I spent the Memorial Day weekend at Lake Martin in Alabama with my family. This is where I have spent the majority of Memorial Days in my life. This year I slept the whole time. I went to bed early and woke up late. I even took naps. I was tired. After a month spent jumping from one exciting event to another (spring break, Easter, Jazz Fest, RWM Summit in Austin, CFA Annual Conference in London, three days in Paris), I needed to rest. I carried the theme over one more day and skipped my morning yoga practice this morning. I feel rested, refreshed, and rejuvenated.
Daniel Pink spoke at the CFA Annual Conference about the opportune time of day to perform certain tasks. He noted that while weeks and months are human constructions, a day is a real thing. The Earth rotates and we experience the rhythm of darkness and light every 24 hours (or so). A year is also a real thing. As the Earth orbits the Sun, we move through the seasons, the days lengthen and shorten, and the temperature rises and falls. I wonder if there are opportune times during the year for certain tasks. A time to travel, a time to rest, a time to clean out your desk, a time to brainstorm new ideas, and a time to reflect.
We are working on systemizing our client service model. Our goal is to ensure that we are covering all relevant financial planning topics for every client, consistently. Discussions around cash flow needs and investment performance might happen in every client conversation, but how often should we review insurance coverage and estate planning matters? What is the optimal month to discuss tax planning for the year ahead? These are the questions we ask ourselves as we seek to streamline our process.
Some things are not reviewed or revisited on an annual basis, but rather every few years or even once a decade. I moderated an enlightening session on wealth management by Philip Marcovici at the CFA conference two weeks ago. Marcovici works with some of the wealthiest families in the world, advising them on high level stuff like family governance and tax matters at a global scale. He facilitates family retreats where he interviews each family member separately before bringing them together in group discussions. I think this idea can be adapted for clients who are not yet dealing with multi-generational family members or cross-border investments. Retreats are a great opportunity to brainstorm and think outside the box. They can also be rejuvenating.
Marcovici recommends the creation of a family charter or constitution. This is a governing document that explains the source of the wealth, the intentions and goals of the controlling generation, and their vision for the future. The mere exercise of writing a document like this must be invaluable. Many estate plans create more questions than answers for heirs. Imagine leaving a perfect explanation of your motivations, hopes, and dreams for your heirs to read. Better yet, share it with them during your lifetime.
I need a ‘rest and rejuvenation’ weekend about twice a year. I always take one at Thanksgiving, coinciding with my annual break from internet, email, and social media. November is a good time of year to rest. The days are short, and the weather is cold. It’s the perfect time to curl up on the sofa in front of a fire and read a book. The end of May seems a good balance for a second rejuvenation weekend. Down here in Louisiana, the pace of life literally slows as the temperatures rise. It’s simply too hot to be in a hurry.
As we finalize our client service model, I am thinking a lot about the calendar and how to break up the year. January is a good time to review investment performance because the calendar year just ended. November seems the opportune time to discuss charitable gifts. Summer, despite all of its fun distractions, may be a good time for longer plan reviews and strategy sessions. Perhaps the slowdown in life’s other distractions provides a space for deeper thought and reflection. Before writing off summer as a time to reduce client meetings and conversations, I think these months deserve a second look as potential times to do the work we are all too busy to think about at other times of the year – a sort of rejuvenation of the entire financial plan.