The Power of Hobbies


Our team discuss the benefits of hobbies, including scrapbooking, Olympic weightlifting, dog training, camping, and baking.

Man and woman hiking

There’s something about summer giving way to fall that promotes festivities, activities, and hobbies. Many of us have more free time, thanks to vacation days or with kids returning to school. The sun shines, pool toys glint in all their inflatable Technicolor hues, rainbows refract through sprinkler streams, and days are blissfully long.

We polled Mercer Advisors staffers about some of their favorite hobbies to fill the late summer, and we were surprised to learn of everything from German shepherd dog sports to rock climbing and baking. We even heard from an Olympic-weightlifting referee. Read on to discover what hobbies you may have in common with our team.


“I was introduced to the hobby of tent camping by an adventure-seeking college friend. We found ourselves camping on the Appalachian Trail in the snow, and we even had an encounter with a rattlesnake, on a separate trip in warmer weather! Years later, after I was married and had kids, I heard how camping can help draw families together. We purchased a tent and had the opportunity to ‘enjoy’ a character-building experience together as we put up our tent one particularly rainy night, after dark!”

— Keith Wayne APMA®, CRPC®, Associate Financial Planning Analyst


“One of my hobbies is participating in dog sports. I compete in Internationale Gebrauchshunde Prüfungsordnung (IGP), meaning “international working dog test regulations” (formerly known as Schutzhund). Originating in Germany, the sport was developed to test the workability and breeding suitability of the German shepherd Dog. It has three components: tracking, obedience, and protection. Failure in any one of the three challenging areas (there is a points system) means that you fail the entire competition. It is great fun, and my dogs absolutely love it — of course, they never know if we fail or succeed, as they are praised regardless.

IGP takes a great deal of commitment, with training, traveling for competition, and forging a strong partnership with your dog. Working full-time means spending a great deal of my free time with the dogs, training on weekends, and using vacation time for competitions. My family and friends are accustomed to me showing up late to parties and dinners in dirty clothes and with messy hair! But I have made great friends with other like-minded people, and nothing lessens the stress of my everyday life than spending time with my dogs.”

— Claudia Paluch, Client Service Specialist


“Funny how a Groupon can change your life. In 2011, I found a Groupon for a local rock-climbing gym. I fell in love and immediately signed up for a year’s membership. Twelve years later, I can’t imagine my life without this exciting sport that challenges me both physically and mentally. While exercise is so good for our overall well-being, I fell off the train, like many people do during college and early working years. Now I feel stronger than at any point in my life, and I have created lifelong friendships with so many others who share my passion.”

— Bryan Strike, MS, MTx, CFP®, CFA®, CPA/PFS, CIPM, RICP®, Director, Financial Planning Research and Education


“My hobby is not unique, but it is the greatest source of joy in my life: watching my kid have a hobby she loves. My daughter loves to play volleyball, and, in our family, we have built our lives around supporting this pursuit. She does it because she has fun, but I love seeing how she has learned to build resilience, make friends, develop leadership skills and discipline, and understand others through teamwork. We have all grown to be better people. As Vince Lombardi said, ‘Individual commitment to a group effort — that is what makes a team work, a company work, a society work, a civilization work.’”

— Jennifer Baick, MBA, CFP®, CDFA®, Sr. Director of Financial Planning


“One of my favorite hobbies is hiking. I was drawn to hiking to enjoy nature, be active, and experience new places. I joined a hiking group in my local area and met new friends. From that also stemmed an involvement with a volunteer group that supports Texas state parks. Hiking has given me new goals, one being to climb the highest peak in Texas. It also has impacted my family, as this is an activity I also enjoy with my son and which he can carry on through his lifetime.”

— Candace Davis, Client Service Specialist 


“Baking is a hobby that I’ve picked up within the past two years, and it has turned out to be something I find a lot of fulfillment in. It started out more as a ‘necessity’ to whip up something basic in a pinch, to cure the occasional sweet tooth. However, as I’ve continued to bake, I’ve become more intrigued by the challenge different recipes can present, and I have found it to be extremely rewarding when I get something just right. My family, as the primary taste-testers, have enjoyed being the beneficiaries of my growing skill set.”

— Jesse Schenck, CFP®, Associate Financial Planning Analyst


“I’m fortunate to have found a hobby as an international referee in the sport of Olympic weightlifting. This has allowed me to develop relationships within a community that is separate from work, my other friends, and my family. I’ve learned a lot about the world of competitive sports and have been fortunate to travel, supporting these competitions, throughout America and the world. It’s given me something to look forward to every few months, and I’ve made some wonderful lifelong friends!”

— Martine Lellis, CPA, CFP®, Chief Talent and Administrative Officer


“Working out is one of my favorite hobbies. In addition to offering physical benefits, it has helped me to develop discipline, which I’ve applied to other areas of my life. Mental health is also another important benefit. I always leave the gym feeling happier and with a sense of accomplishment.”

— Anuska Kovalcheck, MBA, CFP®, Wealth Advisor


“The hobby I personally feel passionate about is gardening. Anything that has to do with planting and growing is inspiring, whether planting trees for shade outside my house or having fruit trees or a vegetable garden in my backyard. When I take care of my plants and trees, I feel connected to Earth, and it gives me an opportunity to relax. I am not an expert, and I enjoy learning as I go. I also enjoy eating fruits and vegetables when they ripen, and it feels great to reap a successful harvest.”

— Federico Avendano, Associate Financial Planning Analyst


“I grew up in a big family, and anything we cooked had to be enough for about 20 people at a time. Baking is the perfect experience in creating something beautiful that is meant to be shared. It requires precision, and it’s methodical. You follow the directions and turn an assortment of components and flavors into one creation. With enough practice, its final product is dependable, and I find peace in the process.”

— Stella Doyle, MS, CFP®, Wealth Advisor


“I grew up with a love of nature and gardening. It may have been in my DNA: I loved growing fruits and vegetables. It provides a sense of satisfaction and teaches the importance of patience, process, and improving to get better results or yields each time. It is also a bonding and teaching experience with my kids, as they can help me plant the seeds, water them, watch them grow, and finally sample what they produce. It is also a great way to get children to try their vegetables, since they helped grow them.”

— Ali Mroue, EA, AAMS®, AWMA®, Director of Operations


“For decades, I have enjoyed the activity of backpacking. Hiking in the mountains allows me time to reflect and absorb the beauty of nature. Besides being a good workout, backpacking allows me access to wilderness areas that are inaccessible by car. Other than the concentration it requires for navigation, thermoregulation, nutrition, hydration, and foot care, it is a very simple (but not easy) activity that rejuvenates my mind, body, and spirit. It is great to walk in the wilderness, in a totally self-contained manner, with everything that you need to survive and thrive in your backpack. I plan three to four trips each year, totaling a few hundred miles.”

— Josh Gustafson, Head of Wealth Management


“My favorite hobby is reading. It’s my way to explore new worlds, unwind at the end of the day, learn, and understand people from different lifestyles and backgrounds. I have always been a book lover, but my reading dropped off a lot after college as I became an ‘adult’ and started a family. After I received my CERTIFIED FINANCIAL PLANNER® credentials and was reading only financial education books, I discovered that I needed to feed the artistic and imaginative side of my brain. From there, my reading hobby expanded into collecting books and memorabilia, and it became a bit of an obsession. I hope to pass on my love of reading to my children, as it is something you can never grow too old to do. You can never stop expanding your horizons.”

— Haana Frank, CFP®, Sr. Financial Planning Analyst


Whether your hobbies mirror those of our staff or are completely different — croquet, anyone? — we agree with Haana. There are just some things that you’re never too old to do, and you can never stop expanding your horizons. Here’s to those stamp collectors, Wiffle ball players, pool sharks, Ping-Pong champions, off-roading enthusiasts, and kite surfers in our midst — and even to the dog surfers.

Mercer Advisors Inc. is the parent company of Mercer Global Advisors Inc. and is not involved with investment services. Mercer Global Advisors Inc. (“Mercer Advisors”) is registered as an investment advisor with the SEC. The firm only transacts business in states where it is properly registered or is excluded or exempted from registration requirements.

All expressions of opinion reflect the judgment of the author as of the date of publication and are subject to change. Some of the research and ratings shown in this presentation come from third parties that are not affiliated with Mercer Advisors.

Certified Financial Planner Board of Standards, Inc. (CFP Board) owns the CFP® certification mark, the CERTIFIED FINANCIAL PLANNER™ certification mark, and the CFP® certification mark (with plaque design) logo in the United States, which it authorizes use of by individuals who successfully complete CFP Board’s initial and ongoing certification requirements.

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