ICR184: Diana Chambers, Family Wealth Mentor
My guest on the podcast today is Diana Chambers.
Known as The Family Wealth Mentor, Diana is committed to helping her clients manage their wealth in emotionally intelligent ways.
She has always been a trailblazer. Not only was she the first woman hired into management as a member of the strategic planning team at Redland PLC, a major British company, but also she subsequently became the fundraiser for an educational project in Bosnia during the war, and then the team director launching schools of servant leadership in the United States.
In these settings and others, Diana reflected on the impact of money on her life and she is now a trusted confidant to others as they address the challenges and opportunities they and their families face when owning, spending, and allocating their wealth wisely.
Her new book is True Wealth: Letters on Money, Life, and Love.
In True Wealth, Diana gets to the heart of how we feel about money and shows us how to be truly wealthy. If you’ve dated someone who has more or less wealth than you do, tried to talk with your children or parents about sensitive financial topics, struggled to define your unique identity in the context of your family, sought to discern how best to share your wealth with others, or wondered about your impact and legacy, then True Wealth is for you.
In this episode of Informed Choice Radio, I speak to Diana about how she became known as the family wealth mentor, the best ways to clarify what you want from your wealth and your intent in life, whether we have similar concerns about money regardless of our levels of wealth, giving children from wealthy families the best possible start in life, and much more.
Welcome to The Family Wealth Mentor with Diana Chambers, in episode 184 of Informed Choice Radio.
Some questions I ask:
-How have you become known as the family wealth mentor?
-What’s the best way to clarify what you want from your wealth?
-Do people face similar challenges, regardless of their wealth levels?
-To what extent do our emotional behaviours play a role in the decisions we make with our money?
-What was the motivation behind your new book, True Wealth?
Useful links mentioned in this episode:
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Martin: Diana, thank you so much for joining us on the podcast today. Could you start by telling us a little bit about your background and experience?
Diana: Well, thank you, Martin. I’m really happy to be on. I grew up in the UK. I was very fortunate to spend my junior year at university abroad at the Wharton Business School. I actually spent my 20’s doing corporate strategic planning, and then I did a major u-turn in my 30’s and moved into the not-for-profit world, and over a period of 15 years I directed three different charitable organisations, all of them in the United States. Part way through this process I was fortunate to enough an inheritance through some family businesses, so was in a position to decide how I then wanted to move forward, and what I wanted to do next with my life. I chose to start my own practise which had two primary focal points, and I’m sure we’ll talk about in that in a minute.
You can tell that my background is eclectic because I went from corporate strategic planning to non-profit work.
Martin: Absolutely, yeah. You’ve become know as the family wealth mentor. How did they come about? Obviously, you received the inheritance allowed you to change direction a little bit.
Diana: Yes. I was able to start my practise which has two primary focal points. One is a philanthropic advisor to help my clients to do their gifting strategically and effectively. The second is as a family wealth mentor. This is working with families to address all the human dimensions of their wealth. To make sure that their wealth is a positive force in their lives. Many of the sorts of topics that would come up would be, how much money should I give to my children and when, and how should we talk about it? Those human dimensions really captivate clients. That’s where a lot of their primary energy goes.
Martin: And these are some of the really important questions, aren’t they, around health? They’re often overlooked, so do you take a coaching approach to this?
Diana: Yes. Very much a coaching approach, and I think of it as mentoring to really help clients to learn and appropriate their wealth in ways that they, then, feel more confident, more comfortable managing it in their primary relationships because it’s in those relationships where the nuances often play out and where the clients feel that the stakes are incredibly high because these are their primary relationships. So, they want to manage it very well.
Martin: How do people get started? How do they start to clarify what it is they want from their wealth and what their intent is in life, and how that links together?
Diana: I think I’ll answer that question by saying that each one of us really benefits from understanding the impact of wealth on us, to start with. In order to clarify our objectives and intent, we really need to understand how wealth is motivating us, so that we can consciously make choices about the path that we want to take as we move forward.
In my experience, I have sometimes asked client groups, “What is the purpose of your wealth?” Often, it’s very hard for an immediate answer, and it takes them digging down. “So, why are we accumulating the wealth and what are we really trying to achieve with it?” But these are very very core questions because they influence how the individuals and their families all perceive of the wealth that’s their responsibility.
Martin: And these are questions, I guess, that need to be answered, understood, before you make important decisions about what to do with your money, whether to invest it, whether to give it away to family members.
Diana: Absolutely. Because we really benefit from being clear about our values and our intentions, and then the decisions fall fairly readily within that. The more clarity we have at the outset, the easier it is to, then, make those decisions. Communicating them isn’t always so easy for us and that’s one of the areas that I spend a lot of time with on my clients: helping the to think, “Okay. I’ve made this decision. How do I now communicate this to all my family members, or it could be some friends, so that they understand my intent behind this?”
Martin: Now, here at Informed Choice, we work with clients who are, I would probably describe as mass-influent and high-net-worth. I understand that the clients tend to be high-net-worth, ultra-high-net-worth individuals. Do these people face a different set of financial challenges to the rest of us? Or are there any similarities regardless of your levels of wealth?
Diana: Absolutely similarities. These same issues play out across the financial spectrum. Let’s have an example. You could have somebody of fairly modest means going out for dinner with a friend and trying to figure out who’s going to pay for what and how are we going to split the bill. That would happen many many times and it’s a subject that would come up for discussion.
At the wealthier end of the spectrum, you might have two couples going out for dinner and one orders an extremely expensive bottle of wine. You’re still going to have the same potential feelings and questions about what’s fair and equitable in this situation and how are we going to handle it if one couple would never have chosen to have spent their money on the extremely expensive bottle of wine.
The same topics are relevant across the financial spectrum, but I do feel that significant wealth escalates them. For example, many of my clients are really focused on making sure that their wealth does not get in the way of their children’s success and thriving in life. If you have 100 thousand pounds to leave your child, that’s wonderful. It’s not likely to derail them. If you have 100 million, that’s a different story. So, yes, the issues are similar, but the wealth really intensifies them.
Martin: I guess we think of things like that as a nice problem to have, but it is a genuine issue, isn’t it? If you’re leaving significant amounts of wealth to the next generation to think, I know the likes of Bill Gates have come out publicly and said they’re not going to do that because they want their children to have a good start in life and understand the value of work and things. So is that a common issue you come across with your clients?
Diana: Absolutely. If I had to say what the number one concern is in my clients, it is that the wealth would enhance their children’s lives and that it would not cause them to get off-track. Off-track could mean that they just never get traction and they never really find their path. Or off-track could be more destructive than that. But it is the number one concern about how the wealth will impact their children because many of my clients have generated the wealth themselves and they know the benefit of discipline and diligence and hard work, and they don’t want to deprive their children of that.
So, my perspective is that when we are considering a gift, whether it is to our children or other people, we need to be very thoughtful about what would actually enhance that person’s life. It requires us to be thoughtful givers, so that the gift is an appropriate gift.
Martin: And you’ve touched on this already, but to what extent does emotion and our emotional behaviours play a role in wealth management and decisions we make about money?
Diana: Oh. I think it’s very significant and, of course, there’s the whole field of behavioural finances/behavioral economics where we’re aware of how our emotions can impact our investment choices, for example. I am much more focused on the impact of money on us individually and on our relationships. So, I think of the skill set we need as being financial EQ, or financial emotional intelligence, which I would describe as understanding our own feelings and beliefs and expectations about wealth, as well as communicating and interacting with others who may have very different feelings, beliefs, and expectations about it.
Martin: And that’s on a whole different plain, isn’t it, to financial IQ, financial intelligence? Which I know a lot of people struggle with already, just to have the basic knowledge of the building blocks of wealth. How do you build that foundation and make the leap from financial intelligence to financial emotional intelligence?
Diana: I would see them as two parallel tracks. Financial IQ is an incredibly important skill set to have, and at the most basic level it’s where does our money come from and where does it go to and are we tracking it and do we have some sort of spending plan? As we get more sophisticated, of course, it’s about investments, allocating our assets, diversifying our portfolios, et cetera.
Financial EQ is really parallel to that and it’s a whole different set of skills. As I mentioned earlier, we need to start with how is the money affecting us? Which means we need to understand our own money story, and we need to understand the money messages that we received when we were growing up. Could have been from our parents. Could have been teachers.
They’re very powerful sometimes and they form our beliefs about money. It’s really advantageous to look at those so that we can see whether these messages still make sense to us today. I’ll give you a for example.
One money message that I received from my father was never be in debt. Well, that’s a really brilliant money message if you don’t want to have any credit card debt or inappropriate debt that could be a burden, but it’s not a great money message if you actually want to have, for example, a mortgage that would be part of your investment strategy. I know that the first times that I took out mortgages, I found it extremely stressful because, in the back of my mind, I could hear my father saying, “Never be in debt.”
It was something I had to look at and take apart and say, “Okay. There’s an element to this that’s really helpful and very appropriate and wise. And there’s another element that’s actually getting in my way right now.” So, now I’ve taken this money message apart, I’m free to choose. Yes, I’m going to take the mortgage. It’s a good part of my investment strategy.
Martin: And, of course, so much of our attitudes towards money, our approach to wealth management, are formed in those childhood years in messages we receive from our parents, things we experience around money. So, is that something you find of your clients, too? That they tend to carry a lot of emotional financial baggage with them?
Diana: Yes. That all of us, as you just said, are formed in those early years by the messages that we received. I wouldn’t necessarily describe them as emotional and financial baggage because some of us are very fortunate to have had parents, who themselves have been very astute and aware and conscious about what they were communicating about wealth.
That’s really my goal with the people with whom I work, which is to raise our level of awareness, raise the level consciousness, so that we make very clear, considered choices. So that we drive the decisions and we are not, in a sense, driven by the money itself.
Martin: All right. Let’s touch on your new book, which is called “True Wealth” and you’ve written this as a series of letters about money, life, and love. What was the motivation behind the book? What do you hope readers take away from it?
Diana: Thank you for asking about it. I’m very excited about the book. It’s a distillation of everything that I have worked on over the years. It’s not just recent thinking and, for anyone who reads the book, they’ll see that my own story is embedded in it and I am quite personal and revealing about the role of money in my life. I’m hoping that each of the letters has some guidance for the person to whom it was written, and, therefore, to the person who reads, and that by touching on multiple subjects around money, life, and love, that there will be at least one, if not more, letters that will resonate with the reader and they will be able to take something that will transformative from it. That they will be able to shift and tweak their relationship with money in a way that really has a positive impact for them.
Martin: Fantastic. You mentioned earlier that there are two strands to what you do. One is, as we’ve discussed, being a family wealth mentor. The other is all about philanthropic giving. What role does charitable giving play when you’re managing significant levels of wealth?
Diana: I think it has a really valuable role to play because it’s a vehicle that the very significantly wealthy can really use as they choose to make their transition from being extremely successful to taking a more significant role in their communities. It allows them to extend their reach, in a way, to, and I believe that our philanthropy should be a seamless extension of us in the world. They’re fully expressing themselves, but they’re extending it to new spheres. I think it’s very important from that perspective.
I also think it has a really important dimension, in as far as, when we are philanthropic with our money and, I would include, generous with our time and other resources as part of being a philanthropist. But when we’re generous with our money, it means that we have a certain freedom to let go of it, and that we hold lightly to it in the best possible way. To me, when someone has that freedom, there’s an indication that they have come to a comfortable, mature place in their own relationship to their wealth.
Martin: Diana, thank you so much for your time today. Before you go, where can our listeners find a bit more about you and about your work and, most importantly, where can they buy a copy of the book?
Diana: Thank you. I have a website and my story, my bio, and my work, and business practise is described on that. It’s my name, dianachambers.com and the book is available on amazon.co.uk and the title again is “True Wealth: Letters on Money, Life, and Love.”
Martin: Fantastic. We’ll make sure we put links to all that into the show notes, too, so our listeners can find it very easily. Thank you so much for your time.
Diana: Thank you so much. B-bye.