life and don’t wait to do the things you want to do until you retire) to heart and are taking advantage of the ability to work remotely. One is planning a 60-day road trip with his wife, traveling through Michigan to Wyoming, Montana and Colorado. They’d planned to take trips in their Airstream when the adviser retired, but he had an epiphany when his wife asked, “Why do we have to wait?” Because he was working remotely anyway and client meetings were all via Zoom, they realized they could make their dream a reality now. The adviser will leverage apps like the Mobile Internet Resource Center to find the strongest Wi-Fi signals, and he plans to blog about their travels so his clients can keep tabs on them. Many of the firm’s clients are excited about the adviser’s journey and are talking about which of their dreams they could start to execute on, too. How’s that for sending a message?
More advisers are reaching out to discuss their options for breaking away and creating their own independent firm. They’ve simply had enough of the constraints placed on them by their current firms, such as account minimums, investment choices or the inability to leverage social media. As one adviser told me, “I should be able to run my practice the way I want to do it, thinking only of my clients, without all these other constraints.” Some advisers have wanted to change their affiliation for years; the events of the past year helped many decide they can no longer wait to make a change for the better.
One silver lining for many advisers has been the chance to spend more quality time with their families. With nowhere to go and nothing else to do, families sat down to meals, played board games and watched movies together. One adviser confided that he used to work crazy hours and had a long commute, which meant he came home long after his children went to sleep. Since the pandemic began, he has realized just how much he’s missed by not putting his kids to bed, and he has resolved to be home by bedtime.
It’s a curious thing: Financial advisers are in the business of managing money and making money, yet no one I’ve spoken to has specified increased production as a measure of their success. Many advisers have told me they make more money than they thought possible. But money is not their motivator; instead, their focus is on giving back and helping less fortunate members of their community. Not surprisingly, these advisers are feeling a renewed sense of purpose and meaning in their work.
Do any of these goals resonate with you? Although no one wants to repeat the past year, the positives it generated are ours to keep. Whatever your vision for success, here’s hoping 2021 brings you closer to attaining it!
Kristine McManus is vice president and chief business development officer at Commonwealth Financial Network.
As our second lead editor, Cindy Hamilton covers health, fitness and other wellness topics. She is also instrumental in making sure the content on the site is clear and accurate for our readers. Cindy received a BA and an MA from NYU.