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On family offices, focus and peace

Family is everything. And, hopefully, the ties that bind become stronger when families work together and prosper together.

When they prosper, they often need professional guidance that will help them protect and grow those blessings. Sometimes, they form a family office, which is a business established to run the affairs of an affluent family.

That’s where my most recent guest – Thomas Handler – comes in. He’s a Managing Partner with Handler Thayer, LLP, in Chicago and chairs the firm’s Advanced Planning & Family Office Practice Group. The focus is on long-term wealth preservation and enhancement, asset protection and risk management.

The firm just released its 2017 Family Office Outlook, and the findings are interesting.

The dominant trend among family offices, he said, has been a focus on risk. Wealthy families are concerned about such things as:

– Government over-regulation.
– Lawsuits and liability.
– Spoofing, ID theft and fraud.
– Kidnapping and ransom.
– A rising sense of nationalism in many countries.

“People are dialing-up the level of caution and the amount of procedures and money they’re willing to spend to protect themselves from these various risks,” Handler said.

Basically, they’re diversifying and hedging in a multitude of ways.

“Make no mistake: The globalization of families, businesses, finance and investments is a strong and enduring global trend. Any of these short-term blips that may slow or discourage global commerce are really not going to change that trend,” he said.

“The fact that the world is getting flatter is just the state of affairs.”

When diversification takes the form of global taxpayer flight to more favorable jurisdictions, like the United States, real estate is one of the first investment options that wealthy families choose, Handler said, although they’re also investing in the over-bought equity markets.

There is very strong growth among single family offices and multifamily offices globally, especially in China, he added.

“As we sit here today, the traditional relationship between the U.S. and China is the largest economic relationship in the history of the planet – and it’s growing. As it grows over time, it will increasingly be a major force in defining the global economy,” he said.

In part, that means an increasing number of wealthy families establishing economic ties to the U.S., particularly in Florida and on the West Coast, Handler said. Those families consult family office experts in order to protect themselves just like Americans do.

Now, you and I know that hucksters come out of the woodwork anytime there’s money around. So I asked Handler how he helps families navigate these minefields.

He said there aren’t a lot of professional advisors in the family office space. It’s a fairly young industry, but as it matures more family office associations have materialized to help safeguard their members against fraud.

“It is difficult for families to find other families, and it is difficult to verify who a family is because there are billionaire families in Chicago that no one knows who they are. They don’t appear on any of the lists. They go to great efforts to hide their wealth and live well below their means,” Handler said.

“And there are other families where it’s impossible for them to hide because their holdings are so substantial they just can’t stay off the radar screen.

“So, yes, it is difficult to find these families, but when they can get together they can learn from each other, avoid making mistakes, and share best practices.”

Handler talked about some things you don’t want to miss, including:

– Why and how families are fleeing jurisdictions like Venezuela and Argentina as fast as they can.

– Why it’s advantageous for families to pool their investments.

Click here to listen to the full interview with Thomas Handler of Handler Thayer, LLP.

On focus, balance and peace

One of the many things I’m learning from my good friend Michael Cooper of Human Performance Mentors and The Missing Playbook is this formula: Focus + Balance = Peace, Happiness and Fulfillment.

There are lots of things that conspire to steal your focus, like the guy who cuts you off in traffic or the constant interruptions during the business day.

If you stay focused, you can stay productive – which by itself reduces stress.

But, as much as we value focus, that focus can’t be only about business. There’s this thing called life that we have to live. We work so we can enjoy life.

And enjoying life brings the balance that keeps us from burning out in business.

Now, most of you know that one of my major areas of focus these past few years has been my wife Vivian and her quest to find a kidney donor.

She still needs a donor. It’s been a long road, but we both keep walking it. One step at a time.

More often than not, she’s the one who keeps me going. Her strength and faith in the face of daily dialysis treatments have been an inspiration to me.

But one morning recently, she needed me to focus – on her. What mattered that morning was having balance – setting aside the schedule, holding my wife and telling her it’s going to be okay.

Vivian has a job to do – go to dialysis every day and keep herself as healthy as possible. My job is to make sure we’re prepared financially when a kidney donation becomes available.

To that end, it’s been about a year since I went out on my own as a real estate finance professional and affiliated myself with the folks at Spectrum Mortgage.

Interestingly, the deals I’ve closed have been in urban infill locations. People want to be in South Florida, but they REALLY hate the traffic. They want to live as close to work as possible, or at least live near mass transit that can get them out from behind the wheel.

In fact, my most recent listing is the last piece of developable land in Miami-Dade County. The seller is motivated and, best of all, it’s right next to transit.

I had more to say about all of these subjects. Click here to listen to the full discussion.

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