Being a leader of a wealth management firm, the mother of young adults going through unforeseen challenges and the caregiver to my elderly mom during the current world crisis has rocked my world like never before. The first weeks were a blur as I worried about my employees, our clients, their families and my own family. Each day feels like Groundhog Day and ends with unforeseen twists and turns like that of a roller coaster ride.
My day typically begins at 5 a.m. when I skim through the emails that come in overnight. I read The Wall Street Journal and other credible news sources for signals, trying to eliminate the “noise” or opinions that are more conjecture than fact. Then, I meditate for 10 minutes before setting out on a walk where I listen to podcasts and inspirational content. One morning, however, our 27-year-old daughter called, triggering the first pivot of my day.
Working in the events business, she has gone through filing for unemployment, losing a house that she placed an offer on, being the first employee asked to return to the office, making an offer on another house and stepping up with ideas to change the future focus of her company’s business. She and I talked through the latest big challenge and her strategy.
Our second daughter, who teaches third grade to a low-income population remotely, asks me for advice on a new challenge. Underresourced, her passionate commitment may also lead to burnout.
Then, our 22-year-old son texts about plans for his virtual college graduation party. He is furloughed from one job and balancing an internship for a startup that may lead to a permanent offer.
In a few short weeks our kids have needed coaching, but have also shown more grit and resilience than I ever expected. As a mom, I am proud but also a bit fearful of the toll it is taking on them, physically and mentally.
Armed with coffee and a protein shake, I jump on the leadership team check-in call. Our message to employees and clients is simple: “We have a plan. We are OK. You are OK.” This is different from past times of crisis in my career. For employees, we must give shorter time frames for actions and decision points. Concerned over their stress and health, we are trying to find ways to thank and connect with them individually and provide wellness resources. Thankfully, our leadership team is transparent and vulnerable, which allows us to find ways to celebrate progress and success.
When this all started, I thought clients who were recent retirees would be the group hardest hit by world events. However, our team and I quickly learned that it was widows and widowers, the elderly, and business owners who were the most isolated. We quickly prioritized new strategies where multiple team members could reach out to those in isolation, including having children make cards for them. For the business owners, we are providing timely and helpful resources and offering coaching to help them navigate their changing landscape.
My next few hours are spent calling clients to address their life plans and wellness. We have a process that goes through six areas of life, how their money history will affect their decision-making and their 12-month developmental plan. This includes a review of their financial plan as well as a schedule of financial literacy programs, connective events with like-minded or like-situation people, and more. This provides a richer context for our conversations than simply reviewing the markets.
Every afternoon, I connect with one or more of my trusted allies. These are calls focused on learning, growing and meaning through the sharing of resources, new ideas and hopefully some laughter! I am intentionally choosing to “up the game” on positivity and reduce those who generate negativity and stress.
Finally, I end my day with my quarantine pal: my husband. We share the ups and downs of the day over dinner and music. I have asked for no world or COVID-19 news after my home office closes. Not every day is pretty, but we have a plan. I am OK, and my team, clients and family will be OK.
Heather Ettinger is the founder and CEO of Luma Wealth Advisors in Cleveland.