Short-Term Pain For Long-Term Gain

Is the gain from an advisory change worth the pain of change?

A recurring theme producing cognitive dissonance within many senior executives’ minds is the unspoken concern that the evolving complexity of their lives and expanding finances may have outpaced their existing advisors’ consultative capabilities.

With that being said, today’s thoughts center on one of life’s most challenging topics: Change. The thought of change is painful, and making a life change can be downright aggravating. So, the operative question becomes: How do we know if a possible change in consultative alignment might be worth the pain of change?

  • Here is a quick observation to prime the thinking pump: Our team has onboarded hundreds of leaders of Fortune 500 companies and large private companies in the recent past. Since the majority of these new clients had previous relationships with financial advisors and our client retention is strong, the de facto answer to this question must be a resounding YES; the gain from change is worth the pain of change!

What then prompts a desire to realign a long-standing consultative relationship?

A recurring theme producing cognitive dissonance within many senior executives’ minds is the unspoken concern that the evolving complexity of their lives and expanding finances may have outpaced their existing advisors’ consultative capabilities. Their college buddy just isn’t proactively cutting it any longer.

Think of Aircraft as an analogy. The higher the altitude and the greater the flight speed (props to jets), any pilot would agree that one’s thinking and forward vision must expand to provide time for optimal and, if necessary, corrective flight management. Unfortunately, clients generally assume that “their guy” flies at the same speed and altitude as they do. Unless their advisor specializes in working with Senior Leaders, we frequently discover that a client is flying a compensation jet at 500 mph and 38,000 feet. However, their advisor, while a great friend, runs an advisory practice predominantly working with folks flying Cessna prop planes at 140 mph and 10,000 feet. So now you know why people accelerating into the heart of their corporate careers feel cognitive dissonance that eats at their psyche, like low-level inflammation in the body, which is a root cause of many metabolic diseases.

Fun Factoid: The second most observed reason clients make an advisory change is analogous to why many jets have a co-pilot—for the safety of their passengers. Because of our focused specialization, we become the co-pilot for the non-financially oriented spouse, bringing emotional relief to the financial spouse and a remarkable degree of comfort to the non-financial spouse who “may” have been previously ignored—often by choice.

What’s next?

Our next blog will focus on specific topics that need attention when flying a compensation jet high and fast. If your present advisor is not focusing on these topics, you will discover that you have arrived at the point where the gain from change will be worth the pain of change! Here is the great news: we are masters of change, so making an advisory change is in NO WAY as painful or aggravating as clients in transition think it might be. Don’t let false evidence thwart your forward progress!

Stoddard Barnhill, CFP®

Sarah Leitzke, CFP®

Phillip Barnhill, CLU®


The Bahnsen Group is registered with Hightower Advisors, LLC, an SEC registered investment adviser. Registration as an investment adviser does not imply a certain level of skill or training. Securities are offered through Hightower Securities, LLC, member FINRA and SIPC. Advisory services are offered through Hightower Advisors, LLC.

This is not an offer to buy or sell securities. No investment process is free of risk, and there is no guarantee that the investment process or the investment opportunities referenced herein will be profitable. Past performance is not indicative of current or future performance and is not a guarantee. The investment opportunities referenced herein may not be suitable for all investors.

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This document was created for informational purposes only; the opinions expressed are solely those of the team and do not represent those of HighTower Advisors, LLC, or any of its affiliates.

About the Authors

Stoddard Barnhill, CFP®

Private Wealth Advisor

Sarah Leitzke, CFP®

Private Wealth Advisor

Phil Barnhill, CLU®

Director of Risk Management

For nearly 25 years Phil has worked exclusively with senior leaders of public and large private companies. Over the past seven years Stoddard has been carefully mentored in this niche market and is now mentoring Sarah, leading to a highly-specialized practice knowledge within the team. This focus on corporate executives and their family dynamics comes with significant insights into executive compensation, stock concentration, equity monetization, and the full life-cycle of a career in the C-Suite.

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