“If I could pick up a megaphone and say one thing to the clients of financial advisors it would be to make sure your advisor is happy.”

This statement came from a well-respected, nationally known investment advisor with 20 years of experience. He could have said to be sure your advisor is a fiduciary with no conflict of interest, is competent, or has impeccable integrity. Why “happy”?

The speaker did not intend to minimize the importance of financial advisors being fiduciaries with competence and integrity. He meant to raise the bar a notch above those essential standards that every financial advisor should bring to the table.

His assertion raises two questions. First, why should you care if your advisor is happy? Second, how can you tell whether they are?

Your advisor’s happiness matters because it is directly related to the quality of their services. The best advice and planning will come from advisors who enjoy what they do, bring energy and enthusiasm to their work, and take impeccable care of themselves as well as their clients. Otherwise, even the most skilled and dedicated advisors will eventually burn out.

This is true of any helping professional. I know a physician who accepted what was supposed to be a part-time position. Because of a shortage of physicians with her skills, she quickly was asked to put in over 40 hours a week. She told me, “I never wanted to work full-time because my specialty is high-stress and I need time to physically and emotionally recharge. I have a hard time saying no when I consider we are understaffed and we have patients who desperately need my help. I will probably need to quit because my employer isn’t getting it that I am burning out.”

Her resignation would be a loss for her, the employer, and the patients. Everyone might well be better served by her part-time but whole-hearted and happy services than her being pushed to a point of burnout.

The same is true of financial advisors. Those who have formal education and degrees, are advocates for their clients and adapt compensation models that avoid conflicts of interest, and have impeccable integrity are in short supply nationwide. Like other skilled professionals, they are vulnerable to burning themselves out by taking care of their clients at the expense of their own well-being.

Some warning signs that your advisor may be unhappy include:
• Working long hours
• Complaints about not being able to find or afford skilled help
• Complaints about not having time for exercise or other self-care
• Undercharging
• Not wanting new clients
• Responding to clients’ questions or needs with impatience or reluctance.

Not all of these behaviors necessarily signal unhappiness. Working long hours, for example, may indicate that advisors love what they do and consider it as play. Happy advisors are passionate about and enjoy their work.

If you’d like to know whether your advisor is happy, I don’t suggest asking directly. You would probably get a startled but perfunctory, “Yes, of course.” Instead, observe and listen. Does the advisor express gratitude and realistic optimism? Do they have a sense of humor? Do they appear authentic, creative, and self-confident? Do they have comfortable and mutually respectful relationships with their colleagues? Do they seem genuinely interested in helping you find the best options and solutions?

Happy advisors enhance their integrity and skill with the enthusiasm and creativity they bring to their careers. They like themselves and place a high value on taking care of themselves as well as they take care of their clients. Chances are good that a happy advisor will also have happy clients.

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