In 30 years of coaching heirs at The Wealth Conservancy, author Myra Salzer has learned that the myths surrounding inheritance are pervasive – and unhelpful. Living Richly is a lively, encouraging book that speaks directly to inheritors, providing reassurance that their greatest potential as human beings is within reach, no matter how much of a burden their wealth might seem to create.
A light, inspiring read for inheritors, their friends, and those who advise them, Living Richly offers Salzer’s venerable perspective as a wealth coach who believes net worth should serve self-worth (instead of the other way around). She brings readers her abundant hands-on experience with the challenges surrounding wealth, particularly for those who have inherited enough that earned income (paid work) has become purely optional.
Living Richly: Seizing the Potential of Inherited Wealth is not about finance: it is about human potential. Salzer shares real-life stories of the struggles inheritors face and shows how thoughtful heirs are overcoming their misgivings to make the most of their wealth. One of the book’s key messages: When more inheritors live richly, rather than succumbing to the burden of their wealth, the potential becomes astounding.
From Chapter 1: A Personal Appeal
“Much of my professional journey has turned out to be a very personal one. In assisting my inheritor clients through the stages of wealth and working with them toward a position of empowerment, I’ve almost always found myself caught up in the personal dynamics of life, family, passion, history, and vision.
Working with inheritors is not just about the material aspects of money or the mechanical details of a portfolio, a life spending plan, or even a legacy that will outlast a lifespan. On the contrary, it is a surprisingly complex and sometimes agonizingly introspective process. I say “agonizing” with the sort of affection normally reserved for the freakish masochistic set. That’s because, in my life, soul searching is such a painfully beautiful process that it makes me want to burst. Sort of like the enigmatic Ricky Fitts in American Beauty when he said: “Sometimes there’s so much beauty in the world I feel like I can’t take it, like my heart’s going to cave in.”
In many ways, becoming a competent and inspired inheritor is one of the most painfully beautiful paths toward self-discovery and meaningful accomplishment in the world. My clients have shown me that inherited wealth impacts everything in your life, from relationships and career choices to your ability to grasp your truest essence and find your ultimate path to fulfillment.
These are lofty thoughts born of gritty experience. I have seen firsthand through my clients that wealth is not merely a gift that says, “Now you’ve got it made.” Inheritance has the potential to atrophy your life dreams, lure you into disappointment or disaster, and steer you in exactly the opposite way of anything resembling success. I believe it’s partly because there is such a focus in our culture on worth measured in terms of wealth—we express meaning too often through money—that it is hard not to be influenced by these unhealthy myths and habits.
During the past two decades I have met hundreds of inheritors with talents and abilities untapped, like great gifts still in their wrapping paper. In our years of working together, we have learned an important truth: Don’t wait to tear into those gifts and put them to use. No matter how daunting the odds, the list of things to do, the daily pressures, the unpleasant discoveries seemingly at every turn, you do not have to settle for merely OK. You can integrate your net worth with your self-worth. Your wealth can become the vessel for your personal freedom, the medium through which you may accomplish your highest aspirations. That journey begins by tearing down some longstanding myths.”
From Chapter 4: Envision This: You’re a Leader Now
“If you haven’t thought of yourself as a leader before, you better start coming to terms with it. Leadership comes in many forms, and sometime in our lives (if not on a daily basis) we all must find the ability to listen, learn, think, decide, act, and lead. As an inheritor, not only are you forbidden to weasel out of this requirement, you must step up almost immediately.
Certain clocks begin ticking from the moment inheritors come into a fortune. Sometimes the stopwatch has already begun months or years earlier; sometimes before you were born. Stopwatch or time bomb? It’s more like a stopwatch, but just for fun let’s pretend it’s a bomb.
Many inherited benefits have time limits, eligibility windows, and details that evolve (or vanish) over time. Federal law, for instance, has a set time period for accepting or disclaiming the benefits provided by a will. Most beneficiaries of trusts, as another example, have different levels of access to their funds as they reach certain ages. Remember how Lance unwittingly signed away his rights to a full third of his fortune? That was back when he turned 21, and it was a time-sensitive decision on which he didn’t receive full disclosure from his family office.
An example that faces every inheritor is the array of tax questions that surround any wealth transfer. Tax benefits and liabilities vary with the tax codes, which can seem to change with the winds. Certain combined tax liabilities are now over 70 percent (as just one example of the variables), so failing to understand your tax options relatively quickly can drastically affect your financial picture (in ways with which only your friendly taxing authorities would be pleased).
Assuming you accept this urgency, defusing your own peculiar time bombs is going to require leadership. You might be tempted to jump in there like the movie hero and start clipping wires, but here’s where the time-bomb ruse ends. Please recall my introduction’s “don’t panic” clause: You of all people can afford to take the time to get these decisions right. And that means becoming a leader.
From Chapter 6: Satiation Spending and Defining Your Nut
“You’ve been allocated one lifetime; that’s it. Regardless of the source of your wealth, regardless of whether you’re planning a legacy that will survive you, you have until the day you die to achieve your dreams. True, you can create legacies that will carry your visions beyond your grave, but you’ve got to envision those plans and set them in motion while you’re still here. So an important step in wealth planning is to assure you’ll have enough to satisfy your needs and desires throughout your life expectancy. That’s called securing your “nut” (finally, a financial term from the squirrels rather than a Scrabble® triple-word-score Hall of Famer).
Start by defining and articulating how you want to spend your money throughout your life: I call this “satiation spending.” This will be much more than your Christmas list for Santa—a good wealth coach can guide you through the process. Together you’ll take what you have and what you plan to spend, mapping that over a realistic projection of your lifespan. You’ll extrapolate a return on your investment, an inflation rate, a life expectancy, and voila! That’s how you’ll determine if you have enough assets to meet all your needs and wants.
The nut is the amount that supports your satiation spending beyond your expected lifespan. It requires consideration of investment returns, changing personal circumstances, market fluctuations, and on and on. Like so much in this process, it’s an arbitrary calculation, though not random: inherently flawed but helpful nonetheless. The flaw is that nobody can see the future. For instance, in 2004 you never saw a nut calculation that anticipated the 50 percent market slide in 2008-2009, but a good calculation will specifically address and provide reasonable flexibility to accommodate such surprises. Where nut calculations are helpful is taking your financial snapshot—your sense of where you stand now—and telling you whether you’re likely to have enough.”
Even though my dad is one of the richest men on the planet, the gifts he gave me haven’t been monetary, but rather of ethics and values. The inheritors in Living Richly may have a more complicated path, and thankfully Salzer understands that. A must read for inheritors whose challenges are beyond mine.
For anyone lost in the confusion, fear, guilt, or euphoria of a large inheritance, Living Richly provides a way forward—a way to reclaim or even reinvent your life.
Salzer has a vision of the awesome potential of each human soul. Living Richly is a must-read not just for inheritors but for those serving professionals seeking processes to assist their clients.
A triumph. Salzer crystallizes her years of experiences into a small gem for the reader.
A very thoughtful journey through the thickets of our clients’ worlds. Readers will experience an easy, poetic resonance with Salzer’s informal style and rich messages.
Inheritors are simultaneously envied, scorned, and courted not for who they truly are but for their special status and wealth. Salzer has a gift for speaking to them at a human level, with humor and wisdom.
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About the Author: Myra Salzer
Listed among the country’s top financial advisors by Worth magazine, Myra Salzer is the founder and president of The Wealth Conservancy, Inc. After founding the firm in 1983, Salzer began specializing in fee-only financial planning as a wealth coach and inheritor’s advocate. Her specialty is ‘interior finance,’ or the personal aspects of inherited wealth. Salzer’s published works include The Inheritor’s Sherpa: A Life-Summiting Guide for Inheritors (2005), Living Richly: Seizing the Potential of Inherited Wealth (2010), The Confident Inheritor: No Apologies Necessary (2014), and The Cabin: Building a Family-of-Affinity Office (2014). Through her books, Salzer speaks directly to inheritors, providing reassurance of their greatest potential as human beings, and she shares with readers her secret to integrating with wealth. In addition to her books, Salzer developed TIES (The Inheritor’s Empowerment System) in 2008. TIES is a series of nine steps for inheritors who want to harness the potential of their wealth and realize their greatest life ambitions.
A member of the National Association of Personal Financial Advisors (NAPFA), Salzer is a frequent speaker at conferences in the field of financial services. She has been profiled and consulted in several financial journals and she co-facilitates periodic workshops to help inheritors engage their wealth toward their personal potential. Before entering the financial services industry, Salzer earned a degree in chemical engineering and worked for major corporations in that field. She later became a CERTIFIED FINANCIAL PLANNER™ professional. Salzer and her husband have two grown daughters and live with their dog in the foothills just outside of Boulder.