Monthly Archives: August 2016

Elevator Wisdom from a Sandaled Woman


August 29, 2016

On a typical Monday morning to start the work week, I leave the solitude of my car and face the first human interaction of the day, the awkward elevator ride. Five of us enter the elevator and each press the button for our floor. My fellow riders all hit numbers that are below my floor guaranteeing a slow ascent. We all stare at the floor presumably to assess each other’s shoe choices for the day. I begin to wonder why no one has come up with a male summer sandal shoe option and we all remain inanimate during our shared ride. Finally, the occupants are down to just me and one other rider who was exiting on the tenth floor. As she exited, she broke the silence exclaiming “have a joyous day!”

“A joyous day”; what a nice phrase I thought. I have to admit I do not hear that one often. Most of the time I hear the trite “have a nice day” maybe once in a while a “take care” but never “have a joyous day” coming from a stranger on an elevator.

As I rode the next three floors I thought about what that sandal-clad woman said to me. The fifteen seconds it takes to go three floors was not enough time to do justice to these words of wisdom. I could not get the phrase out of my mind. I got to my desk and wrote the word joyous down and started thinking about it. Being at work and thinking about being joyous seemed incongruous. Can work and this term possibly coexist?

The big components of our lives are usually work, family, relaxation, and solitude. Most of us know that family can bring a tremendous amount of joy. Watching children grow and achieve in their schooling, careers, sports, or anything else can create tremendous amounts of joy for us. That same sense of happiness for many is found in their faith or in the solitude of their own thoughts, but joy and work? Few of us apply that standard to the normal work day.

I have counseled many young adults that if you are not happy doing what you are doing for a living, you should find something new. When work is no more than “work” finding joy in it is hard. If you are happy and fulfilled in your labors are you not joyful?

The stranger in the elevator was right. I should strive to have a joyful day at work. My definition of joyful might mean helping one client understand something better or finding thrill in a new investment opportunity. Perhaps it’s the mentoring and giving back to the next generation. A joyous day does sound like a good idea and with the right frame of mind is very achievable.

Carl Gambrell


Family Meetings for All


August 22, 2016

We have spoken in the past about the various family meetings we attend in our role as advisors to our family office clients. We continue to witness how invaluable these discussions are, and we encourage each of you to think about using such meetings as a way to improve communication within your family.

Some of you might think an organized family meeting is only for the very wealthy. I believe that is not the case. The financial and nonfinancial issues that face each family are unique, but every family can benefit from discussing its hopes, needs, values, and legacy.

A family meeting should not be solely about finances. Many families discuss how they interact with each other, their sense of community, and even their faith. Some families are able to join together for weekly dinners, but for most families assembling everyone is a difficult and expensive affair. Whatever the challenges, having everyone together to discuss the issues facing the family is vitally important, especially as family dynamics become more complex with the addition of spouses, grandchildren, and even great grandkids.

Recently we participated in multiday retreat with over twenty family members, which culminated in a highly productive, open, and moving discussion about the family assets, which are illiquid and closely held. Other meetings in which we have been involved have been less formal. Often they surround the retiring wishes of the family patriarch and/or matriarch. One very poignant recent meeting had to deal with the illness of the matriarch of the family, and her candid and heartfelt thoughts close to the end of her long and fulfilled life.

It is critically important to discuss the plan for the future of a family’s assets, however big or small, especially given the risk of increasing wealth taxation going forward. The low hanging fruit for revenue hungry, populist governments everywhere is taxing those with assets. We expect that the readers of this weekly will face ongoing demands for their capital as governments seek to reduce the divide between the “haves” and “have-nots”.

Those that have committed to holding regular family meetings comment that it has helped eliminate uncertainty and misunderstanding. In many families there is an initial reluctance to engage in frank dialogue about the issues surrounding money for variety of reason such as fear of upsetting somebody, or lack of knowledge about what should be discussed. Getting started with a process for regular family meetings is not easy. After all, parents often disagree over both the family’s financial goals, and the extent to which they should be shared with their children. Some parents even feel an open dialogue with their children is unwise.

We have heard all the excuses for not engaging the family, but an educated and thoughtful approach to include your children in discussions of your assets can produce results which would pleasantly surprise you. The fact that it is easier to avoid the issues by kicking the can down the road does not make this the right course of (in)action.

Carl Gambrell