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Advisors, Advise Yourselves

Financial advisors need to take their own advice to avoid burnout and grow their businesses.

To steal a phrase from the world of medicine, advisors should consider listening more closely to their own advice when it comes to setting personal and professional goals and managing burnout.

That, at least, could be concluded from the findings of a recent survey of the advisor marketplace conducted by New York Life Investment Management. For example, nearly all advisors make some kind of goal-setting a key element in planning for their clients, but just 42% write down their personal and professional goals and refer to them often, the survey found. Just one in four consistently adheres to their goals and believes they contribute to success.

Yet this kind of planning is more important than ever as both advisors and their clients continue to struggle with the fallout from the coronavirus. Burnout is an overused word, but a more frequent concern even as the economy continues to slowly reopen. The survey suggests advisors could be doing better at managing the stress of their jobs. Many struggle to find the time to stay fresh and motivated, and to further build their skills. Nonetheless, just 34% of advisors make their own physical health a daily priority.

While there is an increasing movement toward a team-based approach to client account management, 30% of advisors surveyed still elect to keep their goals to themselves rather than sharing with a trusted group of people, and nearly half (45%) often choose to go it alone in managing client issues. This reluctance to engage with colleagues can shut advisors off to good new ideas and points of view, and result in additional personal stress, even absent a global health crisis like the one we’re now experiencing.

Core Qualities

Resiliency, connection, goal setting, boldness and intrinsic motivation are among the core qualities needed to succeed as a financial advisor. This is a difficult skill set to assemble in the best of times, and, as we all know, this has not been that. The lack of in-person meetings in a high-touch business has been especially challenging. But there are ways to work through this. We have identified a five-step process that, when adopted, can help advisors develop many of the traits shared by the industry leaders, a group we’ve dubbed the “top advisors.”

  1. VisionWhat’s your vision for you and your practice? It should be clear, focused and easy to articulate. Write it down. Research has shown you’re about 40% more likely to achieve a goal if you put it in writing.
  2. Believe. The best way to get started achieving your vision is to act as if you’re already there. Success breeds more success.
  3. Self-talk. Keep it positive, stay aware of the dialogue you’re creating and don’t let yourself get stuck in a mental rut. Don’t let those voices in your head talk you out of doing what you need to do to make your practice work.
  4. Get in the Zone. Clear out the mental clutter and focus on where you want to be.
  5. Deliver. Don’t leave projects unfinished. Set deadlines and meet them. Get things done.

Pandemic or no, there is always an opportunity to learn and do better. Advisors recognize this, with one in three believing they have “some” skills but need to learn more to produce better outcomes, according to the survey. One area that could stand some improvement: listening. Just 27% of the advisors we surveyed considered themselves “great listeners,” something we would consider another core skill for succeeding in the industry, and a characteristic commonly found among top advisors.

Another is persistence. For example, clients may not always agree on a recommended strategy or an investment idea the first time around. But if the idea or strategy is a high conviction one, it’s worth staying with it; yet, our research has shown that only 20% of advisors will continue to present an idea after a client has turned it down.

Thinking Outside the Balance Sheet

The best advisors take a holistic approach to a client’s wealth—identifying ways to advance family, career, philanthropy, and life and legacy goals. Many advisors have been challenged by clients on these non-balance-sheet fronts during the pandemic, helping individuals and families deal with stress and isolation in addition to providing financial guidance. This is a role many never expected to play, and the need to step up in this way is almost certainly adding to advisor burnout.

That’s the bad news. The good news is that for many advisors help is close at hand: their own advice.


Jennifer Tarsney is the Head of Advisor Advancement Institute at New York Life Investments.

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