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Staying Close While We Are Apart

We face so much uncertainty, loss and vitriol these days that it can be hard to keep an upbeat attitude. Sometimes it helps to pause, step back and put into perspective what really matters in life.

I’m thankful that no one I know has had serious health scares related to COVID-19, that my career remains relatively unaffected, and that I’m well-prepared and insured if something bad were to happen.

I've been working exclusively from home since March 10, which actually isn’t much of a change for me. A lot of my work has happened at home ever since I established Palisades Hudson’s Austin, Texas office in 2016. What has been a change is having my 2-year-old son, Luke, “working” alongside me.

Luke has an endearing habit of running into my office and yelling "Dada, hug!” He also has a habit of pleading with me to play with him, which pulls at my heartstrings as I review tax returns, rebalance portfolios, discuss clients’ financial concerns, and take care of their myriad other needs. Having my son at home is one of those challenges that is mostly a blessing. I wouldn’t have gotten the opportunity to spend this much time with him absent a pandemic. Thankfully, I’ve seen him develop his motor, language and cognitive skills despite an unhealthy amount of screen time. He’s also improved his ability to manipulate his parents.

Right before lockdown, I had the pleasure of meeting with both a longtime client and a brand-new client in New Hampshire. During the trip, I was well aware of the pending (and, in reality, already ongoing) coronavirus outbreak in the U.S. Even so, it was an almost euphoric trip. As I drove through picturesque New England towns, I appreciated the incredible opportunity I have. I get to meet with successful people throughout the country and share with them my insights on how to better achieve their goals. I miss seeing clients in person.

It’s the people we help and the people who help us that give life meaning. Social networks started out trying to unite us, and they still do, to some extent. But algorithms, politics and the distorted reality that social media can present detract from that goal. Many of us turn to social media in search of connection these days, only to end up “doomscrolling.”

Beyond social media, many of us have learned new ways to connect with each other through technology. Recently, I was very impressed when an 81-year-old client told me about his weekly Zoom calls with his family and then emailed me for the first time in our 13-year relationship.

I began writing this post after watching a Facebook livestream from one of my favorite musicians, Hayes Carll. He calls his Tuesday night coronavirus gig “Alone Together.” While it’s not the same as attending a concert, it cheered me up and allowed me to feel a sense of community from the safety of my house.

My clients and connections make my life that much more meaningful and enjoyable, and I want to thank you for the part you play. While Palisades Hudson currently has a policy prohibiting in-person meetings, for the safety of our staff and clients alike, we can still do our best to be together in other ways. My colleagues and I are always available for a call, Zoom, GoToMeeting, WebEx conference, Google Hangout, Microsoft Teams meeting, or a virtual meeting on any other software you prefer.

In the meantime, if we work together in any way, I'd appreciate it if you'd send a photo to ben@palisadeshudson.com. I miss seeing you. I’ve set a new goal to ask every contact to send me a picture; I plan to take another picture with every client, together, once we can see each other in person again.

I'll keep these pictures private and only share them among my colleagues and people who see them in our office. They will serve as a constant reminder of the many people who make my life brighter and the ones I have the opportunity to help.

If you’d like to share a selfie, that’s great. But I’d be even more grateful for a picture that includes something meaningful to you: your favorite vacation spot, your family, your pet, your maple trees out back, your car. Here’s a picture of Luke, Anais and me during our socially distant Easter:

Ben Sullivan and family.
photo courtesy Benjamin C. Sullivan

Hopefully, sharing pictures can help us feel a bit more together even if we’re hundreds of miles apart. If nothing else, it can be a welcome reminder of the things that really matter.

Client Service Manager Benjamin C. Sullivan, who is based in our Austin, Texas office, contributed several chapters to our firm’s book, Looking Ahead: Life, Family, Wealth and Business After 55, including Chapter 13, “Federal Income Tax,” and Chapter 16, “Investment Psychology.”

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