The loneliness of the long-term adviser

By Jim Pavia

Mar 29, 2009 @ 12:01 am (Updated 6:01 pm) EST

As clients continue to freak out and look for "safe" investment solutions, financial advisers and financial planners are struggling with their own stresses.

Many carry a burden of guilt for not finding ways to protect clients from huge investment losses. Meanwhile, others worry about their personal portfolios and declining business revenue.

By any measure, the stress of the financial fiasco is taking its toll.

A few weeks before Christmas, I received a call from a financial adviser who is a loyal reader of InvestmentNews. He occasionally calls me to casually share his opinions and ideas for possible story development.

This particular call was anything but casual.

He told me that he knew of at least four financial advisers in the New York/New Jersey area who had committed suicide since October because of the financial meltdown and its effect on their clients.

His fear was that adviser suicides would increase if financial markets got worse.

Those fears are becoming real.

Recently, InvestmentNews reporter Jed Horowitz wrote about adviser stress as a result of the market meltdown.

Jed told the story of an adviser who became overcome with grief as he watched his clients' portfolios evaporate. In a poignant sign of the depths of advisers' concern for their clients, the guilt-ridden financial adviser committed suicide.

The adviser's suicide note, which was obtained by InvestmentNews, stated in part:

"Since you are reading this, I have just taken my life. It was necessary because the alternatives were totally unpalatable ... Some of the investment recommendations that I chose did not work out the way I had anticipated. I regret that very much ... I relied on my firm's due diligence and the assertions of the firm that I was putting clients in a conservative, income-producing strategy.

"I looked at all the data provided and decided that this was suitable for my clients. As it turns out, we have had unprecedented financial turmoil in our markets. We should have found ways to survive this turmoil. Unfortunately, I cannot survive this financially or otherwise."

Since that story was published, I have received letters and e-mails from readers telling me of other adviser suicides.

One adviser wrote:

"I personally know of four financial advisers who have taken their lives in the past four months all wonderful people and experienced advisers who not only suffer from the loss of their client's assets, but in several cases, they have also lost much of their personal savings through the devastation of their company stock ... Statistically, if I know of four, there must be hundreds."

Needless to say, these developments are disturbing.

In these tumultuous financial times, advisers and planners are under so much pressure that many have concentrated on their clients to the exclusion of themselves.

Advisers shouldn't bear the burden alone.

Find someone in whom you can confide, and share your concerns and worries.

Even when there are no easy answers, not having to struggle on your own can be a relief.

Jim Pavia is the editor of InvestmentNews.