Among the professionals who work with high net worth individuals and families are a growing number of advisors who focus on the psychology of wealth. Robert Frank, a best selling author and senior writer for the Wall Street Journal wealth report, recently referred to these professionals as “wealth whisperers.”
As I stumble through life I occasionally meet people who seem to have found their true life calling. That was the overwhelming feeling I sensed at the Money, Meaning & Choices Institute. Whether you think of MMCI as wealth whisperers or not, this connection to life callings—their own and those of their clients—is precisely why I first engaged their services. And it is why I have now joined them as a facilitator. The personal journey that led me to their doors has created a compelling sense of purpose for me as well.
About five years ago I unexpectedly became an estate executor and trustee for two young inheritors—siblings who were 18 and 20 years old at the time. Ironically, I wasn’t new to the psychological issues of wealth. For several years I’d been looking deeply into questions of how my own wealth, both earned and inherited, would affect my children (now aged 9 and 12). I discovered a few relevant books and spent many evenings reading about the convergence of wealth and the human psyche. What began as quiet reading time after the kids were in bed has now become a steady whisper in my life that provides me both purpose and passion. And lately that journey is picking up pace.
I’ve been told by our core team of advisers that it’s unusual to have an executor and trustee as involved and concerned about the well-being of the inheritors as I am. They say these two young heirs are lucky to have me on their team. Flattery will get such advisers far in this world, but the truth of the matter is that I feel equally lucky to be a part of this experience. I think of it as a perfect storm, but at first it felt just like any other storm: tumultuous.
In this case, I had just lost one of my best friends. Two young adults, with whom I had only minimal acquaintance, suddenly depended on me. There were layers of crisis in their lives that presented no easy answers. And I had my own life to tend to. I knew I needed help but I didn’t know who I could turn to; so I started with Internet research. I narrowed my search to a short list of promising resources and started conducting phone interviews. Ultimately I settled on working with Joan DiFuria and Stephen Goldbart from MMCI.
While the “finalists” I spoke with were all highly competent with excellent credentials, MMCI was the only one without a direct connection to other services, such as financial or estate planning. In my view, this allowed MMCI to be completely independent, unbiased, with full transparency—and that was critical to my final decision. Today I reflect on that gut-level decision with immense satisfaction: it was an excellent choice, an ongoing gift to the lives of the two young adults for whom I am trustee.
Our initial sessions began with Joan and Stephen assessing the overall situation and helping each inheritor articulate their individual values. Next we established a family council and began meeting regularly—and we still do, every quarter. These intensive full-day sessions cover all aspects of these two young adults’ lives: their psychological, intellectual, and financial assets. The level of clarity that comes out of every family council meeting has been significant, powerful, and transforming—a priceless benefit for these two heirs. I’m a beneficiary of the process as well, becoming what I now think of as a mentoring trustee and family CEO.
I recently sensed that this was more than a lesson or a new skill for me: I’m feeling shades of a true life calling. Over the years as I began working with other clients and as my working relationship with Joan and Stephan developed, it has evolved into a second career. Joan and Stephen must have sensed this as well—I’m delighted to report that they’ve invited me to join the Institute as a facilitator.
Wealth can be a blessing or a curse. Our work at MMCI has the potential to help you leverage your wealth in a way that will positively impact your health, well-being, and happiness more than almost anything else you could do. I won’t pretend this is a quick fix: it takes courage, commitment, and risk. I don’t know if we are wealth whisperers, but I do know we speak in quiet, confident tones about changing your life for the better.