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The reason I got into this profession

It’s the early 80’s in Santa Monica and I had just immigrated from Cape Town, South Aftrica. I’m a junior high school latchkey kid, and on Wednesdays, I go grocery shopping for myself, my younger sister, and our recently divorced mom. After school, I walk six blocks to Vons, grab a shopping cart, and start in the cereal aisle, winding my way methodically up and down until I finish with produce. We used to have a lot of money, but not anymore, and my goal is to spend as close to $100.00 including sales tax, without going over or under. As I stand in front of the tea aisle, mentally adding 6% tax to $1.69 for a box of Lipton teabags, a memory distracts me from my mental math.

 I’m back in South Africa playing soccer on my front lawn. My Mom comes to the heavy wooden front door and calls out “tea time.” Once inside, I see tears in her eyes, and ask “What’s wrong?” She pauses and then says, “Adelaide’s baby died last night.” I freeze, my heart pounding, not knowing how to feel or what to say. 

Despite the brutality of apartheid, Adie had been allowed to bring her baby to our house where he would be allowed to stay until he was weaned, after which he’d return to the township, six hours away. He stayed in her little room off the kitchen, but at only a couple months old, he’d died. I knew in the following days that the main reason I was alive, with a full belly, living under the same roof as my parents, and with a grass field to play soccer on, was because I’d been born with white skin.

 I snap out of my daydream. I check out at Vons and push the shopping cart back to our condo, where I’ll unpack it before Mom gets home from work. I’m lucky. I made it to America, got a good education, and came from a risk-taking family that made starting my own business at age 28 seem completely normal.

The forced frugality of my adolescence taught me how spending less than you earn can create safety and choices. But the terrible inequity I witnessed during my first decade taught me that I didn’t get where I am due to discipline and hard work alone, that the luck of my birth and parentage and immigration played a huge role.

Outside of work, my passions include

Yoga, snowboarding, traveling with my family, and goofing off with my nephews and niece.

How I’m expanding what’s possible with money

I’m advising affluent families to help them maximize the positive impact of their resources. As a CEO, I’m working hard to extend values-aligned financial advice to diverse groups across the U.S. As an individual, I’m evaluating how to reduce my family’s consumption creep and channel our surplus towards those in need with maximum effectiveness.

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