In their groundbreaking research conducted in the 1960s, two U.S. Navy psychiatrists determined that specific events that take place in one’s life (including events that take place on the job and elsewhere) all require adjusting to change, and the more changes that are required in a 12-month period, the more the probability that the person will suffer from emotional and/or physical illness as a result. This research led to a list of events that can potentially take place in one’s life and a number of points attached to each event, based on the difficulty of adjusting to the event (The Recent Life Changes Questionnaire).

As examples, the death of a spouse is the most points (119) and a major job change, such as moving offices, firms or even getting more responsibility on the job, is 51 points. The more points someone accumulates in 12 months, the more the probability that in the next 12 months he/she will suffer an emotional and/or physical illness, or even get into an accident while driving.

So, based on my work with advisors, let’s use an example of a fairly common series of life changes taking place in one year. If an advisor suffers decreased income as a consequence of dramatic market challenges or losing some valued clients (60 points), starts having insomnia (26 points), has in-law problems (38 points), has a significant increase in arguments with his/her spouse (50 points), ultimately separates from the spouse (76 points), and then plans for divorce (96 points), that advisor would accumulate a whopping 346 points in one year.

Three hundred or more total points accumulated in a 12-month period is considered seriously elevated, and is associated with a high risk for an upcoming illness (emotional or physical) or accident, both of which would significantly add even more to the point total.  (For a complete list of life change events and their stress point values, contact me at: or call me at 1-800-497-9880).

A Financial Advisor Success Story

Carl had just completed college and joined a brokerage firm with the goal of eventually becoming a full-service financial advisor.  Following a long illness, his father, with whom Carl had been very close, died. This death struck Carl particularly hard. Six months later, when he could not move on from his terrible grief, his long-time girlfriend could not deal with his depression and she broke up with him. Both of these events took place soon after he had begun an MBA program at a local college.

The event of his girlfriend leaving him pushed Carl over the edge emotionally and into more depression and anxiety, which manifested in the following symptoms: 

  • Chronic fatigue
  • Feeling overwhelmed and helpless
  • Difficulty falling asleep and constantly waking up in the middle of the night
  • Chronic tardiness in getting to the office (on the West Coast) by the time the market opened
  • Avoiding clients and prospecting
  • Contemplating quitting both his job and his evening educational course