Seatbelts, Please

A few years ago I was on a flight when the captain announced that there could be rough air ahead. Shortly thereafter, a very quick command came from the cockpit with a simple message…

“Seatbelts, please.”

For most people on the flight, this was a nonevent, as frequent flyers have an idea of what to expect when turbulence occurs. However, about five minutes later the plane began to experience major turbulence. As it bouncing across the sky, there wasn’t a passenger on the flight that didn’t seem shaken.

As I looked around, I realized I was seated next to a woman who was overcome with fear. She was almost in a state of total panic. It made me wonder; what makes a person move from nervous to terrified?

In this case, it was looking around to see that everyone nearby was scared as well. I quickly found myself in the role of counselor to the woman next to me, attempting to provide some rational thought to a stressful situation. Though no one knew the outcome, they all assumed the worst.

Once we were safely on the ground, it struck me how similar this flight was to my job as a financial advisor.

There have certainly been times when the stock market has given warnings that investors should brace for a patch of “rough air” ahead; what the investment business calls volatility. Most experienced investors have an idea of what this means and what to expect. However, every investor has that point when volatility goes beyond what they expected or reaches outside of their comfort level. It’s at this point that the person in the seat next to you can be of critical importance.

I’ve met investors through the years whose only experience with a financial advisor was like the captain of my flight simply stating “seatbelts, please.” My experience has been that when volatility moves into that uncomfortable stage, clients need someone sitting next to them that they trust. Someone that can provide rational thought to a stressful situation. The important thing to remember is that success is often the product of managing an uncertain world with a solid advisor by your side.

What happens when volatility becomes more than you expected? Is your advice limited to “seatbelts, please?” Hopefully you’re working with an experienced fiduciary who knows how to prudently manage risk and focuses on successful outcomes.

We know “rough air” lies ahead at some point – who’s sitting by your side?