Mark Twain has been credited with saying, “History does not repeat itself, but it often rhymes.”

That quote has stuck with me over the years, as I’ve always enjoyed finding patterns in seemingly unrelated fields. They’re everywhere, often in unexpected places.

In this case, I’m exploring the connection between a few occupations which (on the surface) appear to be dissimilar, but actually have a tremendous amount in common. With that, let’s take a moment to examine the attributes of artful jazz music, successful cooking and goal-based wealth management.


Jazz relies on the integration of musicians and their instruments into a blended group. If the collaboration isn’t perfect, each musician might otherwise standout too strongly on his or her own, and overwhelm the others on stage. During the performance, different players have the opportunity to shine at various points, but the underlying foundation is a close-knit group, that performs with balance.

Similarly, the preparation of meals in fine dining often entails combining and layering ingredients that have varying flavor profiles, potencies and textures of their own, into sublime harmony. At different times in the meal, a variety of ingredients can be the “star of the show,” but successfully transforming unique components into fine cuisine requires creative and skillful integration.

So, how do Jazz and preparing great food relate to wealth management? Sometimes along the continuum of client service, investment management is the focal point. Other times it can be tax planning or business succession planning. Each component of wealth management may be the central focus at one moment or another in a client’s life, but all aspects of a client’s financial life require integration and coordination, so that no single facet overwhelms the rest.


Most musicians will tell you that their most important contribution to a performance is their ability to listen. No one wants to overshadow the other performers. Most chefs will tell you that they strive for balance among a dish’s flavors and textures. Too much salt? No. Too much heat? I hope not. Most wealth managers will tell you that their job is about balancing goals to achieve the appropriate results. What are your goals vs. the goals of the rest of the family? Is this estate plan passing the right amount to my next generation vs. my charitable intentions? Is this portfolio generating the proper amount of return for the risk I am assuming?

Ability to Adapt

Circumstances are always changing. How do you adapt?  When is the right time to make adjustments? In jazz, there are structured times for “improvising” and moments allowing for a soloist to shine.  The chords change, and flexibility on the part of the other musicians is paramount. Communication is key for others to know where they are in a performance. In cooking, circumstances also require adaptability. A dish needs an ingredient, but you’ve run out for the night, the dinner rush started early and the sous chef called off – the chef has to adjust. With wealth management, markets change, tax laws change and emotions change. It is critical that the wealth management group recognize these circumstances, and modify the plan for their family accordingly.

The common pattern among all three occupations is that to achieve success, you must be in tune with fluctuating and challenging environments, and be able to recognize which piece in your ensemble is best suited to take center stage at any given moment. At Waldron Private Wealth, we practice goal-based wealth management, with a long term outlook, because while we can’t eliminate the roadblocks which inevitably occur in a client’s financial life, we can rebalance our resources to ensure that we are always advancing towards our client’s goals.

Click here to learn more about our customized, comprehensive wealth management approach.

Matthew Helfrich, CFP®

Partner and President

Hall of