Property Newsroom chats to family wealth mentor Diana Chambers. Diana manages a private client practice based in Switzerland, with clients in both Europe and North America.
You are a Family Wealthy Mentor – what does that involve?
It means helping people to live well with their wealth and ensure it’s a genuine asset; that the wealth enhances their lives and the lives of their children. How do I that? First, I discuss with my clients the impact money has on them and on their relationships. For example, we all know that it can be upsetting when we think someone is pursuing us simply because we have wealth; or when we find ourselves funding friends because they couldn’t otherwise afford to join us on a holiday or at an expensive restaurant; or if we’re dealing with financial expectations from our family members. I help my clients to figure out how to handle such situations in emotionally intelligent ways. The more comfortable we are talking about money in our most important relationships – with partners, parents, and children – the better. It’s a valuable skill, and one that can be learned.
What sort of clients do you have and how do they come to you?
My clients are typically first generation wealth creators, or their children and grandchildren. They have significant wealth and I help them to keep the wealth in its proper place, so the family thrives and the wealth supports each family member to become the best person he or she can be. My clients sometimes seek me out after they’ve heard me speak on a wealth topic but they come to me primarily through referrals from their other advisors: trust and estate attorneys; investment advisors; private bankers; and family officers.
What are the most common challenges you help them with?
I work with my clients on any facets of their relationship to their wealth. This might mean educational elements to help them race up the learning curve and, with the support of the other advisors on their team, build their Financial IQ: Do they know where their money comes from and how they spend it? Are they savvy in terms of investing and minimizing their tax burden? Do they make smart spending decisions?
But, more importantly, I encourage my clients to develop their Financial EQ, or emotional intelligence. A family whose members can talk openly about money and understand their relationship to it, is likely to be more successful and happier than a family whose members simply possess good Financial IQ skills. I often help my clients – both young and older – navigate their dating relationships. That may lead to me supporting them as they prepare pre-marital agreements with partners who have more or less wealth than them. I also work with my clients as they refine their estate plans and then communicate their decisions appropriately with the family members who will be most affected. Or I might work with the next generation family members to handle burdensome expectations, such as what career path they will take to prepare them to work in, and ultimately run, their family business.
How do you operate with other professional advisors?
I’m collaborative. Each advisor has their role to play on behalf of the client and we all need to be at the table. I don’t offer any tax, legal, or investment advice, rather I complement the work of such advisors. I’m often told by advisors that the role I play – helping my clients to become competent, confident wealth holders – makes it easier for them to do their work.
Your book is entitled ‘True Wealth: Letters on Money, Life, and Love’ – how would you define true wealth?
True wealth is knowing what’s genuinely important in life and pursuing and acquiring that without getting pulled off track by material wealth. Financial assets have an important role to play; we should use them to enhance the qualitative aspects of our lives. These qualitative aspects include pursuing meaning and purpose as well as strengthening our relationships, not just with family and friends but more broadly in our communities. Philanthropy is an excellent way to meet both these goals.
In the book, you talk about how we often make unconscious financial choices – how can we get better on this?
Increasing our conscious financial decision-making allows us to direct our lives and legacies, on a moment-by-moment, day-by-day basis. I use the metaphor of a mirror; some of us merely glance at ourselves in passing, but others scrutinize themselves and adjust their clothing to their satisfaction. Money is a great mirror for us as it tells us what we think about some of the big questions of life, such as who and what we love, who and in what we trust, and what the ultimate purpose of our lives is. Getting clear about our relationship to money and the impact it has on the people around us is the first step. Even so, a mirror will tell us what we look like from the front but it can be hard to see our back view. A second step can be to ask close family, friends, or trusted advisors to help us to see our money behaviour more clearly.
Many of your clients have a strong interest in philanthropy – what role do you play in shaping their giving?
In addition to family wealth mentoring, I’m a philanthropic advisor and support my clients to make their gifts in strategic ways aligned with their deepest interests and concerns. These have varied from early childhood education, to the impact of climate change, to Alzheimer’s Disease.
Having clarified their vision, values, and goals for their philanthropy, my clients often need help to understand the landscape of the issue they’re interested in, and so find their place in it. This may mean digging deeper than what is commonly understood about a topic, understanding the core dynamics, and then arriving at a theory of change about how impact can be made. It means knowing who else is funding in that area and where the gaps are. This was the case in the approach one of my clients is taking to Alzheimer’s Disease; we dug deep and discovered that there is a protocol to reverse cognitive decline, even though almost all the literature says that’s not possible. So, my client is funding the pretrial to prove this concept, with the potential to change literally millions of lives for good.
Having helped my clients to determine where they want to place their gifts, I coach them to say No gracefully to the many requests they receive that are not in their interest areas, so their giving stays targeted for maximum impact.
What is the most satisfying aspect of your job?
My work is deeply satisfying. I love watching my clients as they grow in their capacity and confidence. One young client who started our work together with no interest in, or knowledge of, finance or investments, subsequently learned about the philosophy of John Bogle, walked into our meeting, tossed a financial magazine on the table, and told me “Diana, I’m a Boglehead.” She had come a long way. I know when I’ve made a difference.
I also love my involvement in my clients’ philanthropy projects, as I learn alongside my clients and it is our combined insights that allow my clients to make the difference with their gifting. And I truly value my clients and my relationships with them. I’m privileged to be involved in their lives in such a profound way.
True Wealth: Letters on Money, Life, and Love (Altitude Press, £21) is available on Amazon.co.uk.
Diana can be contacted at: www.dianachambers.com
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