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  • Mark MacSymon


Updated: Apr 24, 2023

Scientists, economists and sociologists have been studying the correlation between happiness, income and wealth for decades with variable conclusions. Mark MacSymon, a longstanding Wealth Manager at Private Client Holdings, dedicated his honours degree dissertation to understanding Easterlin’s paradox. The paradox states that wealthy people are, on average, happier than poorer people and richer countries are happier than poorer countries. And yet, growing national wealth is not always accompanied by growing national happiness over the long term. As generations continue, so happiness can dwindle.

“Wealth can often erode from generation to generation,” says MacSymon. “Often this erosion can be attributed to family growth, but it’s also often due to poor communication and low trust, entitlement, inadequate preparation and training of the next generation, and failure to define the family mission and vision.”

A study conducted by Williams and Preisser involving over 3 000 wealthy families, entitled Preparing Heirs, found that 70% of families’ substantial wealth disappears by the end of the second generation, 90% of their wealth is gone by the end of the third generation, and 98% by the end of the fourth.

The question is, can a wealth manager help to influence the ‘happiness’ of families?

“Wealth managers play an important role when it comes to framing trade-off decisions about what really matters to a family,” states MacSymon. “Though the question of ‘how much is enough?’ differs from family to family, optimising the balance between balance sheet wealth and happiness is an activity that can really influence a family’s collective well-being. The key, however, is to ensure that we preserve the wealth of these families for future generations,” he says.

A fast-growing wealth management segment are Family Offices, used by families who wish to protect and manage their wealth in a structured manner. More and more high net-worth individuals are choosing the Family Office model because it meets their needs for a personalised and pragmatic approach when dealing with the growth and preservation of their wealth.

“At PCH, the Family Office model encourages clients to lay strong foundations for long-term family collaboration and success,” says MacSymon. “Communication and family alignment is critical “Here as wealth managers we can assist in defining family vision, formalising a family charter and mission statement as well as identifying family values we can apply to their philanthropic efforts,” he states. “Wealth needs a purpose. Setting a strategic direction for preserving multi-generational family wealth and preparing wealth for the next generation is also important, so younger family members feel they are trusted and are more likely to develop healthy financial habits and understand and respect the responsibilities that come with wealth.

“While no one can predict the next bear or bull market, wealth managers can act as trusted advisors to wealthy families, looking at the big picture and devising through a highly comprehensive and integrated approach," he states. "Not only is their wealth in good hands, being preserved and nurtured for generations to come, but we’re also freeing up time for them to focus on areas of their lives that will positively impact their health and sense of well-being. Ulitmately, when people take better care of themselves they come to feel happier. We hope that the peace of mind we provide materially impacts their sense of ‘happiness’,” concludes MacSymon.


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