Be present and conscious of your thoughts and what impacts them. It is easy to give in to all the outside distractions that can affect your thoughts. For example, be conscious that the news media aims to get viewership. Nothing attracts viewers like controversy.


Resilience has been described as the ability to withstand adversity and bounce back from difficult life events. Times are not easy now. How do we develop greater resilience to withstand the challenges that keep being thrown at us? In this interview series, we are talking to mental health experts, authors, resilience experts, coaches, and business leaders who can talk about how we can develop greater resilience to improve our lives.

As a part of this series, I had the pleasure of interviewing Terry Surrency, Financial Advisor, Senior Portfolio Manager, Chartered Retirement Planning Counselor® and Senior Vice President, UBS Wealth Management USA, based at SPF Wealth Management in Jacksonville, Florida.

As a financial planner and investment advisor with more than 25 years of experience, Terry Surrency works with individuals, multi-generational families, and small businesses to grow and protect their wealth. He works closely with his clients to understand, navigate, and achieve their individual financial needs, objectives, and goals. Terry tailors his long-term wealth management advice, financial planning, and investment strategies based on his depth of experience in equity markets, current market conditions, and future economic outlooks.

Terry joined UBS Financial Services Inc. in 2013 after 15 years with Merrill Lynch. Terry is passionate about helping his clients execute comprehensive portfolio planning with a focus on retirement income, education funding, and charitable giving structures.

A native of Florida, Terry earned a Bachelor of Science in finance from the University of Central Florida. He has achieved the Charter Retirement Planning Counselor (CRPC®) designation from the College of Financial Planning. He is Series 7, 63, and 65 registered and holds life and health annuity and long-term care insurance licenses.


Thank you so much for joining us! Our readers would love to get to know you a bit better. Can you tell us a bit about your backstory?

My story begins with my parents. My dad enlisted in the U.S. Navy when he was 17, before finishing high school. In the late ’60s, he was deployed to Vietnam to fight for his country. In that war-torn country, my dad was fortunate to find his love, my mom.

It wasn’t easy for them raising a family. Without a lot of education and family support because of my dad being enlisted, their path together wouldn’t be easy. Financially, we didn’t have a lot, and periodically we would have some setbacks. Regardless, they found a way. I am proud to say that they have been married for more than 50 years.

In the late ’80s, my dad retired from the Navy after serving 24 years and landed a great job that financially allowed them to send me to Bishop Moore Catholic High School, a private school in Orlando, Florida. There, I met other kids whose families had larger homes, nicer cars, and generally seemed better off financially. I started seeing another world of possibilities. That is where my fascination with wealth began.

For college, I attended the University of Central Florida on a minority academic scholarship. After taking finance and investment courses, I learned about compound interest ― how to earn money on funds invested. At the time, I didn’t fully understand it, but I was enthralled, and it started me on the road to understanding how wealth is attained.

After graduation, I joined Merrill Lynch at its corporate office in Jacksonville, Florida, primarily working in a call center assisting financial advisors with investment programs. After three years of doing well there, I decided that I needed to advance my career in order to support my growing family. I applied, interviewed, and got accepted into the Merrill Lynch broker training program.

I thought I had reached the proverbial mountaintop. Little did I know, the challenges were just getting started. I began this new role on September 13, 2001, two days after the 9/11 terrorist attack at the World Trade Center. In addition, the economy was in a recession, and we were in the middle of the tech crash of 2000 to 2003.

Fortunately, I joined a team of advisors at Merrill Lynch that needed assistance with their growing client base. Over the next 11 years, I learned from older, more experienced financial advisors. I learned how to work with clients, build financial plans, construct investment portfolios, and understand all the other nuances of growing an advisory practice. During this time, I also witnessed the financial crisis of 2007 to 2008, as well as how to navigate those markets.

In 2012, I realized I wanted to further grow my career by branching out on my own. A year later, I joined UBS and started building my own financial advisory practice. Since then, my business has grown to a six-person team with more than $325 million in assets under management ― one of the largest for UBS in North Florida.

Along the way, I helped to raise five great kids and married the love of my life.

Can you share with us the most interesting story from your career? Can you tell us what lessons or ‘takeaways’ you learned from that?

The most interesting times in my career weren’t during the great bull market investment periods. Instead, they occurred during history’s worst bear markets, specifically the dot-com bubble and Great Recession.

The dot-com financial crisis resulted from a rapid rise in U.S. technology stocks based on aggressive, speculative investments in internet-based companies in the late ’90s. From 2000 to 2002, several tech companies declared bankruptcy. Before the crash, the investment exuberance and recklessness were immeasurable. A lot of people made money in markets and investments that they didn’t research or understand. When the crash occurred, many of those people exited the markets and investments, primarily with losses.

The dot-com crash was followed by the Great Recession of 2008, one of the most catastrophic economic declines in U.S. history, which was fueled by the collapse of the housing market. Rising interest rates, undisciplined lending, insufficient regulations, and defaults on high-risk housing loans (subprime mortgages) caused some of the largest banks to fail and global markets to stagnate. Even the most seasoned wealth advisors had never seen anything like it.

For me, the lessons I learned from these two periods of time are invaluable. I feel like I was able to “captain” the ship for my clients when they needed me the most. There was a lot of experience gained in those turbulent times, whether you wanted it or not. That experience has served me, my team, and clients well.

What do you think makes your company stand out? Can you share a story?

Our team at UBS, SPF Wealth Management, has come together to provide a very client-centric, comprehensive, financial planning and investment management service to our clients. We have built very strong relationships with our clients; many have become friends. I have sat down at many kitchen tables with husbands and wives. I have been there for several widows, and I still work with many of them to this day.

None of us are able to achieve success without some help along the way. Is there a particular person who you are grateful toward who helped get you to where you are? Can you share a story?

I am most grateful to lead our team of six practitioners, who balance my skills with their individual talents, are as dedicated as I am to our clients’ goals and needs, and allow me and our clients to grow and prosper. My team is phenomenal. Our goal is to spend time and effort with our clients first and foremost. It’s what sets us apart.

One of the areas that makes our team different is that we are a combination of experience and youth. We have a combined average of 22 years of experience in wealth management serving our clients. Our average age is 47 years old. Our long career-time horizon allows us to be an important member of our clients’ financial plans up to and through their retirement.

Ok, thank you for all that. Now let’s shift to the main focus of this interview. We would like to explore and flesh out the trait of resilience. How would you define resilience? What do you believe are the characteristics or traits of resilient people?

I define resilience as the ability to withstand or rebound from what may be perceived as a tough circumstance or situation. Based on the context of this interview and the volatility of the financial markets, I will give you an answer that hopefully will help your readers. With that said, here are a few traits of resilient investors that I have witnessed and some examples:

Long-term Planning Mindset Before embarking on any journey or endeavor, including investing, these people understand the risks and rewards. They acknowledge that setbacks are a part of the journey as are the progressions. They realize that you don’t get one without the other. For example, from February 2020 through March 2020, over a six-week period, the U.S. stock market fell over 30%. Within six months, the U.S. stock market recovered.

Open-minded and Opportunistic ― They understand the options available to them and seek opportunities amid turmoil or uncertainty. Some of the best opportunities are cloaked in adversity. Take for instance, the 2007 to 2008 financial crisis and housing recession. It was devastating for many, but for some it was an opportunity to invest. Imagine being able to buy a home at up to a 50% discount.

Courage and Faith ― These people understand that investing and growing wealth isn’t a short-term objective. It requires a belief in the historical track history of investing in capitalistic markets. It requires courage to stick with a financial plan, especially when all things point to “pain.” It is normal to want to shy away from difficult times. That is when courage and faith are the most important. It isn’t always easy to stay the course. Sometimes, the only things standing in your way are your own perceptions and beliefs. Emotions are real. It’s best not to let emotions drive financial decision making.

Positivity ― The belief that difficult times do not last forever and that over time things will generally work out well. They understand what they can control and what they cannot. They spend little time worrying about the things they cannot control. For example, we cannot control the direction of the economy and the stock markets, but we can control how much we save and invest.

Perseverance ― This trait is within almost everyone that I have worked with. Although there are people that attain wealth from inheritance and other means, for many people, their wealth is built over decades. It is a long-term endeavor of saving, investing, cutting back when necessary, and being aggressive when appropriate. Perseverance is what drives people to continue regardless of the short-term challenges presented.

Courage is often likened to resilience. In your opinion, how is courage both similar and different to resilience?

I believe courage is taking those first steps toward overcoming something that you fear or think you may not be able to overcome. You have to face fear to have courage. Resilience is not courage alone ― it’s just one of the vital characteristics to endure difficult circumstances.

One of my favorite quotes, that reminds me of resilience is from the movie character Rocky Balboa, hero of the movie series titled from his first name:

The world ain’t all sunshine and rainbows. It is a very mean and nasty place, and it will beat you to your knees and keep you there permanently if you let it. You, me, or nobody is gonna hit as hard as life. But it ain’t how hard you hit; it’s about how hard you can get hit, and keep moving forward. How much you can take, and keep moving forward. That’s how winning is done.

When you think of resilience, which person comes to mind? Can you explain why you chose that person?

Without question, my mom. She has displayed many times over incredible strength, resilience, and an overall enduring spirit.

My mom, with limited education and ability to speak English, emigrated from Vietnam to the U.S. in the early ’70s with my father and their two young children.

While in the care of a nursery, their six-month-old son passed away, determined to be a result of sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS). As a father of five children, I can only imagine the devastation my parents must have felt. But just like many others that have lost people they love, my parents persevered and fortunately decided to have another child. I was born two years later.

Aside from that big, monumental story, I think we can see resilience in everyday life. My career provides me with a very personal connection with clients and those that I work with. I have seen families deal with the loss of loved ones, tragic medical diagnoses, family estrangement, depression, anxiety, and more. I have seen their will to not only go on, but to flourish. Resilience is all around us; it is part of the human spirit.

Has there ever been a time that someone told you something was impossible, but you did it anyway? Can you share the story with us?

I am not sure if many outside the financial industry realize that becoming a financial advisor at a major Wall Street bank is incredibly challenging. When I joined the industry in the late ’90s, the Wall Street training programs were almost impossible, especially if you weren’t “connected” to wealth or were an Ivy League school graduate. As a trainee, you were expected to succeed immediately, and those that didn’t, failed out of the program. The average success rate, at that time, was about 33%.

That was MY impossible. It was my dream to work in the investment world and learn as much as I could about building wealth so that I could be a financial advocate for others. Although it was daunting, it was worth all the effort. That decision made me the person I am today and has enabled me to impact so many people positively ― my family, clients, and friends. Being resilient and believing in yourself through challenging and tough times will give you just enough to make that necessary difference.

Did you have a time in your life where you had one of your greatest setbacks, but you bounced back from it stronger than ever? Can you share that story with us?

Absolutely. I have had the fortune of experiencing and overcoming several setbacks. The one for me that made a lasting impression was a combination of personal and professional challenges. During the 2007 to 2008 financial crisis, I watched in horror as the U.S. stock market declined by 50%, many homeowners were forced into foreclosure, unemployment rose above 10%, and some major banks went bankrupt. It didn’t seem like there was an end in sight. As you can imagine, professionally, it was difficult. I felt responsible for my clients and felt their real fear and concern.

At the same time, with three children, ages 2, 5, and 7, I went through a divorce. There couldn’t have been a worse time to go from being financially responsible for one household to two. And although I was co-parenting, I felt very much out of my element being a single parent. I thought I would never get married again and was convinced that I would die alone.

And right when it seemed the darkest, things started to turn around. I met my wife, Mya, in late 2008, and we married soon after. Blending our families, my three kids and her two, made us a modern-day Brady Bunch.

Professionally, things started to accelerate. March 2009 saw the start of a bull market that lasted more than 10 years and returned more than 417%. Helping my clients navigate those tough times successfully was extremely daunting but very rewarding. Through those challenging times, I learned a lot. I grew personally and professionally. There is a great quote by Christine Caine that sums this up: “Sometimes when you are in a dark place you think you’ve been buried, but you’ve actually been planted.”

How have you cultivated resilience throughout your life? Did you have any experiences growing up that have contributed to building your resiliency? Can you share a story?

When I was 5, I was diagnosed with a hip disease that would affect the way I walked for the rest of my life if not corrected. For two years, the treatment called for me to have casts on my legs as well as two bars in between my legs to keep them separated. Even at that young age, I remember the pain being excruciating. I know that it was even tougher on my parents. Thankfully, the Navy doctors did a fantastic job in treating me. After several years, I was able to walk, run normally, and play sports.

My dad attributes my capacity to read, comprehend, and solve problems to the time I spent indoors during this period. While other kids were outside playing during recess, I was becoming an avid reader. During those two years, I went from learning the ABCs to reading C.S. Lewis books. I couldn’t get enough of reading, even outside of school. I didn’t realize it at the time, but I was building a talent and skill. Through that experience, without being intentional, I started to develop the behaviors necessary to be resilient.

Resilience is like a muscle that can be strengthened. In your opinion, what are five steps that someone can take to become more resilient? Please share a story or an example for each.

We all have moments of panic and anxiety. For me, it was in 2018 during a New Year’s blizzard in New York City while on a family vacation trip. The airports shut down, streets were covered in snow, we were confined to our hotel rooms, and, at some point, I knew that my family needed to get back home to Florida. If you could have rated my anxiety on a scale of 1 to 10, it would have been at 11. While in a state of panic, I had to be the voice of reason and calm. I rented maybe the last van in Manhattan, packed our luggage, and drove 20 hours straight back to Jacksonville.

That story wasn’t about resilience. It was what happened afterward. Upon our return, I made a concerted effort to understand and manage my anxiety. I must have read a million books and searched numerous websites. Over time, I found a system that has worked for me, and hopefully others will find it helpful as well:

Be present and conscious of your thoughts and what impacts them. It is easy to give in to all the outside distractions that can affect your thoughts. For example, be conscious that the news media aims to get viewership. Nothing attracts viewers like controversy.

Remain calm. As in any other difficult situation, realize that you’re not going to make a good decision while being overly stressed. As the airlines tell you, “In the event of an emergency, stay calm.”

Empower yourself by creating a plan in advance that will help navigate you through any situation. Just as you wouldn’t set out on a long road trip without mapping your direction, your lodging, and time frames, don’t invest your money without having a grounded financial plan.

Practice handling stress and discomfort positively in less critical situations. Over time, you’ll be much more successful in working through more difficult issues. For example, learning to be patient in traffic sounds trivial, but learning to stay calm, breathe, and be present in that situation will certainly help when a higher degree of difficulty presents itself.

Practice humility and do not take yourself or anything material around you too seriously. We all want to be financially secure and never worry about money, but you have to live life. As they say, “You don’t want to be the richest person in the cemetery.” Go out and live.

You are a person of great influence. If you could inspire a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger. 😊

Practicing gratitude. When you focus on the people in your life that make it worthwhile and appreciate what you have, there’s less time to be anxious or worried.

Every morning I list what I’m happy about. My family, my job, my clients, my team, my colleagues, my home, my health, my friends, my dog — there are so many things that make me grateful. Your thoughts are like movies running in your head. You can choose your movie. Make it a happy, purposeful, and positive one.

We are blessed that some very prominent leaders read this column. Is there a person in the world, or in the U.S. with whom you would love to have a private breakfast or lunch with, and why? They might just see this, especially if we tag them 🙂

Given the opportunity, I would love to have time with Warren Buffet and Charlie Munger, the brain trust of Berkshire Hathaway and the team considered to represent two of the greatest investors of our time. Not only have they been successful in their lives, but they also have a great way of presenting their ideas and lessons in such a way to make them easily understood by others. There are so many quotes and teachings that I have read over the years that not only apply to the financial markets and building wealth, but to life in general. Lunch with those two men would be epic.

How can our readers further follow your work online?

My website page: https://advisors.ubs.com/terry.surrency/

My LinkedIn profile: https://www.linkedin.com/in/terrysurrency/

This was very inspiring. Thank you so much for joining us!

As a firm providing wealth management services to clients, UBS Financial Services Inc. offers investment advisory services in its capacity as an SEC-registered investment adviser and brokerage services in its capacity as an SEC-registered broker-dealer. Investment advisory services and brokerage services are separate and distinct, differ in material ways and are governed by different laws and separate arrangements. It is important that you understand the ways in which we conduct business, and that you carefully read the agreements and disclosures that we provide to you about the products or services we offer. For more information, please review client relationship summary provided at ubs.com/relationshipsummary, or ask your UBS Financial Advisor for a copy.

Terry Surrency is a registered representative of UBS Financial Services Inc., a subsidiary of UBS AG. Member FINRA/SIPC

Author(s)

  • Savio P. Clemente

    TEDx Speaker, Media Journalist, Board Certified Wellness Coach, Best-Selling Author & Cancer Survivor

    Savio P. Clemente, TEDx speaker and Stage 3 cancer survivor, infuses transformative insights into every article. His journey battling cancer fuels a mission to empower survivors and industry leaders towards living a truly healthy, wealthy, and wise lifestyle. As a Board-Certified Wellness Coach (NBC-HWC, ACC), Savio guides readers to embrace self-discovery and rewrite narratives by loving their inner stranger, as outlined in his acclaimed TEDx talk: "7 Minutes to Wellness: How to Love Your Inner Stranger." Through his best-selling book and impactful work as a media journalist — covering inspirational stories of resilience and exploring wellness trends — Savio has collaborated with notable celebrities and TV personalities, bringing his insights to diverse audiences and touching countless lives. His philosophy, "to know thyself is to heal thyself," resonates in every piece.