As the boomers grow older, the talk turns to faith and values.
Tony Hendra, an acclaimed English satirist, wrote a book about his spiritual journey, The New York Times bestseller Father Joe: The Man Who Saved My Soul (Random House, 2004). From the 1950s, when young Hendra wanted to join a Benedictine Abbey, he became a "lapsed Catholic," bouncing from college in the 1960s to professional success in America in the 1970s.
Like so many luminaries (Hendra was associated with John Belushi, Chevy Chase and Monty Python) who read their own press clippings, life in the U.S. fast lane lead to business reverses, excessive drinking, drugs and a failed marriage. It took Hendra 28 years to find his "way back," aided by the miracle of a second marriage and three children-a journey of faith, friendship and family, and the decades-long influence of a patient and wise Benedictine monk, Father Joseph Warrillow. The book is Tony Hendra's conversation about love, meaning, values and the soul-saving importance of a charismatic mentor.
In conversations with clients, we may discern that they are beginning to define success in spiritual terms. We can run numbers for planning purposes, setting mortality at any age we wish, even age 100. But if we think about the fact that "end-of-life" to those with religious views does not mean end-of-existence, the real question is, "Where will you be 100 years after that?"
The answer to that question changes everything!
All along there have been financial planners who have been active and visible in houses of worship. There have been planning groups who openly espoused financial planning based on Judeo-Christian ethics and biblical teachings. But most planners were uncomfortable with "The God Thing," afraid that we might offend someone or push our views on others.
We are having those conversations now. Just like Tony Hendra's story, we need to know how faith and spirituality motivates clients and shapes their earthly goals and legacy objectives. Do they tithe, and is that to be built into cash flow requirements? What are their charitable intentions, framed in time, talent and treasure, and how do we as advisors help them to achieve those goals?
There are personal values-family, integrity, community, spiritual and service. There are societal issues-the definition of marriage, a child's right to life, creation of fetal tissue for research purposes, AIDS, environmental degradation, ACLU attacks on Boy Scouts, voluntary prayer in schools, whether or not a Nativity scene or Menorah can be displayed in a public park, whether a prayer can be said before a high school football game, whether "In God We Trust" can remain on our money-issues with a range of passionate opinions. These values will be debated more vigorously and play out in the political realm simply because growing waves of maturing baby boomers care about these issues. "The values thing" will be part of a growing conversation, and we as advisors, leaders and articulate communicators, will have a central role in whatever values-based future emerges.
Lewis J. Walker, CFP, is president of
Walker Capital Management Corp. and Walker Capital Advisory Services
Inc. in Atlanta. He writes a monthly column for On Wall Street magazine
and is a regular columnist for the Journal of Financial Planning.