Take the Long View
Host: Matt Hall
Guest: Marilyn Wechter
00:00:06 MH Welcome to Take the Long View with Matt Hall. This is a podcast to help reframe the way you think about your money, emotions, behavior and time. The goal: helping you live richly. We'll talk with the best thought leaders we know to learn from their meaningful experiences. We'll bury the vegetables of world-class thinking and stories and conversation. Helping you reframe your prospective so that, you too, can put the odds of long-term success on your side.
00:00:42 MH Today, I'm joined by Marilyn Wechter. Marilyn, I'm so glad to be talking with you.
00:00:45 MW Thanks. Me too!
00:00:47 MH So we know each other and we can't pretend like we don't and I'm obsessed with the way you've helped me, my firm and, ah and so many other people in my industry, sort of go beyond the spreadsheet. You know in my world, we're sort of obsessed with data and evidence and the quantitative. And yet, we work with humans. And so, your expertise and your guidance has been hugely helpful to me and to my firm and I'm excited about having you share some of your wisdom with our audience.
00:01:18 MW Delighted to be here.
00:01:18 MH You know, I don't know if you like this analogy, but I think of you in some ways as a Mr. Miyagi. Do you remember Mr. Miyagi?
00:01:24 MW No.
00:01:24 MH Ah, Karate Kid. Legendary the... so I haven't sanded your floors nor painted your fence, but, um, Mr. Miyagi was a teacher, ah, to Daniel's son and Daniel was his student in many ways. Uh, are you familiar with Obi-Wan Kenobi or...?
00:01:43 MW Yes
00:01:43 MH Okay so wise, giver, generous giver of wisdom. That's in part how I view you. You know, in fact, I always tell people, like, you're definitely one of the top people I've met in my life who I am not related to. Okay, so let's talk a little about what you do. Let's set that up for people. You're a psychotherapist.
00:02:04 MW Right.
00:02:04 MH Sometimes that scares people. Why do you think that scares people when you say, psychotherapist?
00:02:08 MW Because I think we live in a time where people are fascinated by what goes on inside of them and terrified about what goes on inside of them. And so, I think when people think about a psychotherapist, they think about looking at what makes them do what they do, why they do what they do, what their motivations are and what their anxieties are.
00:02:28 MH You've been doing this, I think, for over 30 years.
00:02:32 MW I went into private practice back in 1980. I'm pushing towards 40!
00:02:37 MH oooooo! Okay, so do you fancy yourself as St. Louis or a New York or some combination of the two?
00:02:45 MW A combination of the two. I'm still not ready to say that I'm not a New Yorker but I've lived here longer than I've lived in New York.
00:02:51 MH Yeah, I was uncertain. That's why I asked that question. Okay so, Marilyn, you work with adolescents, adults, couples, family and you have a particular focus or a niche in money. Do you want to share with us a little about what your practice has been like and how you spend your time in the past and what it might be like in the future?
00:03:09 MW Sure. You know, I went into private practice in 1980 and I worked primarily with adolescents and their families and money always kept coming up as an issue. And there's very little written on money and psychotherapy and money and people because it's topic we don't talk about in this culture. So, after a while I realized I better learn more about this. And so I moved my practice to focusing on issues around wealth, around attitudes towards money whether it's earned or inherited or a windfall, so that at this point, I work a lot with individuals, I work with families, I work with financial advisors, estate attorneys, really trying to create a safe space for people to think about what wealth means, what money means, relationships to money, how people use money. Um, so I do a lot of speaking, I do a lot of group work with families, I do a lot of work with estate attorneys, um really pretty much all over the place.
00:04:15 MH Can you maybe talk about, um, how we met and do you remember how long ago it was?
00:04:24 MW I don't know how long ago it was, at least 10 years?
00:04:25 MH Like the early 2000's somehow.
00:04:27 MH Yeah, Yeah.
00:04:27 MH An old boss of mine came up to me at a conference and the way I remember it, he sort of whispered in my ear, "I've got someone for you". (Laughing)
00:04:40 MH (Laughing) And, um, I did not really understand what that meant at the time.
00:04:44 MW (Laughing)
00:04:45 MH But he was like, he said, "You'll know what to do". And um, when we met, I remember thinking, "Man, you are so what we need at this time". Because in our space again, we're very comfortable on on the spreadsheet, living in the quantitative, and that's court or job. But because, I, I keep going back to this comparison with the book, Moneyball, or in our office, we like the book, Astroball. There's been a huge revolution in baseball around data and evidence.
00:05:16 MW Mm hmm
00:05:16 MH But you still are working with humans. And so, it can't... it has to be an AND. It's not EITHER/OR. But there isn't a curriculum in the wealth management or financial advisor investment management space for going beyond the spreadsheet. So, I view part of what our firm has done with you and what I've done with you is just sort of building out our own curriculum.
00:05:36 MW Mm hmm I think that's a great way of putting it. I think, sadly, lots of people who go into your business are comfortable with numbers, but not so comfortable with people. I don't understand how one can separate the humanity of somebody and their money. I think that there's already a movement again in the culture where money is treated as something that it's not. And so, I think that the goal for everybody is to have their money be something that brings value to their lives. And, if you're working with somebody who only looks at the spreadsheet, how can they know what value means to you? So, I think it’s a failing in the industry, but I think it's starting to change. I think that there are groups that are trying to pay attention to it and I think more and more advisors are recognizing that if you don't pay attention to the person at the end of that spreadsheet, you're not going to be able to maintain a relationship, bring value to them, and keep their business.
00:06:37 MH Mm hum. What is it that you think we're so scared of? Why is it that, um, I don't know if you'd agree with this, but if feels sometimes like we're more comfortable talking about politics, sex, religion over money. I feel like especially, we're, we’re taping our conversation here in the Midwest, especially in the Midwest, and I don't know if you would acknowledge some regional differences across our country, but why is it that money is such um, a taboo subject, even still?
00:07:05 MW One, I don't think that there are particularly regional differences. I work with people around the country, um, and I find this same kind of prohibition against talking about money because I think money has so many different meanings for people. For some people, money means shame, having too much or too little. Uh, we don't talk about money growing up so if you think about kids and families, parents don't talk with their kids about money. They send them the idea that money is important, but they don't really flesh out what is it about money that's important. And is it money or is it what money can do for you. So that I think it starts really early and then I think when we're adults, there's this idea that, "Oh you don't every tell anybody what you make. You don't talk about money". Um, I think it does us all a disservice because it keeps it very rarified. When we don't name things, they have a lot more power than when we can name them and codify them. And that's really what my work does and that's what the work that we've done together is, which is kind of, let's take it out of the shadows, shine light on it, look at it and understand what it is and what is isn't. What it can do and what it can't do.
00:08:13 MH Okay Marilyn, so how do you help people start to open up or maybe, maybe by the time they get to you, there's some problem or issue that's helping them want to open up about money. If we've been historically closed off, and we don't have, haven't had models for how to talk about money, what are some of the baby steps to getting people to sort of begin a new conversation or start to think differently about the level of transparency around money?
00:08:40 MW Asking. (laugh) You know so that when people come into my office, and you know me well enough to know I ask all sorts of questions, um, about all sorts of things. I'm curious. I think that when people feel that it's okay when there's a safe space, they start talking about it because, as you know in the work you do, people have all sorts of feelings about it. There's just no space where they're given permission that it's okay to talk about it, that you can talk about numbers, you can talk about how you feel about giving money to your kids. So, it's really a matter of setting an intention that's it’s okay to talk about it and more than okay, it's a really good thing to talk about it.
00:09:21 MH I had an experience recently that reminds me of, I think what you've done for me and what you do for many other, I have been having problems with my shoulder and it's been really bothering me and I've done some physical therapy and gone to see experts, and finally they said, "You need to have an MRI". And I've only had an open MRI before. I had never had like the real one with the big powerful magnets. And so, I had a little bit of anxiety going into this MRI, not because I think I'm claustrophobic, but because it was a new experience and people had said, "Hey, it's a tight space!". As I got in there, I saw someone I knew, I felt pretty comfortable, the person who was helping me said, "Hey, this is going to be easy, you can handle it. Keep your eyes closed, no big deal". As I started to go into the tube, I felt my opposite shoulder, not the one we were going to be taking pictures of, but the other one, sort of graze against the tube. And it surprised me in a way that made me want to open my eyes. So, I did, and it freaked me out. And I said, "Excuse me! Bring me back out! We got to do something different". We came back out and she calmly said to me, "Okay, I have some glasses that I think are going to help you. My instant reaction was, there are no glasses that are going to make that tube bigger. The tube is tiny.
00:10:30 MW (Laughing)
00:10:30 MH The thing was inches from my face. I don't want that feeling again. But she said, "No try it, I think you might actually be able to do this". She put the glasses on me, I started sliding back into the tube. I'll be darn if those glasses did not do the trick! She said they were called prism glasses and they allowed me to see down, sort of past my own feet and I could see her! Cindy! Cindy! She was helping me! I could see her! And if I needed to talk to her, I could speak to her through the microphone. I had this same set up, the same reality was all around me, but the experience was completely reframed by these glasses that had, I guess, like mirrors in them that shot my vision, instead of straight up, straight out to the opening.
00:11:12 MW Mm hmm
00:11:13 MH And I could help but think almost instantly as I, well after I made it through the 40 minutes of weird noises and wearing these prism glasses, I couldn't help but think that that experience is so connected to what you do for us. And in part, I think what my my, firm does, is sort of reframes the experience or recontextualizes the, the world around you in a way that allows you to cope and keep going.
00:11:41 MW Right.
00:11:41 MH Does that, does that story connect with you in a way that feels true?
00:11:47 MW Oh I think it's a great... it's a great metaphor because life is how you look at it and that that also gets back to talking that when we're set in our ways of understanding the world, it's pretty fixed. The idea is to have that be flexible so that you can look at things from different perspectives. And when you're able to look at things from different perspectives, you have different reactions. And then you have different options that we narrow ourselves in just like that MRI tube and feel claustrophobic with what possibilities we have. When we can expand that or look at it differently, or focus in a different way, we expand our possibilities.
00:12:30 MH Yes. Okay, so one of the things I love talking with you about is this idea of like toughness. And I don't know if you remember this, but one time a long time ago I was, we were doing an event and I said to you, "Oh, here are my introductory comments of this speaker". And you said, "Oh Matt, please don't say what's in your introduction". And I thought, "why not?". And you said, "eh, your characterizing toughness in a way that I don't think is what you really want to say". And you helped me view toughness, sturdiness in a completely different way. Do you remember that?
00:13:09 MW Yeah.
00:13:09 MH And do you remember the concept?
00:13:10 MW Yeah. I think what I said then is what I'd say now is, it's resilience that we're after, not so much toughness. That the idea is how do we absorb the inevitable setbacks or issues in life. So, that the goal is not to be tough because somehow tough implies closed off. Resilient means having the sense that one can come back from setbacks and not be destroyed. So that when we think about how we all want to be, we want to be resilient that may include some toughness, but we want to feel as if x-event won't devastate us but rather there's a way to come back and look at it and integrate it and grow.
00:13:57 MH The thing that I locked in on that you shared with me that I can't get out of my head is like, you said, "The buildings that stay after an earthquake are the ones that sway.
00:14:09 MW Uh huh.
00:14:11 MH The ones that fall, are the ones that aren’t willing to bend".
00:14:16 MW Rigidity is really fragile when one thinks about resilience and one thinks about flexibility, it means adaptability. It means being able to withstand without being destroyed. So the earthquake model is, you know, there's a building, um, I think it's Wacher Drive in Chicago, it was one of the first high-rises and people talked about the fact that the water in their toilets moved and that was really about the way the building was built to withstand the high winds of being in Chicago on the shore. That's the same metaphor. It's the earthquake metaphor. It is the individual metaphor for all of us is, the more flexible we are, the better we withstand the inevitable slings and arrows of life.
00:15:04 MH Mmmm. So, you said to me also around this same idea, the question isn't really, Matt, how tough you are, it's how soft are your knees.
00:15:13 MW Mm-hmm
00:15:13 MH And I always think about that, um, and that again totally reframed for me in our business, we're always looking for disciplined clients.
00:15:23 MW Right.
00:15:23 MH Tough.
00:15:23 MW Right.
00:15:23 MW Clients like people who can withstand long periods of, um, uncertainty. And, I, I always think about that soft knee comment. Um, it really rings true for me.
00:15:39 MW Well, I'm glad it rings true for you because I think that it really is about connecting with a whole person. So, people can be tough, but what's the price of toughness? In some ways, you have to cut yourself off from the soul of yourself, right? So, if I'm tough, it means I'm putting blinders on, I'm just moving forward and I'm not going to let anything distract me. If I'm soft kneed, it means I can take in and react with my world but still have the sense of confidence that I will be able to still come out without being devastated. I mean, that's the goal for all of us, right? To withstand the inevitable setbacks that life brings, whether it's the market or something personal.
00:16:29 MH Okay, this is kind of weird, this is heavy chatter. Let's go a little lighter. I got a couple of questions for you. It's just that I think people might be interested in about just the life of a psychotherapist. What percentage of people would you say, like, in, in, in a normal day for you, what percentage of people end up crying?
00:16:47 MW Ah, I don't know. (laugh)
00:16:48 MH Half? A third?
00:16:50 MW You know it's really interesting because I can't answer that question because whether people cry or not, it's just part of the fabric of what goes on in this safe space of my office.
00:17:00 MH Yeah
00:17:01 MW I certainly have tissues everyplace.
00:17:03 MH Do you ever get tired of listening?
00:17:05 MW No.
00:17:06 MH You're a great listener! You're like a world-class listener. I always think to myself, "does she ever go home and be like, no one talked to me. I've heard it all! I don't want to hear another thing."
00:17:16 MW No, but my husband has certainly learned that when I come home, because I only have a 5-minute commute from the office to the house, is I go up to my study and just kind of putter for a while. I can't, I don't, I need a period where's there's no more input.
00:17:29 MH Mm hmmm. Um, I was thinking about Ian too, your husband. I think, what's it like to be him? Do you already know what he's thinking and feeling before he says what he's thinking and feeling? And like how does he like talk or share? You've got him all figured out probably?
00:17:43 MW You know, that's the joke. You know, people... you're at a cocktail party and said, "oof!" Somebody will find out what you do, "Oh I can't talk to you because you can read my mind". It's a certain kind of listening that I do in my office. And when I'm out of my office, I don't listen with that kind of rigor.
00:17:58 MH Mmmmmm. You also have to probably... beyond being a world-class listener, my guess is that you have to have world-class patience. That even if you think you know the answer to how to help someone get stronger, better, recontextualize the world around them, you have to... it feels to me like you , you lead them there in a very patient manner.
00:18:27 MW My having an insight isn't going to help somebody else get to an insight unless they're ready to see it. So, a lot of the work is building the path to looking. Um, you know if you think about being in the ocean, you don't usually get dropped in the middle of the ocean. But it's a process of going out bit by bit, maybe with somebody trusted. So that when you're in the middle of the ocean, you know how you got there and there's a way where you both know things. The goal is not for me to know, the goal is for us to know. The goal is for you to understand. So, my job is not to tell you what to do, my job is to help you find the answers within you. There was a movie years ago called Labyrinth. I used to teach film and there's a line in there where this woman says to the young girl, "You've always had the answers within you. You just had to find them". That's really how I view my work is to help you find the answers that are within you. And so, patience is essential because it's not going to help you for me to override that.
00:19:37 MH Yeah, I love that and it sounds so beautiful, but I also can't help but feel for you and how, how, how much time (laughs) it takes, and how, you've taught me this too, and this is a serious note, it’s like, ah, "Don't devalue your full presence with another human being". I think even today, like we've all got our phones in our hands and, you know, there's a million different channels on the tv and we, you know our options of information on the web are unlimited...
00:20:06 MW Hm mm.
00:20:06 MH When you're with another human being and you give them your full presence, it's not, that's now actually really special!
00:20:13 MW No kidding.
00:20:13 MH And it's getting more and more rare.
00:20:17 MW Yes.
00:20:18 MH I think it is easy for us to devalue, uh, our full presence. Especially let's talk for just a second about, you have a lot of knowledge on giving talks about money and children and privilege.
00:20:31 MW Hm mmm
00:20:31 MH Let's talk for just a second about some of the basic things you think parents can model with respect to talking about money being open and transparent about money with kids. And my guess is just being fully present in whatever conversation you're facilitating is, um, ah, in some ways, table steaks when you're with kids, but maybe you can talk a little bit about your experience related to privilege, wealth and kids.
00:21:00 MW Well that's a great question because I think you know that that’s one of my passions, the idea of what we do with privilege and how we raise kids with privilege, in part, because those are the kids who will be taking care of me in my dotage so I want there to be some sense of reasonableness. I think what parents have to recognize is that their kids are watching everything they do. So, if they're being hypocritical and saying, "Oh, money doesn't matter" and yet all they do is work, and money is the god that they worship, they're sending a different message to their kid. I think that the reality for children is, they don't care whether you have money or don't have money, they just want your presence. They want to feel as if you're there for them. And I think sometimes the more we have, the harder it is to remember that it's the simple interactions that matter for kids. It's not all the bells and whistles.
00:21:53 So, when I work with families around privilege, around entitlement, it's really 1: Be there. Time goes really quickly. You're not going to have this opportunity for long. And 2: Be very well aware about your own hypocrisies and how you use money and how you express attitudes about money. So that, you know, one of my great examples is a family where two kids and one said, "Well we're comfortable but we don't have a lot of money. Our family has $5 million”. The sister says, "We are so rich, we can do anything we want. Our family has $5 million”. It's back to perspective. And it's back to "what does that mean?" And when we don't talk about details with kids about money, then they don't know what it means.
So, I'm not suggesting you talk with young kids about details the same way you would talk about older kids, but it's like how you talk about sex with kids. You would answer a 5-year old's questions very differently than you would answer a 10-year old's question, or a 15-year old's question. But you would still answer the question. So that when we're talking with parents about privilege or about money, your kids notice. You go to a private school; they notice the car you're driving. Do you think they don't understand something, so if you're not talking with them about it, they're left with their own imaginations? And we all know what kids do with sex with their own imaginations, they do similar things with money. We fill up the holes to make stories to make sense of things. So, the less information you're giving your kids, the more you're leaving them at the mercy to make up their own stories.
00:23:32 MH Hmm. Well we could talk, and maybe we will in the future, a lot about money, privilege, kids, age appropriate money conversations. I love just the way your brain works and your experience and you've had so many, I think, I think, you know, given your history and given the amount of time you've been thinking about these subjects, you know, for people who are looking for a way to begin or looking for a way to build their own curriculum, to feel comfortable talking about these subjects, you're an incredible resource. Um, too bad people can't get on your books because you don't take any new people. Anybody who's listening to this, do you take new people?
00:24:12 MW I do, and I have open time.
00:24:14 MH Okay. You know a lot of financial advisors who know our firm kind of stalk what we do and I wouldn’t be surprised if some of them want to talk with you. Just make sure you don't help anybody in St. Louis.
00:24:26 MW (Laughing)
00:24:26 MH I have an exclusive in this region, okay?
00:24:28 MW (Laughing)
00:24:30 MH Um, let's sort of wrap up today's conversation with one of my favorite things you've taught me. Several years back, it was around Thanksgiving, and I didn't, I remember I was going to come see you and as we were chatting, you said, "Who do you miss?" And I said, "uh, I miss my, I miss my grandfather". And you said, "Why do you miss your grandpa?" I said, "You know, there was something about him, he sort of always made me feel like I could do something before I knew I could do it". And I said, "You know, I just read this article in the Wall Street Journal about this big Hollywood director person named Mike Nichols and all these people stopped what they were doing in film in Hollywood, eh or in around the world, but also in Hollywood and came to his, his service. And it sounded in the article a lot like what I was telling you I liked about my grandfather. Mike Nichols made people feel like they can do it.
00:25:24 MW Mm hmm
00:25:24 MH Even if they were uncertain.
00:25:25 MW Mm Hmm
00:25:27 MH and you said to me, "Oh, that's lovely, do you know, but do you know why that really mattered to you?". And you talked to me about this idea of a mirror. Can you kind of explain what you shared with me, and I think, I think our listeners would really enjoy hearing that lesson.
00:25:42 MW Sure. I think that the, the example I used for you was of the toddler learning to walk. That we look to others to get a reflection of ourselves. So, you've got this little toddler whose kind of starting to walk and they look to their parent and if what they see in their parents' eyes is, you can do it! Come on! They'll just kind of toddle over. If what they see is anxiety in their parents' eyes, kind of like, oh, you're not going to do it, you're going to fall. They'll go right back down on their bum, right?
The idea of adolescents, part of what parents get into such trouble with adolescents about is, adolescents want to be seen as the adults that they're going to be. But they're not there yet. Parents still see them as "little kids". It's a point of tension. We all want to be seen for our best possibility. So, when it's realistic, not psychotic 00:26:38, the idea of holding an image of you that is where you are but also where I see you having the capacity of being, allows you to take a leap from the safe place of where you are to stretch a little and growing. So, it's the idea for all of us of the importance of having mirrors in our lives and mirrors that are benevolent, mirrors that are kind, and mirrors that are connected as opposed to disconnected, uninterested and negative. We all need that at every phase of our life.
00:27:15 MH Hmm. And I think also this idea of being so intentional, being aware of whatever the mirror is you're holding up to other people who matter in your life but being intentional uh about it. Yeah. Thank you so much Marilyn. You are, even though you don't know who he is, you are my Mr. Miyagi. You are so awesome!
00:27:35 MW (Laughing)
00:27:36 MH Ah, you know, I, I will say it again, I love you in a way that is like close as like anything I have in my life beyond like some of my family, and my wife and my daughter. You are just awesome! Um and I wish everybody had access to you and what's cool is people get a little taste through this podcast. We'll do this again sometime.
00:27:54 MW Okay.
00:27:54 MH Um, if people want to know more about you or want to know more about what you do, where should they go?
00:27:58 MW My website, which is my name.com.
00:28:06 MH Wechter W-E-C-H-T-E-R
00:28:08 MW Right. MarilynWechter.com
00:28:09 MH Awesome! And if you want to know anything Hill Investment Group or read Odds On, that's the book I wrote a few years ago that has been transformational in my own life, go check that out. You can find it, Google it, you're smart. Thanks for listening to Take the Long View with Matt Hall and we'll catch you next time.