Your Wealth Design

2015 was a strange year for me. 

I was a younger investment advisor in Washington, DC, a city vibrant and colorful with a diverse set of young professionals. Generally, I was happy with my chosen career path and was convinced that it was here that I could make the most impact.  

Then it happened. My brother passed away. 

Immediately, I went into a downward spiral of grief, denial, fear and what seemed to be paralyzation. How could someone so young be taken away so early? He had never gotten the chance to make his mark on the world, get married, start a family or buy a home. After losing my father in 2003, and now, my brother I would often worry about the future, and what catastrophes it could bring. Was this my fate? Would I ever get the chance to actually live the life that I had been mentally designing all of my life? These were the cornerstones of some of the heaviest questions on my heart. 

A Different Approach to Financial Advising

My dad was from Nimba County, Liberia. The town where he completed his high school education before coming to America, Yekepa, is close to the Guinea boarder, and was a bustling area prior to Liberia’s consecutive civil wars. It is famous for Mount Nimba, a rich terrain of forests and mountains where European mining companies mined for Iron Ore and other precious metals. 


Picture of Mount Nimba during my last trip to Liberia in Jan. 2020 

When I think about my father’s wealth design, I think about him reinvesting in Nimba. I think about the house that he would’ve built, the memories he would’ve created with my mom in retirement, the detail that he would’ve put into recording our family’s lineage, him traveling to watch his favorite club soccer teams, drinking a cold Guinness with his comrades and spoiling all of his grandchildren. These were the things that would’ve brought him the most joy. 

This image ingrained in my mind is the backdrop for my book, Young Money: 4 Proven Actions to Design Your Wealth While You Still Can and the planning philosophy behind Berknell Financial Group.  A person’s wealth design is the blueprint for a life that would invoke the most passion, define purpose and lead to optimum joy. In the financial services industry, it is common for advisors to take the design of wealth out of the hands of the clients, and into the control of the advisor alone. The truth is that this type of arrangement does not work. The purpose of any advisor is to be your Chief Designer, not to aimlessly construct your wealth design, but through exploration take your direction for building out a life that will lead to optimum joy. Before any math, rates of return or risk tolerance questionnaire, understanding this part of you is where our jobs start. This is a continual and vulnerable process that could last a lifetime, but should bear fruits for generations to come. 

Where to Start?

How much time have you spent thinking about your ideal life? With life moving at one hundred miles per hour, we seldom have the time to think about which direction we are actually moving in. Due to the life-changing and traumatic events that I’ve had, I often check-in with myself to make sure that the speed and direction that I am moving align with my idea of optimum joy. If not, that moment of “pause” presents me with the opportunity to recalibrate my actions so that they induce the future that I wish to see. 

On my podcast, there are three fill-in-the-blank style questions that we ask every guest that can serve as a starting point for thinking about your wealth design: 

  1. Wealth to me means _______________?
  2. I want my legacy to be _____________?
  3. I will build this wealth and create this legacy by doing ______________?

There’s a quote that I subscribe to which reads, “set your mind on a definite goal, and watch how quickly the world stands aside to let you pass.” By asking yourself these questions, and thinking about them deeply, you give yourself the space and opportunity to define joy and parallel your actions with what matters most.

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