Albie made a tidy fortune from brokering the sale of a couple of uber expensive real estate in downtown Manhattan end of last year. Newly rich, he had to “take cover” for a while (reasons which will be apparent to you later), and so he was at the Mentor’s Nilai estate where I got to meet him.
With Albie’s presence, our monthly Mastermind meeting quickly focused on his story – much less on how he had made his money, and more on its “aftermath”. Indeed, strange things start to happen once you’ve added a couple of zeros to your net worth.
The Mastermind had a collective net worth of possibly billions, and as many of its members were self-made, they knew a thing or two about how to deal with gobs of moolah that never existed before. And trust me, it’s not all champagne and roses – that old rap adage “Mo’ Money, Mo’ Problems” really rings true.
I’ve made the following notes mainly for my own benefit because, well, they might just come in handy in the future, who knows? 🙂 Don’t forget to bookmark this page so that you can come back later when you’ve made your filthy lucre from property investment or nombor ekor or whatever else.
Four Things To Do First If You Suddenly Become Rich (Before You Celebrate)
This is usually the first thing that people in the know will tell you, and it’s entirely true.
If the word leaks out that you have struck it rich it will make you a standout at social gatherings like a fart in the exam hall. You want to keep quiet – especially if your ascendency to the wealthy class has been abrupt (like, if you’ve brokered the sale of a billion-dollar hotel chain) – at least until you get all that legal stuff done.
If you don’t keep your pie hole shut about your newfound wealth, expect one (or all) of these things to happen:
- Friends start begging you for money
- Friends whom you’ve never seen since high school start begging you for money
- Friends start to pitch you with their “business plans”
- Frivolous lawsuits
- Family members expect you to pay for dinners / their broadband bills / their kids’ education
In short, you’ll need to STFU. You can celebrate later when you’ve protected yourself from jerkoffs who will crawl out from the woodwork to demand their pound of flesh.
#2: Lawyer Up
No, not your wife’s cousin brother (unless he went to Harvard Law), or someone you found on Craigslist. Use this list (I’m assuming that you’re in Malaysia) –
Pick a firm from that list, make the call and ask for an exploratory meeting. When you’re there, demand that someone at the Partner level is to handle your account. Never settle for a junior staff (don’t be fooled by artificial titles, like “Client Director”, or “Senior Vice President”). If you don’t get what you want, move on to the next law firm on the list, no biggie.
Trust me – it will be worth the money to hire the Partner of a big name firm to represent you. This is absolutely not the time to skimp on fees! At least, if the lawyer firm screws up then you can in turn sue them for money. No point going after a skint “Yap Chooi Hwa Advocates & Solicitors” if things go belly up, you know what I mean?
I’m not a lawyer and I don’t play one on TV, but from what I had heard, they will probably advise you to set up a series of trust funds to safeguard your money. And as any sufficiently moneyed person will tell you, you want to own nothing, and yet control everything. A good lawyer will help set this up for you.
Once you have put the lawyer firm on retainer, use Mr Partner as the buffer between you and the inevitable bullshit requests that are going to come from your family. So your distant cousin from China starts pestering you for $150,000 to buy a friggin’ Toyota Camry? No problem… get the lawyer to be the bad guy and ask your cousin to take the slow boat back to Tongsan.
#3: Setup A Family Office
Once you’ve got the lawyering part sorted out, it’s time to think about how to manage your money. One option you have is to engage the services of a major bank (via its “Wealth Management” division). It will set up a team who will maintain and grow your capital according to what you agree with in terms of the types of investments and how comfortable you are with risk. Again, you should at least go with a major financial institution (i.e. JP Morgan or Citibank or Merrill Lynch) and avoid the cikai ones with dubious reputation (“Yap Chooi Hwa Investment Management”, etc).
I heard that while going to the banks is a popular option, the smarter way is to establish what people all a “Family Office”. It’s an industry term for a group of professional managers whose entire life purpose is to manage your money and make sure that you’re happy.
What the family office does is to provide you a range of products that what the banks can give you, but also other types of investments like, you guessed it, property. For example, you can ask them to analyze if it’s worth it to buy an empty tract of land for sale in Damansara Heights and build a couple of bungalows on it. They will then go do the due diligence and let you know the findings.
Contrast this with the “Wealth Management” division of a bank which is usually filled with salespeople who are incentivized to sell you products which have high commissions. So, there’s a conflict of interest inherent in the banks since their interests are not exactly always align to yours. No such problems with family offices!
Apparently you can get your family office to sort out problems which extend beyond the management of your money and investments. One of the people I knew in the Mastermind told me that he had once asked the head of his family office to find at least two dates for him every week (for Friday and Saturday nights!) because then, he was too busy working to meet women.
He eventually married the head of his family office.
#4: Take Cover
Now back to our visitor Albie who was in KL as the guest of the Mentor. He was away from his native New York because he was, you guessed it, “taking cover”.
After engaging a hot shot lawyer and set up his family office, he quickly packed his bags and left the country. “It takes awhile to set all those trust funds and legal entities up. Meanwhile, I’m using this time to figure out what I want to do for the next five years of my life. That’s why I am traveling and meeting new people,” he told me.
When you’re rich, you’ll find new, interesting opportunities that will come knocking on your door more frequently than ever before. It’s a good time to parse through everything that comes to your attention, and sort out what’s important from what’s not. Now that you’ve got the money, you’ll now need to figure out how to spend it purposefully!
My old buddy (and fellow Mastermind member) “Lanky” Ari of Bangsarville read through the draft of this article, and had the following to add:
- Don’t hire your friends and relatives as employees. You are elevating yourself to a position which is superior to them. They will end up hating you.
- Don’t start businesses with friends and relatives. They will expect to get rich riding on your coattails. They will end up hating you.
- Watch your social circle closely. There will be people who will want to take advantage of you. If you’re a single guy, be aware that there are people out there who make a living out of, ahem, falsified sexual assault and paternity claims. Not friggin’ joking.