Get Better at Your Job—by Taking More Vacations

One of the most common mixed messages in the workplace is “You work too hard.’’ Americans, who already have far less time off than our peers in other wealthy countries, tend not to use all of the vacation days we do have: we left a cumulative 658 million days of paid time off unused in 2015. According to Project: Time Off, employees at all levels skip vacations due to fear of not meeting management’s expectations about commitment, along with valid concerns about the pile of work to catch up on when they return. But neuroscience tells us that time off is essential—and that our brain is never so “off’’ as it seems. Scientists who study the work and relaxation patterns of high-achieving artists and musicians conclude that long interludes between intense bursts of concentrated work fuel the flowering of creativity needed to create new art and music. Even for those who don’t work in the arts, a four-day weekend in a cabin without Wi-Fi may help to solve problems that baffle us at work. Research indicates the “resting’’ brain is using about as much energy as when we are immersed in problem-solving, which implies that deeper mental processes are at work in ways that are useful but not yet well understood. The bottom line is this: vacation time has value. So take your time off. Your brain will thank you—and your work will improve.

Not Just a Portfolio: an Unobstructed Life

At HighTower, we are in the business of delivering financial advice to people who are conscientious about managing money, but who measure their true net worth in something other than dollars.

This Is What the Uberization of Financial Services Looks Like

2016 could be the year that financial advice “goes indie.” That’s why the hottest job in my industry this year isn’t a new gig: it’s the independent financial advisor. At the end of 2014, the big national securities firms managed 38% of retail (consumer) assets — down from around 50% before the financial crisis. The share held by independent advisors has almost caught up: it’s at 36%. When we launched HighTower in 2007, we predicted that crossover was inevitable where independent financial advisors would advise more assets than the large brokerage firms.

Why the SEC Should be More Like the FDA?

The FDA and the SEC hypothetically play the same role in our lives: to protect us from products that could harm us. If you’re selling a new drug, you can't escape the strict oversight of the FDA. But if you’re selling a new investment product, you’ll have a much easier time getting it past the SEC. Prescription drugs must be safe and effective, but there is no law stating that investment products have to be effective. Or even that they have to be safe.

Are You Getting the Best Financial Advice?

When you go to a financial advisor, you’d assume he—or she—is looking out for your best interests. But not all advisors are required to put your interests before their own. That’s about to change though, at least for any advisor being compensated for making recommendations to anyone who’s participating in a retirement plan, like a 401(k), or who owns an Individual Retirement Account (or IRA).

Out of Office: You Need to Unplug to Recharge

Like most entrepreneurs, I’m “on the grid” most of the time, answering emails from my cell phone, texting, taking conference calls in the car, and so on. Building a business in today’s world demands near-constant connectivity. But most of us catch a break at 35,000 feet. When the FCC announced it was considering a proposal to lift the ban on in-flight cell phone use, some travelers responded with cries of opposition and outrage. The possibility of being stuck beside someone shouting over terrible reception for hours is enough to strike dread into the hearts of many of us frequent fliers.

Do The Scary Stuff

“Do the uncomfortable.” This advice came from my mentor at my first “career” job—the man who taught me to be a lawyer. Only he never actually spoke those words to me. Instead, he simply put me into situation after situation. Sometimes, when you are in uncomfortable situations…you feel uncomfortable. I recognized then that it was intentional. He didn’t tell me to take on challenges that intimidated me. Instead, he dumped them in my lap. One gift after another, and I’ve been grateful since #AdviceThatSticks.

Financial Services Has an Accountability Problem

The financial services industry has a problem: people don’t trust us. Although it is gradually rebounding, financial services ranks last in terms of consumer trust – behind the pharmaceutical, energy, automotive, tech and food and beverage industries. Among Millennials, trust in financial planners is especially low.