Charles “Chip” Fisher is a principal at Ursus Advisory, where he focuses on peer-to-peer consultation for young adults with inherited wealth. He’s also the co-founder, chairman and CEO of Fisher Wallace Labs, a wearable brain-stimulation startup. Fisher spoke with Crain Currency about the intricacies of his approach.
Tell me about your journey and what led you to provide advice to those who have inherited wealth.
I started this last year, and I’ve been thinking about it for a long time. I come from a family where there’s both wealth and fame and didn't really have any direction. And I had a hard time talking about this with my friends who were from money. And they weren’t into having any kind of conversations about it. Maybe I wasn’t great about bringing it up.
I grew up in New York, and my father was in the electronics business; and we sold in 1969, and that triggered a big event. And for tax reasons, I came into a strong inheritance early — which is a good thing, as Martha Stewart would say. I’ve always looked at it as an uptown problem. Even in my worst moments, it’s great. But I think the pitfalls for individuals — especially today, with different social pressures and a lack of privacy — can be significant. I want to use the lessons that I and others have learned along the way to help those who have been given the gift of significant wealth at a young age.
What kind of approach do you have when consulting with these young people of inherited wealth?
The major point is to go after key psychosocial topics, which most inheritors are thinking about; they’re just not sure how to approach them. I give them structure, and I go after one of these subjects — which inevitably leads to other topics that deal with home, partner, friends, family, career. In general:
- How to understand and appreciate the origins of your family’s wealth and the unique challenges posed by its creation.
- Building genuine and honest relationships, both within and outside of your economic peer group.
- Managing the inevitable pressures of others seeking to influence you, often based upon assumed knowledge about your inherited wealth.
- How to understand your parents as people, defuse tensions and build a strong sense of self-worth, thereby creating your own emotional universe.
- Money and your personal identity: How to spiritually separate yourself from your money while using it for your own purposes.
- Learning to embrace the importance of staying engaged in the work you choose, no matter which field you pursue.
What makes your advice stand out from that of a career counselor or a therapist?
I think what's unique about what I do is that I've lived this, and I've thought about this intricately and witnessed it amongst my friends. I have a very different perspective from someone who's a classically trained analyst or work well in tandem with a psychiatrist or psychologist, of which I know many.
It sounds like there’s so much psychology involved — in a deeply analytical way — to finding out what makes you tick and the things you need to balance your life out beyond money and work.
No matter how much money you have, you really have to have a focus, whatever it is. And if you're not happy with it after giving it a good shot, you've got to move on to something else, but you have to move on. You can’t just say, "OK, I gave work a shot or whatever." You have to have a discipline and a direction. It's not existential necessarily, but you do have to have a deep sense of what you're good at and what your passions are. Otherwise, you're just not gonna put everything into it, because you're not in a position where you have to slug it out in a job that you don't like. So you better find something you really do like, because the temptation to walk away from it is much greater.
If you have inherited wealth, is it important to chart your own course instead of joining the family business or sitting on your money? To choose something independent, at least initially when you’re a young adult, to prove yourself?
It depends on your personality. If you feel you can negotiate within a family business, and you don't necessarily feel you need to prove yourself independently, then that is a good course of action. As long as you can buy into the plan, so to speak. In other words, you've gotta know it. There's an expression in fox hunting, which is, “Know your country” — where you have to know the obstacles ahead, where the swamps are, where the horses can go, that kind of thing. It's a metaphor. If you don't know your country, then you're screwed, because the whole day is a mess. And the same thing is true with being in a family business.
I have a client who’s Swiss who is interested in staying in the family business. But she’s dealing with trying to understand who the players are — because there are, like, four or five other family members — and where she stands. And I said, you've got to determine how far you can go before you either piss somebody off or step on their toes, because it's no different than being in a corporation. It just happens to be that these are family members. So it's not gonna be any worse or better if you're outside the family unless there's an understanding that you're the one who’s gonna take over.
But if you watch "Succession," you know that sometimes the patriarch will have his kids compete — kind of like General Motors, where they kept the company strong by having the divisions compete against one another. Rather than seeing the outsiders as competitors, they saw the insiders as competitors. And you have to be able to read the weather in your own family and in the company and figure out what you need to do to either position yourself to be happy or not or whom you can trust.
Private aviation: 4 options to consider before taking off
By CHRISTIAN SEYBERT
As many individuals and families achieve financial success, one of the things they often consider is whether to dive into private aviation and purchase a jet. Who wouldn’t want to fly private? The ease and luxury of flying when and where you want without having to wait in endless lines or deal with increasing flight delays is extremely attractive. It’s certainly a topic we are asked about more often by our clients.
They are not alone. Interest in private aviation has increased significantly since the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic, with current private aviation activity 20% above pre-COVID levels.
Although buying your own jet can certainly seem enticing, it can also be a major expense and a commitment that can be fraught with potential headaches.
Fortunately, a variety of other options are available for those interested in experiencing private aviation, each with varying levels of costs and benefits. Trying these alternatives can offer a taste of the private aviation experience, which can help a family determine how much of a financial commitment they want to make and which solution makes the most sense for their situation.
Here are four options to consider:
Charter a plane
This is no different from calling an Uber, in essence. When chartering, you simply select the airplane, the destination, the time — and you’re done. No further commitment. The experience is customizable and specific to that flight. You pay the prearranged fee, and once you land, you’re off the hook.
Although chartering a plane is certainly more expensive than flying commercial, compared with the other solutions offered in this article, it is the cheapest option due to the lack of a long-term commitment.
Think of chartering as a “test drive” of private aviation. It allows one to get a feel for the experience before committing to a longer-term solution. There are numerous providers of charter aviation services. Simply Google what is available near you to identify potential providers.
Purchase a jet card
This is the next step up in private aviation. Typically when purchasing a jet card, you commit to a private aviation company and a specific class/size of plane. Think of it as a type of debit card where you purchase a certain number of flight hours — typically in 25-hour increments. Once those are exhausted, you must purchase more hours to keep flying.
Some of the biggest players in jet cards are Flexjet, VistaJet, Sentient and NetJets, to name a few.
Jet cards usually require a significant initial capital outlay, so be aware that it can be a significant upfront cost, but those flying hours are available to you until they are exhausted. That said, on a per-hour basis, jet cards should result in a cost savings over chartering a plane.
This starts to make sense once you plan to fly at least 50 hours per year via private aviation. With fractional ownership, you purchase a stake in a plane and receive a set number of flying hours or available days based on your ownership interest. For example, for an $8 million jet, if you pay $1 million for your fractional ownership, that will provide you with one-eighth of the flying access available for that plane.
Fractional ownership contracts typically extend three to five years. After that time, you may choose to renew your fractional contract, the provider may choose to sell the jet and return the fair market value of your shares, or they will sell your interest if you choose not to renew and return the current value of your investment. As you can see, with this option, you can recover some of your initial investment at the end of your contract.
Buy your own jet
Once you’ve explored and potentially tried the other private aviation options available, and assuming you anticipate enough flying hours to justify the expense, it may be time to consider purchasing your own jet.
Some things to consider: Do you want to buy new or used? The used-jet market is much different from the market for used cars. You can buy a 15-to-20-year-old airplane, and it could fly for another 15 to 20 years if properly maintained. If you decide to buy new, be prepared to wait. There is still a significant post-COVID backlog of orders for new jets. It could take two or three years for a new aircraft to be delivered.
Buying your own jet is the most expensive option. As the owner, you are responsible for hiring and managing pilots, paying for and coordinating the maintenance of the aircraft as well as regulatory fees and compliance, among other expenses. A management company can take care of all of that for you, but that is, of course, an additional cost. Expect to spend at least $3 million for a business jet, with an additional outlay of several hundred thousand dollars per year for staffing, maintenance and other costs.
If you do go down the path of owning your own aircraft, there can be a number of benefits, such as the option to customize the plane as you wish, chartering out the aircraft to recover some of the costs of ownership, and tax benefits.
No matter how you choose to fly, private aviation can be a delightful experience for successful families. The key is to take off with your eyes wide open, having thoroughly explored the best options for you and your family.