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September 3, 2010

Interview: What’s it all about? More than Money! (Part I)

by Fin Engr
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An accomplished professional, Saly A. Glassman has spent almost 30 years within Merrill Lynch. Her all-female team manages over $2 billion for high net worth individuals, corporations, and institutions. Recognized for her performance, she’s been ranked as: #1 Top Women Financial Advisor and Nation’s Top 100 Financial Advisor by Barron’s Winner’s Circle, along with other recognitions.

Her recently published book, It’s About More Than Money, was passed along to Engineer Your Finances by Goldberg McDuffie Communications. Along with the book, they offered us the opportunity to ask Ms. Glassman a few questions. Here’s what we got from the back and forth. Enjoy the interview and make sure to check out her new book!

FE: Alright, let’s start with the acknowledgments. You noted how you came to write the book, but what really sparked the decision to produce this work? Was it simply those who thought you had great stories, or is there more behind it? After publishing your first book, do you foresee yourself continuing to write and publish?

SG: As the economic downturn of 2008 unfolded, investors were suffering, and yet there was little acknowledgment or sympathetic outreach from the financial community. I felt that this was a huge mistake, and a lost opportunity. I openly campaigned for enhanced dialogue between Wall Street and the public, but I experienced great resistance. After all, if we said we were “sorry,” would that mean it was our fault? Finally, I just had to take matters into my own hands, by speaking out for the long term benefit of investors and advisors everywhere. I felt that by sharing the experiences of over 30 years of real client stories, readers could become stronger and more responsible. Writing a book is like giving birth out of your head! You might not recommend it to someone, but when it is happening to you, it can’t be stopped!! Since this book, I’ve authored related articles and op-editorials, and I’ve been hearing from readers who are asking for more. So, I think it is likely that I will continue to write!

FE: By and large, the style of the book held the most appeal to me. Making it more thought-provoking, you provided bullet-point ideas for me to think about and “fill in the blanks”. You also offered tons of compare & contrast case studies. Were all of these examples previous clients? And all were willing to contribute to the book?

SG: Yes, these cases were all real, from existing clients. In the process of writing the book, I spent hours interviewing investors, to provide texture to each history. This process was a wonderful experience, as clients and I shared memories of our mistakes and successes together. I think there was also a sort of healing that took place, as subjects recognized that they could play an important role in helping others to avoid common pitfalls and take responsibility for the future. Later, I asked clients to “find themselves” in the text, and they enjoyed a bit of a “treasure hunt” in locating their stories.

 

FE: Maybe a little dangerous, how did you decide on the chapter title – “Crises Are Like Little Gifts”? It’s a great lesson although I’m sure some people will grumble. This wasn’t your first financial “crisis” either was it? You began working during the Savings & Loan Crisis. How did that time shape your financial outlook and subsequent financial decisions?

SG: My first real crisis was in October of 1980, when I started my job at Merrill Lynch! Interest rates were skyrocketing, inflation was out of control, and the stock market was a on rough ride, and going down. Investors everywhere were discouraged and fearful. I learned rather quickly that crises are a part of life, and you can’t stop the really big tidal waves from happening! What you can do is examine how you behave, in anticipation of these crises, or afterwards, in how you learn and change your behavior. It’s what you do with the crisis that counts. I had plenty of opportunities to practice this, through the S and L crisis, the stock market crash of 1987, the Iraq war, tech bubble of 2000, and of course, the most recent downturn of the last few years. Each crisis is an opportunity to reevaluate your behavior and carve out a new path. What better gift could you be given, than another chance to do better next time?

 

FE: Throughout the book we see a common trend: don’t blame others, accept responsibility for your actions, understand what you don’t know, etc. There seems an underlying theme hidden beneath all of these – honesty. Is that primarily what’s lacking from the financial industry? Could we attribute the push towards transparency as an attempt to regulate and control this?

SG: The problem is not a lack of honesty, it is a lack of courage and integrity, and it’s not just in the financial industry! Yes, it is true that legislating transparency is a step in the right direction, and ultimately, there will be much more legislation of many more things. This will all be driven by the philosophy of the times, that we can’t “leave people alone” (i.e., trust them,) and assume they will “do what is right.” The deeper, more meaningful solution is for every one of us to ask what we can do to sustain humankind and all life here on earth. That leads to tougher questions and choices. For now, we can start by asking “what can I do to take responsibility for my life?” before blaming someone else or trying to get the hard work done for you.

To Be Continued…


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