New Wealth Heroes
Meet the individuals behind the next-generation mindsets that are driving through change with their future-facing priorities.
Photographer Sven Hoffmann, 42, gave up his high-powered career at Red Bull in the US to give his family a legacy of rich experiences together. He now lives 20 minutes from his two children’s kindergarten in Hamburg, Germany, and spends several months a year travelling the world with them and his wife Chrissie.
For Sven, wealth is the time and freedom to spend with his family, to show his children the world, share their moments of discovery and to open their minds.
‘‘Time is money’ is a weird saying – and a stupid one too. Time is freedom. Time is the only thing that matters and the experiences that you pack into it are the only true measure of your wealth.
‘Before the children were born I was the creative director for Red Bull in the US and my wife Chrissie was a project manager there. We worked 24/7, always in the air from one place to another. It was insane and exciting, and we were earning a lot of money.
‘But when Chrissie discovered she was pregnant six years ago, we decided to pull the parachute on that lifestyle and slow our whole world right down.
‘We planned our exit carefully and I opened a small design studio in Hamburg located just a few minutes from a great kindergarten and from our home.
‘I have a guy running the studio so that I only have to be there when I’m needed for a shoot.
‘That meant that when our son Finn was born, we had the freedom to be able to do whatever we wanted, whenever we wanted, to live lots of wonderful experiences with him.
‘We wanted to do the opposite of most couples and travel in a really authentic and exciting way with our children. When Finn was just six months old we set off for Australia with him in a van for three and a half months.
‘We escaped just hours before a major flood in Brisbane, and then drove 5,000km to Perth, all with a baby in tow. It was such a cool thing to be together on the road for that length of time, building precious memories together. At that moment we knew we had made the right choice about the new way we had decided to live.
‘When Finn was three and our daughter Milla was five months old, we rented a little house in downtown Venice in California for three months and went native.
‘It gave us a chance to get involved in the community, to become like one of the locals and really get to know and understand the area and the people who lived there.
‘Each morning, Finn and I would go to the same coffee shop and talk to everyone. He knew everyone by name, including the homeless people, and I could see the experience starting to shape the person he would become. It was amazing.
‘Today all my clients know that I essentially close the office for the winter. Just after Christmas, we jump on a plane and set off for Thailand or Africa or California in search of our next big shared adventure.
‘Finn and Milla are so open-minded because of all the experiences they have had in many different countries. They are very young, but I’m certain that the smell of a Thai kitchen or the colours of a sunset over the Pacific will stay with them always. And they’ll be aware of life as a cool little trip where to love and to look around is the only thing that makes sense.
‘Of course, I wouldn’t say no to a Porsche or 25 more Leica cameras. But the true price tag for earning the money to own those things is the sacrifice of time, of memories and experiences. It’s a price we’re simply not willing to pay.’
Martina Klemmer, 46, is a fine art consultant and mentor who lives in Stockholm with her partner of 23 years, Klaus, a banker at Goldman Sachs, and their three children.
As the daughter of ‘bohemian artistic’ parents, Martina wants to leave a legacy that teaches her children about the value of long-term environmental and financial stewardship, and the need to nurture creativity and artistic talent for future generations.
‘I spent two decades living between London and Paris, immersed in art as an enthusiast and a patron, and more recently as a consultant and mentor to young, up-and-coming artists.
‘Now, we have moved back to my homeland and settled in Stockholm, and as I get a little bit older my thoughts are turning to what I will leave behind when I’m gone, how I will be remembered and what sort of impact I have had on the people I care about.
‘I know for sure that my legacy won’t just be about handing down money to my children. I want them to have a long-term sense of being guardians of something precious.
‘I own a forest, which partly informs this feeling. My grandmother bought this wild, remote area of land more than half a century ago, and handed it down to my mother. It has become a symbolic thing for our family.
‘It was always held up as a sustainable source of wealth that provided money from timber when, sometimes, there wasn’t much money around. And of course, it’s a source of income that never stops giving because if you replant trees, care for them and nurture them, they come back again and again.
‘It’s important that my children will want to look after the forest and hand it on to their descendants too.
‘When we lived in London, I would sometimes hear my children’s friends comparing whose dress cost the most. Then I’d panic and worry that they would grow up thinking only about money and material possessions.
‘So, my forest is an antidote to that kind of materialism. It’s a true legacy that can be passed down through our generations, and there’s a lesson that I want my children to take away with them when I finally hand the forest down to them – that life is about having temporary stewardship of something and making it a little bit better, and then passing it on again down the centuries.
‘The other legacy that I want to leave is a cultural one. I started my Dorothea Art Initiatives, Dorothea being my second name, to support young artists who don’t have the contacts and the experience to get themselves seen and heard above the noise in places like London.
‘I use my networks and contacts to organise evenings that get them in front of art lovers, buyers and collectors, and hopefully put the ones who I can see have real talent and originality on a path to success.
‘At the same time, my partner and I have been collecting art for 20 years, buying mainly from unknown artists, and particularly female artists who we feel should be remembered and noticed. Gunilla Palmstierna-Weiss is a good example – a woman from a fantastically wealthy Jewish family who nonetheless went through abandonment, wars, death and unfaithful husbands, and is still working hard, making wonderful art in her 80s.
‘My hope is that the work I’ve collected and the art that I have gone some way to helping others create will be treasured and enjoyed long after I’m gone.’
Jina, 29, became well-known face in China as a high-profile tv presenter, interviewing celebrities for fashion and lifestyle shows on BTV-5.
Having achieved financial and professional success, her focus has shifted towards contributing to society, and she now wants to use her wealth and social connections to help others realise their hopes and ambitions. She runs House of Icons, a philanthropic start-up that funds and champions the work of up-and-coming artists and creatives.
‘I never grew up dreaming about having lots of money. I couldn’t see the point in endlessly adding to a meaningless number sitting in a bank somewhere. I wanted to earn enough to be comfortable so that I was free to use money as a tool to help other people realise their dreams and ambitions.
‘My parents were fairly well off and I could have lived happily shopping for and buying luxury products, and for a time I did and really enjoyed it. But I began to understand that I needed to find a sense of balance, a meaning in life that went beyond spending money on myself.
‘Raised in a Christian household, there was always a strong belief that we needed to do good for other people. As a little girl, I would always give money to beggars on the street.
‘As I became older I didn’t feel like that was achieving much and began to worry that perhaps it was just feeding their destructive lifestyle rather than helping them.
‘I had a successful tv career, and I reached a certain point where I thought: Okay, I can really do something with this money I’ve earned. I can work with the network of people I know to really make change happen. This has become the focus of my life and ambitions.
‘I want to do good deeds that will grow by themselves and multiply across lots of people’s lives. I decided that this required building a business structure that was about helping others to reach their true potential so that they in turn could become mentors and teachers.
‘In China, we are so obsessed with academic training in subjects such as science and maths that we sometimes fail to support and encourage creativity. I wanted to do something about that.
‘So my partners and I created an online platform to help other digital creatives, artists and innovators to build their careers and work on the things that they really believe in and love.
‘We will re-invest the vast majority of our profits in a charitable arm of our business that will provide scholarships and training programmes to support the creative thinking, skills and leadership of the next generation.
‘In the future, my aim is to use my career and monetary wealth to grow intellectually, emotionally and spiritually rather than simply accumulate more cash and assets.
‘For me, wealth is all about culture, time, friendship and experience. Money can facilitate these things but is not the end in itself. Most of all, wealth is about giving back. My mission in life is to make a little bit of a difference every day.’
Alex Wolf, 23, is a social media coach and entrepreneur who lives in New York. At 19, she launched Boss Babe, a career and self-esteem mentoring platform for Millennial women, after deciding that a traditional corporate career wasn’t for her.
Today, Alex sees herself as an outlier for her generation – someone who demonstrates that online connections are a new form of wealth and that these connections can be beneficial in ways that rival the possession of cash or traditional assets.
‘I’ve never been attracted to any of the trappings of wealth, like cars or houses or designer clothes. I’ve always seen an over-attachment or dependency on physical things as a weakness in myself and others, and it’s something I try to avoid at all costs.
‘When shopping, I think: ‘What’s the plainest outfit I can buy that I can wear for ever?’ I believe Steve Jobs and what he said about the harmful effects of decision fatigue. Like him, I believe that deciding what to wear each day is one decision you can decide not to make.
‘I was raised by my college-educated parents to go to college myself, get a good mainstream job and strive for financial success. I knew from a very young age that I didn’t want that, and I went my own way at 19.
‘Instead of heading for a traditional professional career to make as much money as possible, I followed my Millennial instincts and used the connected possibilities of the internet to start a business that allowed me to make just enough money to be free to do things that I’m passionate about.
‘In the process, I came to an amazing conclusion. I realised fast that online social connections are as valuable in many ways as money. In fact, they are a whole new form of currency that you can trade and use to give you access to the inspiration and experiences that you want.
‘Social capital is now as valuable as financial capital. Connecting with the right type of people in these new ways gives your career longevity and a reach that was never possible before.
‘I can trade on that social capital, offering other people access to my network of connections, my audience if you like, in return for a hard-to-get ticket for an exciting event, a trip to somewhere interesting or a rare, exclusive cultural experience.
‘I’m certain that the value of my internet reach will grow rapidly over the next decade as more and more of our professional and personal life moves online, and therefore who we are connected to increasingly matters. That’s a thought that gives me more confidence than any amount of money in my bank account.
‘We’re entering an era when robots and AI devices will replace many of the jobs that we do today. Accrued online social capital will be one of the things that gives us an edge over the machines. It will give us a currency that no AI will be able to match, and will keep us creative and employable and still able to pay our way in the world.
‘I’m not saying that the old idea of money is dead, at least not yet. But I saw some of my friends try to take the traditional route to financial success, working seven days a week, getting more and more in debt, and not even being happy, and thought: ‘What’s the point?’
‘Having money can equal freedom, but the path that we have always used to get there – the all-consuming, often frustrating career – is such an unattractive prospect.
‘Accumulating social capital online allows you to build a different process that gives you a fantastic mobility, a lightness and flexibility in your life because you are not weighed down by material possessions and commitments.
‘You have an ability to drop everything and go off on a trip, or take up a new work opportunity, wherever and whenever, without needing to disentangle yourself from the mass of stuff that you collect in the course of a traditionally successful lifestyle.
‘That’s why the old markers of success – the mortgage, the nine-to-five with a two-week holiday in the summer – feel terrifying to me and to many others of my generation.
‘We don’t feel that a corporation should be allowed to count our holidays, no matter how much it pays us, because that’s the opposite of freedom.
‘So, while traditional money will dominate for the foreseeable future, my generation has started to calculate its worth in terms of social currency and attention currency – the ability to get the things that we want through the people we know online.’