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An Instruction Manual For Adult Life

Book cover for 'The High Achiever's Guide to Wealth' displayed on a paperback and a tablet.

I have always thought it odd that an electric can opener comes with an instruction booklet, but a new baby or a college degree does not.

A kid is in no way easier to operate than a can opener. Small appliances never put the cat in the dishwasher or decide that you are the stupidest person on the planet. But apart from some written advice to call a doctor if the baby changes color, hospitals send you home and trust that you will consult Google or YouTube as needed. There are, of course, countless aftermarket titles that act as owners’ manuals for kids. For all the consistency among them, they might as well be talking about kids of different species.

New parents: Good luck. I’m a grandpa now. “Grandpa” is an ancient Sumerian word for “not my problem anymore.”

Diplomas work the same way. Printed in indecipherable fonts on the most expensive paper you’ll ever buy, they confer a made-up but fully accredited credential. They may add a few Latin words that mean “Go get ’em!” But they don't say where to go, whom to get or how to get them.

If adult life begins when you finish school, then it, too, should come with instructions. Life is definitely more complicated than a typical can opener. As with babies, there are any number of aftermarket titles to tell you how to get the most out of your brand-new adulthood. Now there is one more: The High Achiever’s Guide to Wealth. I wrote it, along with 14 of my colleagues at Palisades Hudson Financial Group LLC.

This book is the fruition of an idea I have had for some 30 years, since I first started getting paid for giving financial and business advice. It took time to be able to make time for this, as we built a business and executed some other projects – including our earlier book collaboration. That effort, Looking Ahead: Life, Family, Wealth and Business After 55, has been on the market since 2014, with a second edition published almost two years ago.

But I never let go of the goal of writing a book that would guide young adults through the minefield of decisions we all have to make after we get out of school. My co-authors and I were informed by our own experiences in serving all sorts of successful people. Our clients run companies, persuade juries, create music and films, heal the sick and expand humanity’s store of scientific knowledge. They are all very good at something, but that something may not be the acquisition and management of personal wealth. The target audience for our new book is this universe of accomplished individuals, not all of whom even went to college, and who are mainly in their 20s (sometimes younger) to their 40s.

What should you be thinking about when you lease an apartment, buy a home or consider purchasing a car? Do you need a prenuptial agreement or employment contract, and how do you get these things without unnecessary acrimony? How do you balance paying off debt, having a decent lifestyle, and saving for retirement? What about investments and insurance? Parents who need help? Wills and (gulp) guardianships for children? These issues, and many more, routinely arise in our work, and so these (and many more) are what we cover in our book.

You can't write a book, or give useful professional advice, just because you know a lot of stuff about a lot of stuff. Our clients don’t pay us for what we know. They pay us for how we can convey and apply what we know to their situation, to help them make good decisions for themselves.

Our communication skills are every bit as important as our technical knowledge. This applies to our work, and of course to our book. This is why even though we are not a very large firm, we have a full-time and highly capable editorial manager in Amy Laburda. Amy is our book’s editor, as well as a co-author of a couple of its chapters. She is the driving force behind getting The High Achiever’s Guide to Wealth into print (and its Kindle equivalent).

Amy has her own take on how this book came together; she writes about it in this month’s article for Sentinel, our firm’s online newsletter. As our editor, Amy ensures that what we write about some pretty complicated material remains useful to people who never took courses in accounting, taxation, business law or statistics.

I am glad I did not write this book myself 30 years ago; it is a better book because of the contributions of Amy and all our colleagues. They should be proud of it, just as I am proud of them.

We cover a lot of issues in 486 pages, but I checked the index, and there is not a single reference to can openers. If you have trouble operating yours, consult your owner’s manual, or just jump on Google or YouTube. They have instructions for everything.

Larry M. Elkin is the founder and president of Palisades Hudson, and is based out of Palisades Hudson’s Fort Lauderdale, Florida headquarters. He wrote several of the chapters in the firm’s most recent book, The High Achiever’s Guide To Wealth. His contributions include Chapter 1, “Anyone Can Achieve Wealth,” and Chapter 19, “Assisting Aging Parents.” Larry was also among the authors of the firm’s previous book, Looking Ahead: Life, Family, Wealth and Business After 55.

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