In a certain Middle Eastern country, the local phrase for “Congratulations!” directly translates to “May it be holy!”—isn’t this an excellent cheer for new babies, weddings, new homes, and job promotions?
an you imagine how different LinkedIn notifications would be if, upon your work anniversary or promotion, you received “May it be holy!” messages instead of “Congratulations!”?
Question: Is there a degree to which the financial services business can be considered holy?
What Is “Holy?”
Holy is deeply embedded in religious concepts and vocabulary. The Jewish and Christian sacred texts, in particular, are replete with usage of Hebrew and Greek words translated as the English word “holy.”
In the Old Testament there are over 830 instances of the term in all its forms.
“Holy” is often used to describe God’s glorious nature, which is majestically, radically distinct from all creation.
Is there more to this concept other than its religious meaning?
Hebrew is an interesting language because words carry the meaning of the original root word. Therefore, the Hebrew word most commonly translated “holy” is “Qodesh” which comes from the root word “Qadash.” This word means “to set apart for a specific purpose.”1
Holy is that which is separated from the normal in a conceptual way.
In this sense, something can be considered holy if it is set apart from everything else to do a specific job for a unique purpose.
How Can Financial Services Be Set Apart, or Holy?
Question: As an independent financial professional, can the work that you do become holy—in the sense of “set apart?”
After four decades in independent financial services, I have concluded that only one thing defines our efforts as holy: To the extent that we activate, implement, validate, employ, execute, put into practice, and help one person carry out love for another, our work is holy.
Shakespeare wrote, “Thy advice, this night, I’ll put in practice.”2 (Reading this out loud sounds a little Yoda-like!)
In independent financial services, we make it a habit of saying, “Your love for your family, this night, I will help you put into practice.”
Love Is Holy
It was again William Shakespeare who wrote, “Love is holy.”3
Similarly, Author Marilynne Robinson wrote, “Love is holy because it is like grace—the worthiness of its object is never really what matters.”4
Question: What does financial services have to do with love?
- Why do people buy long term care insurance? According to the National Institute on Aging under the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, the prudent person should “Begin by thinking about what would happen if you became seriously ill or disabled. Talk with your family, friends, and lawyer about who would provide care if you needed help for a long time.”5 Why would they take care of us? Our care will be the responsibility of the people who love us and on whom we depend.
- Why do people buy disability income insurance? According to the United States Government, people who care for their “loved one with special medical needs…and disabilities can get paid to provide care.”6 Further, “As a caregiver for a parent, spouse, or child with special needs, you may need help.”7 There are government programs designed to help compensate the person caring for, loving, a disabled person. The reason for DI is not only the insured’s love for family, but to find funds to reward the selfless, sacrificial love the caregiver has for the disabled insured.
- Why do people buy life insurance? According to the Insurance Regulatory and Development Authority of India (IRDAI), which is an autonomous body set up under the IRDA Act, 1999: “Anyone who has a family to support” needs life insurance. “When human life is lost or a person is disabled permanently or temporarily, there is loss of income to the household.”8 To support someone is to demonstrate love.
- Why do people save money for their children’s college expenses? According to the Office of the State Treasurer of South Carolina, “Future Scholar (529 plan) has helped South Carolina families reach their financial educational goals for their children. Our highly rated 529 college savings program continues to provide numerous benefits such as tax advantages, investment options and flexibility of use that enable families to save for their loved ones’ future.”9
- Why do people set money aside for retirement? According to the Social Security Administration’s Department of Research, Statistics & Policy Analysis, “Significant differences exist in retirement savings outcomes by marital status at young adulthood. For example, higher proportions of married young women (aged 22 to 35) were in households reporting retirement as an important savings goal compared to single and cohabiting women. Married women and men were significantly more likely to have an individual retirement account (IRA) or a defined contribution (DC) pension plan in their household at young adulthood than were their cohabiting and single counterparts.”10 But why should marriage be positively linked to retirement savings at young adulthood? The answer:
- “From a psychological perspective, the long-term commitment implied by marriage may allow young adults to envision their old age and retirement needs more readily.
- Marriage may also encourage young adults to feel more connected to their future selves, leading to more future-focused behavior.”11
Point: In our closest relationships we enjoy the holiness that is love. The independent financial service industry exists and is set apart from all other industries to serve people who are organized in families to fulfill their desire to protect and provide for their loved ones.
Truths about Families Can Be Extrapolated to Governments
The astute reader will have perhaps taken note of the fact that in each instance above, the source citing love as the reason for why people take financial actions is a government entity. Why would governments be inclined to weigh in on subjects related to financial services? Could it be that the needs within a family are congruent with the needs of a people, nation, or society?
“The success or failure of any government in the final analysis must be measured by the well-being of its citizens.”12
Consider the U.S. Constitution’s Preamble: ‘‘We the People of the United States, in Order to form a more perfect Union, establish Justice, insure domestic Tranquility, provide for the common defense, promote the general Welfare, and secure the Blessings of Liberty to ourselves and our Posterity, do ordain and establish this Constitution for the United States of America.’’
- Union: Sound financial preparation and planning helps keep families and loved ones united.
- Justice: Through estate and financial planning every member of a family can be treated justly.
- Insure Domestic Tranquility: Can it be any clearer than the words “insure” and “domestic?” Proper planning in financial areas helps maintain the peace among loved ones within families.
- Common Defense: Why do we recommend periodic review of beneficiary designations? Why do we urge people to have a Will? Why do we promote the use of trusts, LLCs, and other legal constructions? To defend their loved ones from creditors and others. Why do people purchase liability insurance for actions related to driving, home ownership, boating, etc.? To defend their loved ones from the financial liabilities arising from negligence.
- General Welfare: Financial services exists to help people provide for the welfare of their loved ones now and in the future.
- Blessings of Liberty: Liberty is about the freedom to choose. The fact is, life insurance, disability income insurance, long term care insurance, retirement savings, and college savings are vehicles for providing our loved ones with choices in the future.
The independent financial services sector is not only impacting families and individuals, but whole societies.
Does it not seem altogether appropriate that governments have generally given tax advantages to the products offered in independent financial services?
All of us in independent financial services have the opportunity to create and distribute products that are uniquely set apart, and that gain their holiness from the act of serving the objective of love enacted.
Caveats: Being holy is not easy. Love is not easy.
Fyodor Dostoevsky, in his profound novel, The Brothers Karamazov, wrote, “Love in action is a harsh and dreadful thing compared to love in dreams.”
Evelyn Waugh, in his novel, Brideshead Revisited, wrote, “No one is ever holy without suffering.”
A.W. Tozer, in The Knowledge of the Holy, wrote, “Faith is an organ of knowledge and love an organ of experience.”
Question: Wait, to build my individual financial services practice, to serve as a successful wholesaler, or to perform my home office job effectively, I need to be willing to embrace harsh and dreadful things, suffering, and difficult experiences?
Yes. But it is not as scary as it sounds.
- Spend the right amount of time. The job in financial services is never just to complete a task. It is always to make someone’s life better. Even if we feel like we completed the task at hand, we keep investing the time necessary to make sure the client or customer knows they have been seen and heard and that their love will be actuated.
- Accept people for who they are. Each person is motivated to demonstrate love for family and others in an individualistic way. While we can make suggestions based on what we have seen other people do, we must have the humility not to prescribe. Instead, we describe, then inscribe.
- Appreciate people for what they do. In independent financial services we celebrate every time a person decides a course of action, establishes a plan, and sets in motion something that will insure to the benefit of the people they love. The best thing we can do is make that celebration palpable. Tangible.
- Step into hard. Where there are humans, there is suffering. And difficulties. Never anticipate how someone feels about something involving their families and loved ones. Lean in and learn. Broken relationships abound. This does not excuse us from working harder to find the right solutions and properly tailoring recommendations and approaches. For where there is suffering, there’s an opportunity for us to create set-apart services based on love.
- Practice patience. There are certain people we actually prefer not to work with. It is admittedly hard to work with someone who sees life through an entirely different ideological lens than ours. We all know the command to love our neighbor like ourselves. Should we only do the “set apart” thing when we feel like it? C.S. Lewis wrote, “Do not waste time bothering whether you ‘love’ your neighbor; act as if you did.”13 We need to have the flexibility to work with people who feel differently about vaccinations, mask wearing, and the best approaches to resolving poverty, equality, immigration, illegal drugs, improving education, etc.
- Expect nothing in return. In their amazing modern parable, The Go-Giver, Bob Burg and John David Mann wrote, “Your true worth is determined by how much more you give in value than you take in payment.”14 In independent financial services we seek to serve as many people as we can, and sometimes get paid.
We must embrace our roles in independent financial services as people who provide something set apart for a specific purpose. The one thing that defines our efforts as holy is our ability to help people actuate their love for others in practical ways. The independent financial service industry exists to serve people organized in families and help them achieve their desire to protect and provide for their loved ones.
Truly, no other industry is similarly set apart for this distinct purpose.
One way we can encourage one another to have this proper focus is to revise how we celebrate career accomplishments. Maybe instead of saying “Congratulations!” when someone is the top producer, earns the “Wholesaler of the Year” award, or when the carrier reaches its sales targets, we could exclaim…
“May it be holy!”
- Ancient Hebrew Lexicon, vituralbookword.com publishing, Jeff Benner.
- “Two Gentlemen of Verona” (Act 3: scene 2) William Shakespeare.
- “All’s Well That Ends Well,” a play by Thomas Middleton and William Shakespeare, published in the First Folio in 1623.
- “Gilead,” by Marilynne Robinson (Farrar) The 2005 Pulitzer Prize Winner in Fiction.
- “What Is Long-Term Care?,” found here: https://www.nia.nih.gov/health/what-long-term-care.
- “Help and Support for Caregivers,” https://www.usa.gov/disability-caregiver.
- “Why Buy Life Insurance?” https://www.policyholder.gov.in/why_buy_life_insurance.aspx.
- https://futurescholar.com/ and https://treasurer.sc.gov/what-we-do/for-citizens/college-savings-programs/.
- “Mere Christianity,” C.S. Lewis, Geoffrey Bles (UK), Macmillan Publishers, HarperCollins Publishers (US) 1952.
- “The Go-Giver,” Bob Burg and John David Mann, Penguin Random House UK, 2007.