What differentiates you from other advisors?
“Money cannot buy happiness.” While being raised by my parents in the northern suburbs of Chicago I heard this message a lot. My dad was a fifth-generation undertaker and the proud owner of Birren & Sons Funeral Home, located in an area of Chicago now known as Edgewater Glen. Our family business thrived for over 125 years. In fact, the business was so reputable that when George “Papa Bear” Halas, a founding father of the NFL and Chicago Bears, passed away, his will specifically called for “a Birren to bury him." Despite this success, I still grew up believing, “Money cannot buy happiness.” Today, I disagree. Money CAN buy happiness. But only to those who know their purpose.
What kind of experience do you offer to your clients?
A long time ago an author wrote, “Money will not purchase happiness for the [person] who has no concept of what [they] want: money will not give [them] a code of values...it will not provide [them] with a purpose.” I learned this lesson when I was part of an incredible team helping launch OWN: The Oprah Winfrey Network in 2011. OWN would be Oprah’s and the Discovery, Inc.’s most ambitious project and largest gamble to date. In a world where television content, distribution channels, networks and creators are becoming more commoditized every day, we were challenged to find a way to stand out. So, we simplified the business to a singular core mission: to help people live their best life. From that simple purpose, we told stories with purpose. With intention. We weren’t weaving tales for the sake of entertainment; rather, we wanted viewers to take away valuable messages and lessons that would impact their daily lives. We wanted to inspire our audience.
What is the most fulfilling aspect of being an advisor to your clients?
Money is a by-product. It is the result of a person’s combined creativity, talents and ability. It is not biased toward joy or fulfillment and it has no meaning other than what we give it. It is simply an outcome. At Bernstein, our purpose is to make money meaningful. That means portfolio management and asset allocation is just the beginning. My clients and I work together on clarifying their priorities, defining their legacy and ensuring their kids can survive their success. Ultimately, I work to help my clients become truly wealthy—in every sense of the word. So, if money can only buy happiness for someone who knows their purpose, then let’s start by asking one simple question, “What is your purpose?”