Thirteen years ago one of the most successful Initial Public Offerings (IPO) in technology ushered my husband and me into a new world. Today, Facebook employees will face a similar event to Juniper Network’s IPO, on an even larger scale. I wish someone could have given us a few words of wisdom then, but sudden wealth isn’t something many people expect and while advice on money management is easy to come by, there’s not much public information to draw on for support of a more personal nature. Looking back, there are a few insights that I’d offer to anyone heading into an IPO.
Know what you care about.
On the day of the IPO, we opened a bottle of champagne and watched the share price climb. Within a few short hours, everything we daydreamed about was suddenly in the realm of possibility, which was both exciting and frightening. A host of new questions and choices emerged, more than we could make sense of at the time. But we knew what we cared about, even before the wealth, and this helped keep us grounded. Remembering our core values informed our decisions going forward. Giving back was important to both of us. I had always cared about children and wanted to make a difference for those in need. Setting up Firelight Foundation was a natural choice for us.
Don’t lose sight of who you are.
You gain a lot coming into wealth, but you lose being seen for who you are at times. Becoming wealthy, especially when this was never a part of a life plan, can be overwhelming and disorienting. But you are still the same person. It can be easy to lose sight of this in the midst of the distorted values and messages our culture places on money. So remember who you are (even when other people don’t) and take time to consider how you can take your values and use your newfound resources to act on these values in a way that you can feel good about for years to come.
Develop a plan for sharing your wealth.
When something like this happens, there’s no end to the need you can address. Lessons that we couldn’t anticipate taught us the value of a plan. From the beginning, setting up a foundation with a focused mission was one of the wisest decisions we made. It gave needed structure and effectiveness to our philanthropy, enabled us to make a difference in a way that reflected our deepest values while also shielding us from overwhelming requests. Starting a foundation was something we really wanted to do, but it is not for everyone. A number of my husband’s colleagues chose to give through donor advised funds or directly to non-profits that reflected their philanthropic goals.
Remember that this is a process for you and for others.
Going through a seismic shift in your financial status changes a lot of things. The worst thing that could happen would be to lose the relationships that matter most to you. Money is not worth that. It’s helpful to remember that while you may be at the epicenter of this event, those around you also feel the aftershocks. Just as you need time to adjust, your closest friends and family members will too. Stick with it. Like most things in life, this is a learning process. Mistakes and bumps in the road go with the territory.
There were many lessons we learned through the whirlwind of a successful IPO. My husband likes to say “There’s no Sudden Wealth for Dummies!” But maybe there should be.
I’m excited for the people at Facebook. This is a time for celebration. A whole new world of opportunities is about to open up.
I look forward to what comes next and to what Facebook employees will do personally, professionally, and philanthropically.