It may be a rich man’s – or woman’s – world. But money alone is not enough. Michael Cole’s book More Than Money explores the meaning of wealth for families and their advisors.
Dr David Singleton is sitting at the desk in his home office with a blank pad of paper and a beautiful pen. It was a gift when he retired from his job as CEO of a successful biomedical company. He stares at the paper for a few minutes before writing four words:
At first he doesn’t know why he wrote those words. But he realizes they came to him while he’d been thinking about what was most important in life.
Dr David Singleton is not a real person. He’s an invention of Michael Cole in his excellent book, More Than Money: A Guide to Sustaining Wealth and Preserving the Family.
But Dr Singleton is based on a real person – or rather he’s an amalgamation of real people whom Cole, president and founder of Ascent Private Capital Management, has encountered during his wealth management career.
Is your best work behind you?
And Dr Singleton’s moment of revelation is also real. It’s the moment when someone realizes, no matter how much they’ve achieved in life, they still have a lot more to do.
They realize it’s not all behind them – their best work is yet to come.
We have a term for this – the Legacy Inflection Point. Though we’d urge you not to wait until you retire to build your legacy. You want to be absolutely certain you have enough energy and passion to make a difference, and to do the most good you can.
The story of Dr Singleton helps to bring life to Cole’s book, which is aimed at wealthy families. In 13 concise chapters, Cole explores the meaning of wealth, and gives pointers to understanding the wealth management process.
But the book is also aimed at the wealth advisors and multi family offices who serve wealthy families.
The moment of challenge
This is because Dr Singleton’s retirement revelation is a moment of challenge not only for him, but also for his wealth advisors. And it’s a moment an increasing number of wealth managers are encountering.
A growing number of wealthy families, especially as the next generation steps up, are making it clear that the most important things to them are no longer tax planning, investment management, estate planning, and cash flow management.
Don’t get me wrong. While all these financial services are vital, it’s not what excites wealthy individuals.
What excites them is often something outside their advisors’ area of expertise: philanthropy. And building a legacy.
How many successful entrepreneurs think of the business they created as their legacy that will survive over time and generations?
As Dr Singleton tells his advisors, ‘It is now time for me and [my wife] Elaine to build the next chapter of our lives. I’m not exactly sure what it will look like. However, I’m excited to enter the future.’
And Elaine adds, ‘The most important thing to me is that the next stage of our lives has as much meaning and fulfilment as the last one.’
The Singletons’ journey into the future is one of many stories scattered through the book. Each story provides insight and understanding of the importance of marrying traditional wealth management skills – the tactical skills – with more strategic ‘soft’ skills.
Without this, a family’s wealth is often lost by the third generation.
As Cole asks, ‘How many successful entrepreneurs think of the business they created as their legacy that will survive over time and generations?’
The reality, says the book, is that only one in nine family businesses survives the test of time and succession.
The answer is hidden in plain sight
Perhaps the most significant message Cole shares could actually be overlooked, although it’s hidden in plain sight, there in the title.
For more and more wealthy individuals and their families, it’s not about the money. It’s far more important than that.
It’s a powerful message for family offices and wealth advisors the world over. The world is changing and so are your clients. Pay attention.
Get the book on Amazon
Michael A. Cole (2017) More Than Money: A Guide to Sustaining Wealth and Preserving the Family, Wiley/Bloomberg Press.