Diana Chambers is a family wealth mentoring and philanthropic advisory expert, and President and CEO of The Chambers Group.
H Edition Global Magazine had the pleasure to talk with Diana Chambers about the importance of a healthy understanding of wealth, tax and inheritance.
Do you believe money is the root of all evil?
No! Money is nothing more than a medium of exchange. The problem lies in our relationship to money. We get off track when we lose ourselves in the fantasies of money, set the acquisition of wealth as our ultimate goal, allow money to be the determining factor in our relationships, and equate money with freedom, power, control, security, happiness, meaning and love.
Owning and inheriting vast wealth can have its challenges. What services does The Chambers Group offer and how do you teach your clients to manage their money, rather than the money managing them?
I complement the work of my clients’ investment and tax advisors who concentrate primarily on the practical, tangible dimensions of wealth. Instead, I focus on the impact that money has on us and our relationships. As a family wealth mentor, I work with my individual and family clients to make sense of their wealth and its role in their lives, and I help them build the skills to communicate effectively about their wealth, especially in their intimate relationships with parents, partners, and children. The willingness to give some of our wealth away can be a good indicator that we own our money, and it does not own us. It also allows us to extend our legacy beyond our immediate family. So a significant part of my practice is support for my clients to become effective philanthropists.
What career trajectory did you pursue in order to solidify your standing as a family wealth mentoring and philanthropic advisory expert?
I have an undergraduate business degree from the University of Edinburgh, spent my junior year at the Wharton Business School, and worked in corporate strategic planning and cross border M and A for almost a decade. Then life took some interesting twists and turns and ten years working in Washington, DC, directing a programme to train people to work in the inner-city with the very poor, opened my heart to understand the nature and role of money in our individual lives, in our relationships, and in society. Through this and two other nonprofit organisations I subsequently ran, I became close to the donors who shared with me their larger wealth-related concerns. My passion for helping to resolve the human challenges of wealth was born!
What kind of individuals/families do you typically work with? How many families do you typically work with at one time and what is the “highest stake” case you have worked on?
No two individuals or families are alike, so my work is always dependent on listening closely to understand the defining characteristics of each client. Having said that, most of my clients are wealth creators and their next two generations. I typically work with up to ten clients at any one point in time, allowing me flexibility to be immediately responsive to any needs that arise. All cases are “high stakes” to the people concerned. One example was being the voice of human reason – identifying what was important for the family members to thrive over multiple generations – as a very complex cross border estate plan was designed that would influence the family members’ lives for many decades.
What does a ‘healthy’ relationship with money look like to you?
A healthy relationship with money is one where the money is not our ultimate priority and, instead, supports the more qualitative aspects of our lives. Money is important to sustain aspects of our lives such as our health, education, and our social connections. In a healthy relationship with money, it is on stage but not center stage. It is an actor but not the central character.
What age do you think is appropriate for someone to have access to a trust fund?
There is no specific age at which we can guarantee financial maturity – some people have it at a very young age, and others much later (if ever) in life. Rather, I help my clients think of trust funds as “icing on the cake” after they have provided for themselves their own financial needs. It is incredibly empowering for children to know they are capable of taking care of themselves, and too often trusts funds and gifts at a relatively young age prevent the recipients from getting traction in their lives, finding their respective paths, and proving themselves.
What has been the proudest moment in your career helping people with their money?
A few weeks ago a family member in her twenties, describing the role I had played as a wealth mentor to her, said it was like having a “phone-a-friend” lifeline in a game show; I was always there when she needed me and I would, hopefully, know the correct answer.
If there was one piece of advice you could give a friend about money, what would it be?
Hold lightly to it as it can be come and go in the flash of an eye. Put your trust in things that bring real, lasting happiness, including quality relationships and meaning found through pursuing your passions.
What has been the most transformative social investment you have seen as a result of philanthropic advice you have given to a client?
We all want to know our lives have counted and we’ve made a significant difference. It would be easy to say that a person who has gifted great sums is a great philanthropist. But the quality of a gift and its impact counts, too, so we can all be great philanthropists. I believe the most transformative social investment I will see as a result of having given philanthropic advice will be the proof of a protocol to reverse the symptoms of cognitive decline in patients with Alzheimer’s Disease, with the potential to affect the lives of literally millions of people.
Why, in your opinion, do women with no financial background encounter difficulties when it comes to inheriting?
It’s not only women with no financial background who encounter difficulties when inheriting. Unfortunately, the challenge for women is often compounded if they have been educated or enculturated to believe they are not financially competent or that they should leave major financial decisions to the men in their lives. While this is changing, thanks in part to some strong female role models, we still have quite a way to go.
Diana Chambers’ new book True Wealth: Letters on Money, Life, and Love (Altitude Press, £21) is available on Amazon.co.uk and Amazon.com.
Diana can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org