In my two decades as a financial advisor, I’ve found that there is a big difference between being rich and being wealthy. For many, being rich means living an extravagant lifestyle full of all the latest toys; it doesn’t mean accumulating assets. On the other hand, being wealthy means having specific defined goals for your money and the ability to make wise financial decisions with those goals in mind.

This book is about being wealthy.

It was written to give you insight into how today’s truly wealthy families create, enhance and sustain their wealth over time—and lead lives that are both highly enjoyable and deeply meaningful. The foundation of these families’ success is Structured Wealth Management.

At its core, Structured Wealth Management is an approach to managing wealth that takes into account the full range of challenges and opportunities that today’s families face and coordinates their entire financial lives so that everything works in concert to solve those challenges and capture those opportunities. It brings together investment strategies rooted in proven academic research with methods for addressing the key non-investment concerns that today’s families must face—from preserving and protecting the wealth they’ve built to passing it on to future generations and supporting both the people and causes they care about most.

In the pages that follow, you’ll discover the framework that can empower you to achieve all that is important to you and your family, along with ways to implement this framework that will help ensure a lifetime of financial success.

The Importance of Choice

How do I know that Structured Wealth Management works? The answer is simple: I’ve used it to help my clients achieve their most important goals and dreams. Indeed, it’s become my mission to give families the knowledge and tools they need to determine the very best life that they truly want for themselves and then go out and make it a reality.

I started in this business in 1985 because I wanted to help people make better decisions about their financial futures. After all, I know the value of good financial planning: My family could have avoided a lot of mistakes had someone provided guidance while looking out for our best interests.

My mother was a hard worker. She bought an auto salvage business from my uncle when I was in high school. She didn’t know the difference between a radiator and a bumper, but she had the drive to make this work. My mother was very good at what she did: She knew how to take care of people, and how to handle customers. The need to understand people and quickly build a bond with them is important in any business, whether you run a salvage yard or you are a financial advisor.

My mother did everything right to build a successful company, and she did everything right to take care of her family—including taking out a $600,000 life insurance policy on herself. She died of cancer when she was just 49, leaving my father to handle the business with my uncle, who was a partner.

Unfortunately, despite all the right moves my mother made to run the business, she didn’t have the right guidance when it came to making plans for the future. As a result, splitting up the business virtually split up my family: We didn’t have the right documents in place to deal with a family partnership.

Then, the life insurance my dad received after my mother passed away was almost lost after the broker he hired to invest the money made all the wrong decisions. He jumped from one unsuitable investment to the next, collecting commissions and watching the account’s balance drop.

Another family member lost much of his life savings by making poor investment decisions, including getting caught with a bundle of risky investments in the October 1987 Black Monday market crash. I know firsthand what making bad choices can do to an individual’s pursuit of their financial goals.

The Right Advice

From those experiences, it became very clear to me that many business owners don’t understand the ramifications of poor decisions when they sell or transfer a business. The key is to make smart decisions so the business that you’ve worked so hard to build allows you to achieve your long-term financial goals. It’s the same for people saving for retirement or working to build their wealth: Making the right decisions and having the right guidance is critical to making sure that the wealth you’ve accumulated will help you reach your goals.

I became a financial advisor because, first and foremost, I wanted people to avoid these mistakes and realize their dreams by making smart financial decisions. Like my mom, I enjoy building long-term relationships with the people I work with. I want to offer them straightforward advice, from making sure business owners have the right buy-sell agreements in place to working with families to build the right estate plan for their particular situation.

When it comes to financial matters, there are certain things we can’t control, like the direction of the stock market. But there are plenty of things we can control, including what we spend and what we save. You owe it to yourself and your family to be good stewards of your wealth and use it to accomplish wonderful things. You’re in an incredibly fortunate position: You have the ability to do great things for yourself, your family and the world around you. Don’t forsake that opportunity—give yourself the intelligence needed to make wise financial decisions that lead to great results.

I am extremely happy to have been asked by the authors to write this foreword and share their commitment to helping you make the smartest possible decisions about your money. I wish you success in all your endeavors as you journey down the road to financial prosperity.