The following is adapted from Freedom Street.
Every working person understands the importance of balancing work, life, and family. Non-working people (like your kids) do too! Financial advisors in particular aren’t talking enough about this balance. And while we all can feel dejected knowing that we’ve spent too much time at the office and will miss our niece’s dance recital, we’ll also feel less than enthused about leaving the office early, without producing much.
So, how do we find the perfect balance between work and our hobbies, family, and friends? Work and life, in other words? I’ve been on a journey to figure this out for a long time. In this article, I’ll share two stories of financial advisors I know who represent both ends of the work/life balance continuum: Hardworking Hank, and Laidback Lonnie.
Then, I’ll explain why they’re actually both sides of the same coin. By the end of this article, my hope is you’ll consider where you are on the work/life spectrum, and how to find the happy medium between working too much and not enough—and starting to live a truly rich life.
The Cost of Working Too Much: Hardworking Hank
Hank was a financial advisor who was always at the office—evening, weekends, holidays. The business had taken over his life. When I met “Hardworking Hank” (yes, this is based on a real person) at a conference, he was totally defeated.
At the time, the government was considering the Department of Labor (DOL) fiduciary rule. This had the potential to massively impact how some advisors do business. Even seasoned professionals who had great practices and had always put the client first didn’t necessarily have the proper systems that regulators would require moving forward. Hank was to make his work more repeatable, efficient, and effective—and he was always behind the curve as a result.
Hank was making good money, but his business was very transaction-driven, with less focus on building relationships. The practice had so much more potential for growth! He was a single, divorced dad with two children who wanted to be present with the people he cared about. The problem was work left him depleted, with no energy left for those he loved. He hadn’t taken a vacation in years, and he no longer had a mentor. He’d lost the networks he’d had earlier in his career.
Where’s the love?
Where you spend all your time is where you put all your love, and that takes away all the love you could be giving to something or someone else. Putting all your love into something that doesn’t love you back—like a job—is a sure way to end up alone. Sure, the job was liking Hank a lot with a paycheck. But, all the money in the world won’t give a person what they really need, which is to be heard, understood, valued, and loved.
Hank needed to find balance both within work—with processes—and outside of work, with the things that filled him up, like his relationship with his kids.
The Cost of Working Too Little: Laidback Lonnie
On the other side of the coin is Lonnie. Lonnie was another kind of financial advisor. He worked steadily and got to a point where he had an annual income in the low six-figure range without having to do much. He’d come in late, leave early, and had a pretty good life/work balance.
Or so it seemed.
“Laidback Lonnie” had a big house and a nice car, and his suits were tailored. He took his family on expensive vacations. But Lonnie was like a lot of other advisors I’ve known who get to this point: he wasn’t really getting anywhere. He had eased off the throttle so much, he was basically treading water. People like this come into work around 10 am, take lunch, then work for another couple of hours. But they don’t really do much in the four hours they’re at work.
I used to think advisors like Lonnie had it all figured out, and that’s why they could afford to goof off. But the truth is, they’re having problems. They may appear rich in every sense of the word, but many feel the weight of their mortgage. They haven’t figured out how they’re going to pay for that high-end European vacation this summer, or Sarah’s college tuition in the fall.
In this industry, just getting by and paying the bills isn’t making it. Advising clients on financial matters one way while living and working by a different set of rules isn’t authentic. Imagine how that feels to an advisor as he lays his head on the pillow at night. Deep inside, he knows something’s not quite right. Yet, advisors who live and work this way see themselves as great successes—and they keep riding that wave until it crashes.
Two Sides of the Same Coin
Hank and Lonnie may seem different, but their visions are equally clouded. Hank thought hard work and money would fulfill him. Lonnie had convinced himself that once he “made it,” he could relax, as if the mere image of success would sustain him. They were both wrong.
If Hank and Lonnie stayed on their paths, they would never create a rich life, live their legacies, and own their futures. They were on two different paths to the same place: nowhere.
They had no idea what freedom meant, or what being rich meant. Because they hadn’t figured that out—asked themselves those questions—they were both trapped somewhere else. In Hank’s case, the trap was a job; in Lonnie’s, it was a lifestyle that he couldn’t sustain.
But neither of them knew how to escape the traps they’d created for themselves.
Thinking About Where You Land on the Work/Life See-Saw
The Hardworking Hanks in our business—who succeed by outworking everybody else—work themselves to financial success, but that’s the only success they have. The Laidback Lonnies—motivated by a need to constantly prove their material wealth to the world—keep their heads above water just enough to buy (or lease) the next new car, or boat, or home.
To the outsider, these guys look like tremendous successes. Hank and Lonnie like to pretend they’re successful, too, but when they’re being honest with themselves, they know they’re trapped. With no real freedom, their realities are not living up to their dreams.
Do you recognize yourself in either Hank or Lonnie?
If so, the good news is it’s not too late to refine and rebalance your practice. Most advisors still have time to take control of their next stage—it’s never too late to do something about the future that you have yet to enjoy.
For more advice on creating a meaningful work/life balance, you can find Freedom Street on Amazon.
Scott Danner is the CEO of Freedom Street Partners, a practice that supports financial advisors in their next career step and helps them explore all available paths to secure a fulfilling future. After fifteen years of practicing on an employee platform, Scott founded Freedom Street. He took it from $0 to $2 billion in assets under management in just five years. Scott is the co-founder of the Chesapeake Virginia Wine Festival and enjoys traveling the country with his wife to watch their two sons play soccer.
Image Credit: Andrea Piacquadio; Pexels; Thank you!