Solutions for the Stress of Wealth Management

By Dr. Jack Singer

Hundreds of billions of dollars are spent annually because of stress: stress-related medical insurance claims; workers’ compensation benefits; reduced productivity and so on.


Feelings of stress, including the symptoms mentioned above, are not directly caused by the necessity to make cold calls or generate referrals, by market fluctuations and disgruntled clients or by fiduciary and compliance hassles. These situations may invite you to feel stressed, but they do not cause stress.

Here is an example: I was booked to be the opening general session speaker for an important financial advisor’s conference. After landing at the first airport for a transfer, a storm moved into the area, grounding all flights for the remainder of the day. It became clear that I would be able to get to the conference in time to open the next morning.

When I learned the flight was cancelled (the negative event), I had a choice regarding what I could say to myself. One option was: “Oh, that’s just great…now I won’t make the meeting, everyone is there expecting a rousing keynote, they’ll be disappointed and the meeting planner for the conference will be so angry at me that she’ll never book me to conduct a program again.”

Such a negative, self-defeating statement would immediately activate the nervous system necessary to deal with life-threatening situations. My brain would conclude that I was in an emergency and my body would react accordingly. My blood pressure would rise, my anxiety spike, and my behavior might become irrational…all resulting from my worried perception of a situation over which I had no control.


It is important to remember that you do have control over your self-talk. Although we are creatures of habit, we can learn to change any habit that causes stress for us.

Suppose that when I learned that the flight was cancelled, I told myself the following: “It is what it is! This is really unfortunate and I feel badly that I will not be there on time, but it is absolutely beyond my control. I will phone the meeting planner right away and see if she would like me to find a substitute speaker who is based in the city where the conference is being held.”

I could also have suggested postponing my keynote until the last day of the conference or even doing the keynote via Skype.

Consider this possibly stressful situation: You get a message from your assistant that your least favorite client is angry about how poorly the last product/equity you recommended is doing in the current, downward market and he wants you to call him as soon as possible.

This potentially negative event does not have to be stressful, depending on the self-talk in which you engage. If say to yourself: “I hate it when this client gets angry whenever the market dips and he blames me. I would like to dump him and suggest he find another advisor.” Just imagine how your stress and anxiety will spike.

But, you have choices. You could tell yourself that you will use active listening skills to allow the client to vent, you will empathize with his frustration, and once he is calm, you will remind him how you went over the risks with him when he purchased the product/equity and that this dip in the market is like all past dips–temporary. You’ll explain to him that your overall strategy in helping him manage and expand his wealth takes these unpredictable market dips into account and the strategy is still viable. Gently point out to him that patience will prove to be his most valuable learned skill, etc.

Using this technique you can convince yourself that, although you still wish that you didn’t have to deal with this client, you have dealt successfully with him before and you will so once again.

Ulitmately, the amount of stress you feel is up to you, isn’t it? Will you listen to the rational, positive voice in your head, or will you fall prey to the irrational, negative, “Internal Critic”? The choice determines your stress level and the choice is always yours!

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