Clear the Fog Around Market Madness Stress

This article first appeared in Nasdaq.

Stress-related brain fog is not only a health issue; it’s the blockage that can cause us to make poor decisions.

As an advisor, it can color the advice we give to clients. As a client, it can prevent us from questioning that advice or make us compliant or uncompromising. Worse still, it can make us argumentative and unwilling to listen to sound advice.

Stress is an issue, the source of which needs to be uncovered and resolved or at least managed. It affects us mentally and causes emotional strain and tension. It results from adverse or demanding circumstances, one of which is money. Financial anxiety results in stress and tends to make rationality disappear.

A challenge for advisors

I had reason to address this topic recently with a friend. Whenever I can, I play golf with “Jack.” He lifts my game, and I win occasionally, but generally, he’s a better golfer. Jack is a successful financial coach, advisor and competitive golfer.

Recently I beat him, hands down. I played well, but he wasn’t on his game. As we headed to the 19th hole, I asked what was troubling him.

He shared that many of his clients were rushing to change their financial plans believing the U.S. was heading for a recession, given current inflation levels, borrowing costs and stocks taking a pounding.

He and his advisory team were facing levels of client hostility while facing their own personal financial concerns. Jack confirmed he was stressed on three fronts – how to calm and advise the clients, prepare his advisors to serve stressed clients, and guide his teams through this onslaught.

Jack already knows his clients’ financial goals and timeframes; he knows their tolerance for risk and losses.

Practical insights

What Jack needed from me: How to open conversations with both advisors and clients about financial anxiety and the stress that raises emotional complexities that must be managed.

It’s not enough to say, “ignore the headlines” or “just breathe.” Jack needed practical help.

Jack and I talked about the importance of understanding our two thought systems: Our fast, instinctive and emotional system that is powerful and tends to be our go-to place in times of adrenaline rush…and our slower, more deliberate logical one that may not always challenge or question the fast decisions or conclusions we arrive at.

Add money to the equation and emotional decisions in times of uncertainty tend to take over. So, understanding what is happening to cause such stress is critical when seeking to manage stress and brain fog.

Address individual aspects

Even the most experienced professionals can become overwhelmed and react emotionally when finances are threatened. Regardless of how much you know about your clients and advisors, hardwired instinctive behavior can take over, paralyzing quality decision-making.

If handled appropriately, you can turn news, supposition and rumors of impending market challenges into a mental-freedom opportunity and be the catalyst to unleash tremendous positive opportunities. But first, you need to follow a few practical steps.

My advice to Jack was this:

  1. Acknowledge the stress and how it is impacting behavior and decision-making.
  2. Be a compassionate leader – take your eye off results and profit for the moment and focus on the people and their emotional wellbeing.
  3. Recognize that underlying issues and other areas of dissatisfaction could add to the stress levels of clients and advisors.
  4. Review client-advisor meeting strategies. Remind clients of their quality life goals.
  5. Recognize the different behavioral styles of the clients, which trigger different reactions; communicate with them on their terms

Remember, financial stress is a leveler; it doesn’t favor anyone. No matter your level of wealth, stress is available to everyone, from those stressed because of fear of losing what they have built over the years to those fearing the next mortgage payment or bill.

We all are responsible for understanding how best to guide clients and ourselves through financially stressful times, and the tools exist to help work through the process – this time, and in the future.

Hugh Massie

Hugh Massie - Chairman and CEO of DNA Behavior International

As an Identity Trailblazer and Behavioral Finance Insights Pioneer, Hugh Massie empowers advisers, business leaders, families and individuals to unlock their identity for accelerating dramatic change and discover how unknown behaviors which intensify through un-managed differences, money attitudes, pressure and emotions - derail performance.

Hugh helps advisers, leaders, families, and individuals adopt an “understanding people before numbers” approach to making Behaviorally SMART decisions based on their identity, thus customizing experiences for accelerating human performance.

Hugh’s real-world practical applications of behavioral insights and the mastery of the energy of money, blended with strong financial skills, gives him the unique capability to design a wide variety of universally applicable human performance apps. The tech Hugh has developed with his team benefits 1.5 million+ people annually in 125 countries & 11 languages.)