When it comes to building, preserving and transferring wealth, it’s natural to look to the wealthiest among us for insights and actions we might adopt in our own efforts.

When we do so, we often find that some commonly held assumptions about the affluent’s financial success hold true—while others are incorrect.

With that in mind, consider these five personal finance lessons we’ve learned in our experience working with the so-called Super Rich—those with a net worth of at least $500 million. The steps they take—and don’t take—may prove illuminating as you journey down the path toward your most important financial goals.

Five lessons to learn

Perhaps the most important discovery about the way these hyper-successful individuals think and act to maximize their personal fortunes is that they concentrate the bulk of their attention and efforts on the big picture of wealth creation and preservation. In general, they tend not to generate significant wealth in the ways many assume they do—for example, by picking two or three lights-out stocks at just the right time. Yes, savvy investing moves might play a role in their success—but they’re not necessarily the key drivers.

Instead, it’s about how they position themselves more broadly within the investment, tax and legal worlds that are important to them. In studying the Super Rich, the following are some of the most critical financial lessons we’ve gleaned.

1. Work with the best experts you can find. This is a seemingly obvious lesson—after all, who wants to hire second- or third-tier professionals to help manage their wealth and make key financial decisions? Any yet, we find that many people who have sizable wealth but aren’t at the Super Rich level are working with providers who are either unable or unwilling to deliver the guidance needed to truly excel.

The unfortunate reality is that some professionals out there are what you might call pretenders. They aren’t bad or malicious. Their intentions are excellent: They want to do a great job for the people they serve. However, they simply lack the abilities and resources needed to deliver on those noble intentions. Working with pretenders will get the affluent only so far until these professionals hit a “capabilities wall” that prevents them from addressing the increasingly complex concerns that tend to accompany greater and greater wealth levels.

So how do you identify a top-tier expert? There are several signs that can give you confidence the professional operates at the highest levels of expertise—including:

* Thought leadership. It’s nice to see that a professional is quoted in articles about financial issues. It’s even better if that professional produces engaging content on financial topics and regularly posts or emails it. Such content can help you assess the professional’s expertise and worldview/opinions on various topics.

* Quality referrals. We find that the Super Rich source most of their new professional relationships from professionals they are currently working with. If they work with a top-tier wealth manager, for example, they might ask that wealth manager to introduce them to a top-tier accountant the wealth manager knows. By getting referrals from professionals who have proven themselves, you can potentially increase the probability of working with an extremely talented, sincere and reliable expert.

2. Make sure to go “beyond the numbers.” The Super Rich tend to understand that “the best” professional doesn’t simply mean one who looks great on paper or has exceptional technical skills related to their area of expertise (investing, taxes, estate planning and so on). Yes, those skills are vital. But they’re not enough—and the Super Rich know it.

The other crucial aspect of a top-tier expert is that the person gets to know you on a deep level—not simply how much money you have in your various accounts, but also what you care about and the values that guide your decision making (financial and otherwise) in life.

These may sound like “soft” issues—values, feelings and so on—but in fact, they’re absolutely critical to managing your wealth on a high level. Think about it: If a doctor doesn’t know what’s going on with you, how can they effectively treat you? Similarly, a financial professional must understand who you are as a person in order to develop plans or strategies that position you to move in the right direction. Without such knowledge, you will find it much harder to attain a life of significance—that is, one in which your wealth supports you and all the people you care about most, and empowers you to bring meaning and purpose to your actions.

An expert who goes beyond the numbers will have a process of discovery for getting to know you deeply. That process will look and feel different depending on the professional, of course, but in all cases it will exist and be a key part of your initial interactions. In addition, look for experts who display empathy—a willingness to both understand you and see the world as you do, through your eyes.

3. Understand the importance of negotiation. A common stereotype of very wealthy people is that they’re not rash or foolish with their wealth, and that they maintain a bargain mentality long after they technically need bargains. We actually find that to be the case very often, and this extends to their professional relationships. The Super Rich are, generally speaking, very adept at working with a range of professionals to get the best reasonable deal possible for themselves. Indeed, they often begin the negotiation process early on, when they’re first identifying and screening professionals they’re considering working with.

Likewise, expert professionals themselves are often in a position to negotiate better deals for various solutions they bring to their clients. Top providers make it a point to deliver great value in cost-effective ways. That doesn’t necessarily mean least expensive—but it does mean significant value for the price.

4. Trust—but verify. The Super Rich know that even if they are extremely careful when selecting financial and legal professionals to work with, some of their choices might not work out in the end. Likewise, they realize that some of the solutions their top-tier providers implement may not produce the expected results, for a wide variety of reasons. So the Super Rich will, when necessary, have some or all of their wealth/legal planning stress tested. That means putting the plan or the component of the plan through its paces to see whether it’s still doing what it was designed to do. Stress testing also can help assess how the plan or component is likely to perform under various types of circumstances or environments.

Essentially, the Super Rich employ an approach made famous by President Reagan regarding the U.S.’s dealings with the Soviet Union during the Cold War: Trust, but verify.

Ultimately, this verification process enables the Super Rich to see if they’re on track as well as determine if there are new opportunities or improved ways to tackle issues that they should be considering.

5. Keep emotions in check. A lot has been said and written in the past decade about the concept of behavioral finance. The idea is that as human beings, we don’t necessarily act rationally when making financial decisions (as Economics 101 textbooks might say). Instead, we have emotions and psychological biases that influence our choices in ways that aren’t always rational or “optimal.”

The Super Rich aren’t robots, of course—so they’re not immune to acting irrationally with their wealth. But in our experience, they tend to do a superior job at thinking carefully and logically about money and legal matters before taking action. One possible reason that is the case could be their choice to seek out top professionals to work with, as those experts can serve as important sounding boards and “backstops” who help facilitate sound decisions.

That said, it takes self-discipline and self-awareness to stay rational—especially during particularly good or particularly bad financial market conditions, or when life events cause a great deal of stress and worry. Some steps that can help you keep emotions in check include:

* Notice your emotional responses to financial developments both large and small. For example, how do you feel when you earn money, spend money and save money? How comfortable or uncomfortable do you feel when making significant financial decisions? And what feelings crop up when you see the market plummeting or, conversely, soaring?

* Delay a decision for seven days. When a sudden, strong urge to do something with your wealth or legal plan arises, make an effort to give yourself a waiting period of a week. During that time, your emotions about the situation may moderate—enabling you to make a more considered, clearheaded decision.


Implement these Super Rich lessons and you could potentially find yourself better positioned to achieve what you most want to see happen in life—for yourself, the people you love, your community and maybe even the world.

ACKNOWLEDGMENT: This article was published by the VFO Inner Circle, a global financial concierge group working with affluent individuals and families and is distributed with its permission. Copyright 2022 by AES Nation, LLC.

This report is intended to be used for educational purposes only and does not constitute a solicitation to purchase any security or advisory services. Past performance is no guarantee of future results. An investment in any security involves significant risks and any investment may lose value. Refer to all risk disclosures related to each security product carefully before investing. Homer Smith is an investment advisor representative of Konvergent Wealth Partners. Konvergent Wealth Partners and Homer Smith are not affiliated with AES Nation, LLC. AES Nation, LLC is the creator and publisher of the VFO Inner Circle Flash Report. Investment advice offered through Integrated Partners, doing business as Konvergent Wealth Partners, a registered investment advisor. Integrated Partners does not provide legal/tax/mortgage advice or services. Please consult your legal/tax advisor regarding your specific situation.