A New Kind Of Normalcy

It seems that everywhere you look these days, people are longing for a chance to rest and relax. It shouldn‚t surprise anyone that after all the events of the past four or five years, most of us are emotionally and mentally exhausted.

In many ways, 2004 is shaping up to be the first normal year in almost a decade, although with five months left, that‚s hardly guaranteed. What do I mean by normal? A year without a bubble going into orbit or a bubble bursting, without a new financial scandal, without a new political scandal, without a new war and without, well, I don‚t want to go there and jinx us all. Unfortunately, terrorism and the specter of it have become part and parcel of what is emerging as a new kind of normalcy.

Just as it‚s a mark of the U.S. economy‚s strength that we recovered from the biggest bubble in history with only a mild recession, it‚s a mark of our resilience and adaptability that we‚ve adjusted to a world where the threat of terrorism is a part of our daily lives. Normalcy may never be the same. As Senior Editor Ray Fazzi describes in a fascinating article on the lingering effects of September 11 on Page 63, the events of that day reminded us of what‚s really important in our lives.

Not surprisingly, money got knocked down several rungs. One advisor Ray interviewed pinpoints a cause-and-effect relationship between September 11 and the real estate boom that began shortly thereafter, calling it a "cocooning effect."

Whether it was conscious or subliminal, many emerged from that day resolved to be better persons. No one has surveyed it, but I would bet the number of advisors doing pro bono work has risen substantially.

All of this has implications for how advisors run their practices. If someone wants more time for quality of life and more time to do pro bono work or give something back, they had better learn how to run their business better.

Many advisors have done exactly that. Practice efficiency has become the next big thing in the advisory profession for reasons more practical than quality-of-life issues. Economic forces have conspired to squeeze margins in all sectors of the economy, and advisors haven‚t been spared.

Still, after all the trauma of September 11, it is the U.S. economy that is leading the way to global expansion. The singular focus of virtually all the players in the world economy on efficiency and productivity has been relentless and shows no signs of slowing down. America has found this easier to deal with than many other nations, like France and Germany, because we embraced a productivity revolution in the 1980s. The socialist countries in Europe and elsewhere are only starting to embrace it.

Can we be a kinder, more thoughtful people while retaining our competitive spirit? The fact is we already are.

Evan Simonoff