It’s the Second Wave that Can Kill You

The following is a true story…

I was lying on the floor of a hotel bathroom, trying to get air into my lungs.

Twenty minutes earlier, I had finished a large container of raw fish that I had brought with me to a conference in Southern California, stupidly letting it sit in my car during the morning sessions. Intense itching quickly covered my body, followed by wheezing and a feeling like my throat was getting smaller.

I ran into my good friend Brian, who was attending the same conference, and explained what was happening. We both recognized anaphylaxis, an acute allergic reaction to the fish.

Brian quickly bought two Benadryl from the hotel shop and handed them to me. I swallowed the pills and said I wanted to lie down and ride it out. Brian’s villa was nearby, so he gave me his key card. I thanked him, explaining that this had happened once before with fish, the reaction was short-lived, and that I was sure I would be fine.

There’s something calming about a well-designed hotel room, and this resort was beautiful. As I took off my shoes and lay on Brian’s fancy bed waiting for the Benadryl to kick in, I noticed that my wheezing was getting worse.

And then the nausea began.

The next thing I knew I was vomiting in Brian’s fancy bathroom like it was a high-intensity exercise and I had to do as many reps as possible. My abdominal muscles cramped, and I rolled over to press my cheek against the cold floor. The Benadryl had come back up with everything else, and I didn’t have any more.

It now felt like I was breathing through a straw. But was the straw getting skinnier? No, I don’t think so. It seemed to be stabilizing. “It’s not getting worse,” I thought. I was proud of how calm I was staying. Panic would just make things worse. With a little time, I was going to be fine. I returned to the bed.

The next few minutes happened fast.

The key card reader whirred and Brian entered with a doctor attending the conference too.

“An ambulance is on the way,” Brian said as the doctor sat down next to me, checking my vitals.

I told them between breaths that it was unnecessary. The worst had passed, and couldn’t they just let me rest? They exchanged a glance.

Then the ambulance pulled up outside the villa. While one EMT prepped a gurney, the other listened to my chest, chatted quickly with the doctor and Brian, and placed an oxygen mask over my face.

“I need your consent to administer an epinephrine shot and take you to the hospital,” he said.

“I feel better,” I told him. “I think the worst is behind me. I’d like to just rest here for a bit.”

“You don’t understand,” he said. “You need epinephrine.”

“But it’s not getting worse anymore,” I wheezed. I still felt calm. The EMT must be used to dealing with people overcome by pain and fear. But here I was, rational and deliberate. He would appreciate that, right?

The EMT looked hard at me and spoke as if I were an idiot. “If you don’t get the shot, you will die.”

I thought about this, and asked him a question. “Is there a second wave?” “What?” he responded. “Is there a second wave?” I repeated, “Where you feel okay, and then suddenly it comes back even worse.” “Yes,” he said. “There can be a second wave.” 

And then, unwilling to wait any longer, the EMT gave me the epinephrine shot, my lungs opened, and within a few minutes I felt completely normal again.

The ambulance took me to the hospital, and I lived to tell the tale. I also started carrying an Epi-pen.

So what’s the moral of the story?

First, Emergency Medical Technicians are amazing. So is epinephrine.

Second, never eat raw fish that has spent hours sitting in a hot car.

But third, and most importantly, sometimes you think you’re going to be okay because you’ve made it past the first wave of risk. But what you don’t realize — what I didn’t realize — was that there can be an even bigger hidden risk right behind it.

For anaphylaxis, this is called a biphasic reaction, and the second wave can happen hours or even days later, catching someone completely off-guard. For wealth management, advisors have been struggling with the disruptions of Covid-life for 18 months — technology challenges, prospecting restrictions, low morale, the headaches of working from home. Now we’re finally through it. 

But there’s a second wave, and it may be an even bigger threat to advisors than Covid was: It’s the $68 trillion moving from Baby Boomers to Next Gen, combined with Next Gen’s desire to receive non-financial value from their advisory relationships.

Over the past 18 months, tens of thousands of Baby Boomers and their parents died, and are dying still. Next Gen is inheriting these assets and saying, “We need family dynamics tools. Help my family achieve financial and emotional well-being. Don’t let us make the mistakes of our parents by focusing on money at the expense of happiness. We want both, and we want empathetic advisors who can help us achieve that.” 

Technically, this isn’t a biphasic reaction because Covid and the Great Wealth Transfer are separate things, not the same thing twice. But from your business’s perspective, this doesn’t matter. You’re still facing a double wave of massive disruptions. To see the hidden risk of the second wave, look at your book:

  • Are most of your assets under management held by clients over 60?
  • Are your relationships with their adult kids and grandkids weaker than your relationships with the principals?
  • Have you been defining your value proposition around asset allocation, stock or manager selection, tax avoidance, retirement planning, and other financial offerings that were the gold standard for Baby Boomers, but fall short of the non-financial value desired by their inheritors?

You survived WFH. Congratulations, you’re off the bathroom floor. It’s easy to feel sanguine, like I did, and believe you can stop worrying and go back to business as usual.

But a much bigger wave is coming.

The Indispensable Advisor program helps you deliver meaningful non-financial value to Next Gen more easily so you survive the second wave and thrive in the years ahead. To see different program options, click Membership Options in the header.

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