Spent some time feeling inferior
Standing in front of my mirror
Every Picture Tells as Story
For the past two months I’ve been employed as a consultant at a financial institution doing what I’ve always done—slaving over a hot Mac designing marketing material and print collateral for new business development. It’s certainly not the most creative way to spend the day (that would be Mapstew), but it’s decent enough and it allows me to live a fairly comfortable existence—especially for someone with my amount of university-level education (which is to say, none).
The stuff I produce is intended for institutional investors. Pension funds. Endowments and foundations. Union funds. City and municipal funds. SOMEONE has to manage all that money that’s sitting around!
My current gig, however, is something new for me. The material I design is for the private banking sector. Not faceless institutions, but people with an astonishing amount of personal wealth. These people are called High Net Worth individuals. Old family money. Executives with 7+ figure bonuses every year. But it doesn’t end there. There’s a category above that. They’re called (and I’m not kidding about this) Ultra High Net Worth individuals. This job has given me a peek into a rarefied world that you and I can only dream of. And it hasn’t been good for my sense of accomplishment or self.
Here’s a section of a proposal that address the healthcare services available:
The United States offers arguably the best healthcare in the world. Paradoxically, many times that does not result in finding and receiving the best care, even for people with the means to pay for the latest treatments and with philanthropic relationships to top hospitals.
The audience for this material is people who have had entire hospital wings named after them. But this is the part of the proposal that laid me flat:
[You will receive] 24-hour access to your own advisory team, objective data on the best physicians and treatment options, expedited access to care, the collection and secure storage of comprehensive medical records for every family member.
My mom didn’t have a very comfortable end and the thing that kept gnawing at my guts throughout her last year was, “If I had more money, I could make things better for her.”
Expedited access to care. That means they never see a waiting room. They step over people like my mother. They don’t share an antiseptic-smelling room with someone who is dying. What if my wife or daughters get sick? Where’s my advisory team for them?
In the back of these brochures are biographies of the investment advisers. I get lost in reading them. Unbelievable accomplishments. Ivy league pedigrees and study abroad. Important associations and a series of capital letters and Roman numerals after their names. The bios for the institutional investors are purely factual. Do you have your Series 7? But in the world of private wealth management, they’re trying to make a personal, one-on-one connection. The bios include the spouse’s name, how many children, hobbies (Sailing. International travel. Fencing.) and important philanthropic work.
I’m not filled with self pity and I’m not fishing for compliments. I don’t think these people are any better than I am. And I certainly don’t think that all Ultra High Net Worth individuals are inherently happy. But I do sit awe of the incredible lives they’ve built. I’ve never had the intellectual capital or, more fatally, the ambition to live that large. How did they do it? I’m sure many of them had advantages that I didn’t, but that’s no excuse. I work pretty hard but the truth is that I never really tried my best. I liked having a lot of time off. I was always just coasting.
I’ve never felt more ordinary and ill equipped to handle the crisis that will inevitably come my way.
For more information, please contact your Family Wealth Director.