Gracestone Featured in 2023 Midyear Outlook

The Joy Factor

An essential part of the job, joy is an overlooked and underrated aspect of wealth management. Advisors catering to high-net-worth individuals and families swim in a sea of portfolio managers, alternative investments, tax mitigation strategies, and an endless supply of analytics. After performance, our job is to seek and deliver joy.

The Philosophy of Joy

Ruminations on joy can be found throughout historical texts suggesting joy has been a goal of wise individuals since the Classical era, circa 600 B.C.  In his notebook of personal philosophical reflections, even Stoic philosopher Marcus Aurelius urged: “Live your whole life through free from all constraint and with utmost joy in your heart.”[1]

Shakespeare put it differently: “Things won are done, joy’s soul lies in the doing.”[2] For our purposes, joy is best seen as a deep-seated contentment, whose source varies widely among individual clients and families.

Expanded Expectations

HNW clients expect more from wealth advisors than financial performance. Discussions regarding personal and legacy issues can be sensitive. Handled properly, many of these discussions will lead to joyous results. Despite its highly subjective nature, three common threads run through HNW clients with joyous hearts.

Relationships – Double the Joy

Numerous studies confirm the best predictor of adult success and well-being is the presence of positive, enduring relationships.[3] Likewise, families who fit the generational paradigm of successful wealth creator + sibling partnership + cousin consortium are more likely to be joyous. Roman philosopher Marcus Tullius Cicero was right – “Friendship improves happiness and abates misery, by the doubling of our joy and the dividing of our grief.”

Top Tip: Encourage connections. When possible, introduce like-minded clients and friends. Every HNW family won’t look like an upscale version of the Brady Bunch – but avoid Succession-style drama at all costs.

Recreation – Say ‘Yes!’ to the Trip

The family that plays together stays together. HNW individuals and families are increasingly looking for experiential travel opportunities, expeditions and cultural experiences. According to global travel agency Virtuoso, 74% of HNW travelers agree that “creating a travel experience that best fits my expectations is more important than price.”

Top Tip: Travel is often the third item of importance in financial planning, after daily living expenses and health care needs. Help clients say ‘Yes!’ to the trip by including a robust travel budget that is revisited annually. Be prepared to address either jet cards or carrying costs for aviation ownership.

Resilience – “This is no time to go wobbly.”[4]

Described by Marcus Aurelius as the ability to “stand ready and firm to meet sudden and unexpected onsets,”[5] resilience goes hand in hand with joy. According to the Grant Study, “men with the most mature defense mechanisms – defined as altruism, humor, sublimation (finding gratifying alternatives to frustration and anger), anticipation (being realistic about future challenges), and suppression (yes, ‘keeping a stiff upper lip’) – were three times more likely to flourish in later life.” We know the same holds true for women.

Top Tip: Wealth advisors should keep in mind that a HNW problem is still a problem. Candid advice and positive encouragement will help these clients develop the skills needed to endure the occasional hardship.

  • [1] Meditations, 7.68.
  • [2] Troilus and Cressida, Act 1, Scene 2.
  • [3] See Triumphs of Experience by George Vaillant (2012) and What a Decades-Long Harvard Study Tells Us About Mental Health by Charles Barber, The Wilson Quarterly (Winter 2013).
  • [4] Margaret Thatcher, Prime Minister of the United Kingdom (1979 – 1990).
  • [5] Meditations, 7.61.