As I'm sure you are well aware, November and December have more than their fair share of holidays. These include Veterans Day, Thanksgiving, Hanukkah, Winter Solstice, Christmas, Boxing Day, Kwanzaa and New Year's Day, just to name a few. And then there is Festivus! I always thought this was a holiday dreamed up by the writers of "Seinfeld." But no, it's a real secular holiday celebrated on Dec. 23, a "playful consumer resistance" to the commercialism of Christmas.
Of course, historically, holidays had a purpose. They were meant to be a time set aside for relaxation, separate from the grind of our normal days. But the holiday season has morphed into a period that ranges between busy and hectic. Decorating, traveling, packing up families, gift buying and wrapping, cooking feasts, baking 40 kinds of cookies, going to parties, hosting company, cleaning and more have become the norm for many.
For others, including some of your clients, the holidays can mark the onset of the blues. Financial stress, fatigue, the inability to connect with loved ones, and even seasonal affective disorder can all play a part. As a result, the holidays are happy times for some — but certainly not for all.
What's Your Role?
So what does this have to do with you? Many advisers are looking for ways to play a bigger role in their clients' lives. They want to add value beyond the financial aspects, be it in big ways or small. Offering some holiday cheer to those who need it can provide just such an opportunity.
You know which clients are invigorated by the holiday season, which plan to take on life full steam ahead to build new memories. But you also know when clients have had a temporary or permanent setback, when they have faced an illness, or when they just can't or don't want to do it all anymore. In your role, you may know better than anyone else which clients will likely face difficult times in the months ahead.
Spreading the Cheer
Advisers are well-positioned to provide the information or experiences to help others — clients and their families, staff or business partners — avoid the holiday funk. Here are just a few simple ways to start spreading the cheer.
Put it in writing. Most advisers send out a holiday card or letter of some sort. This provides an excellent chance to include a few funk busters.
• Remind clients not to compare this holiday season with those of the past. Circumstances change, people around us change, and each person changes from within. It's only natural to expect that holidays will evolve over time.
• Let your clients know it's okay to accept help at the holidays, whether it's baking, cooking or cleaning. Or encourage clients to help someone else if they are at the other end of the spectrum.
• Ask your clients to consider whether holiday spending brings joy or if it's a burden. The tendency to overspend has been ingrained over decades. You might provide the welcome voice of reason and a reminder that it is the act of giving — not the price of the gift — that matters.
• The age-old recommendation to make a prioritized list of everything one has to do is a first step to bring hectic days within sanity range. Ask your clients whether there are any low-priority items that can be removed from their to-do lists.
Extend the invite. While some people have too much going on, others don't have enough holiday events to get in the spirit. The informal activity your office sponsors may be the only one some are invited to. Whether you're wrapping gifts or decorating cookies, extend an invitation and see who comes. If no one does, it is sure to be a relaxing event that your employees will enjoy!
Plan a volunteer opportunity. Service and giving are the best blues busters of all. Many people want to contribute but may need a little direction. Although it takes some planning, organize an event like cooking at a homeless shelter, delivering turkeys to those in need, or shopping and delivering food to the local food pantry — volunteering reminds us that there are so many people who have a much more difficult life than we do.
Schmaltz or Wisdom?
Is this schmaltz or is it wisdom? To be sure, concern over your clients' state of mind at the holidays is a topic outside the financial realm. I have no doubt some advisers will welcome these ideas (some are totally embracing them already), but others will feel it's not in their wheelhouse.
I also know we are in a rapidly changing industry. If doing what you've always done yields the results you want, there may not be a need for change. But if you notice the industry is becoming more behavioral day by day without you? Perhaps there is a nugget of wisdom in here you may want to try. Happy holidays!
Joni Youngwirth is managing principal of practice management at Commonwealth Financial Network.