a poor girl raised in working
class Los Angeles,
I never would have believed I'd be a successful adviser
to people with wealth. Our family conversations about
money were limited to arguments about scarcity and failure.
Now, at age 50, a recovering Marxist/radical feminist
with a rusty left brain, I am delighted to be continually
challenged and rewarded in my work as a socially responsible
investment adviser. I have learned so much and received
so many gifts from my clients.
years ago, when I took this position, I worried with my
activist friends that I would fail, sell-out, or be consumed
by jealousy. One wise friend, herself on-staff of a large
progressive foundation, assured me that I would confront
and resolve many of my conflicts about money if I stuck
with the job. She was right.
in my career, a woman came to see me who had lived simply
all her life. Now her mother had just left her nearly
a million dollars (received through a second marriage.)
For our first several meetings, this woman sat in my office
clutching a stuffed animal from our toy box, often crying
as she shared her family history about money and her anxieties
about understanding the processes of managing wealth.
By allowing her the time she needed, we eventually developed
an extremely functional and solid working relationship.
Time. In the traditional sales community (which
includes investment management) there is constant pressure
to sell, sell, sell. Inheritors have shown me that is
an inhumane way to make a living, AND it doesn't work
for them. I have let go of those traditional and ultimately
unsatisfying pressures and have learned to respect each
this client needed help with estate planning and taxes.
Had I only given her the names of a good lawyer and accountant,
she probably would have taken months to call them. Instead,
at her request, I referred her to a counselor who specialized
in inherited wealth issues. It took only one session for
her to get clear on how to structure her will and trusts.
Compassion. By giving her the name of a counselor,
I acknowledged that her difficulties were REAL (in contrast
to the sarcastic "I wish I had your problems" that people
with wealth so often hear.) It has been tremendously expanding
for me to let go of my resentment, fear, and jealousy,
to see inheritors as people facing problems no easier
or harder than mine, and to appreciate the unique and
painful challenge of drowning in money.
year later, this same client and I were having lunch.
During a long walk along the river, we decided to tell
each other our biggest fear about our professional/friend
relationship. Her biggest fear was that my knowledge of
her wealth would be used to wound her when she was least
expecting it. Was I jealous? What a great question! After
some thought I was able to answer that no, I did not begrudge
her good fortune, and I felt no urge to criticize, judge
or gossip. I now had the experience under my belt to realize
people with wealth weren't inherently happier or sadder
was my biggest fear? Gulp. My biggest fear, I explained,
was that I would make an error in her account, and she
would talk badly about me all over town without me knowing
it. She laughed, and remarked that mistakes were human,
and it would never occur to her to complain to others
before talking to me. We were both so relieved to have
had this conversation. Three months later a small cash
flow problem was detected in her account and I felt quite
safe in calling to explain the problem and how we had
solved it. True to her word, my client appreciated the
information and did not criticize me or my firm.
I am learning that the best client relationships
are forged by each participant being as human and honest
as possible. Due to my own fears and stereotypes, I had
mistakenly assumed it was unsafe to be genuine when working
with wealthy people. My openness with this client has
helped me to be more real with all my clients.
not a counselor and can't afford endless time for extensive
"hand-holding", but regular short updates from clients
on their successes and struggles enable me to do a better
job of responding to their financial needs. As a working
class woman, I take great pleasure in doing my job well.
I want inheritors to know that when they take the risk
and effort to teach me how to best work with them, it's
a tremendous gift to me.
incredibly grateful that I get to work in this compassionate,
ethical realm. I appreciate being paid well for my labor,
but the true rewards of this work come from my emotional
and spiritual growth.
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