Billionaires cannot possibly handle everything by themselves: bookkeeping, banking, investing and taxes. They surround themselves with a team of professional advisors to look after the pennies so that they can make more dollars. A billionaire's entourage may not be quite as exciting as that of a rock star, but an experienced group of financial gurus can keep him out of trouble and keep more money coming in than going out. These are the essential elements of a billionaire's dream team: (Not everyone needs a professional. Find out how to make the call, read Do You Need A Financial Advisor?)
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Personal assistants (PAs) are a billionaire's right hand. They pay the tab at the restaurant, book hotel rooms, gather receipts together and make sure that mundane things like the utility bills get paid. PAs often travel with their boss and ensure that all the details are taken care of. They are in charge of the schedule and often the checkbook. A good personal assistant will make sure that the actual cost of flights, reservations and other expenses end up being exactly what was quoted.
While the PA collects all of the receipts and financial paperwork together, it is the bookkeeper who sorts it and tracks it. The bookkeeper and accountant may be the same person or the jobs could be split into two pieces. The richest people in the world have one thing in common: they know where every dollar comes from and goes to. The bookkeeper will track actual spending and investing against the budget and will sound the early warning bell if the financial train is running off course. The bookkeeper may also do much of the day-to-day banking and money transfers.
The accountant is often the conductor of the financial train. An experienced tax accountant will do far more than prepare the year-end financial statements and tax returns. She will review the financial and tax implications of every proposed investment and major purchase and will work on minimizing income taxes throughout the year. She will also shelter as much of the billionaire's income as possible from tax, recommending tax-sheltered investments to the broker. This role is often taken on by a Certified Public Accountant but sometimes a tax attorney is at the helm.
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The ultra rich engage in complex financial transactions on a regular basis. A contract lawyer (or a team of lawyers in some cases) reviews and negotiates every contract to ensure that there are no ambiguities or loopholes that could result in monetary damage. The lawyer will advise his client of upcoming changes in legal precedent which may throw up roadblocks or present new opportunities. He or she will also defend his or her client against litigation, which is a regular occurrence in the business lives of billionaires. The accountant and lawyer will work in tandem to cover all of the financial bases.
Billionaires almost always have large investment portfolios. Some focus on real estate while others invest in stock markets and private equity offerings. When large amounts of money are invested in the markets, the portfolio must be actively managed to ensure that the balance of investments is optimized and that each investment is performing as expected. Poorly-performing investments are weeded out and new investing opportunities are taken advantage of. Some high-wealth individuals have dedicated brokers who work only for them, ensuring that the portfolio grows day and night. (This important investment decision happens before you pick your first stock. Find out how to get it right, read 10 Tips For Choosing An Online Broker.)
The Bottom Line
Behind every great billionaire is a team of professionals whose ultimate singular job it is to protect the money and help it to grow. Unlike a rock star's entourage, however, every member has a vital role in keeping the billionaire a billionaire. While sitting on that much money may seem effortless, there is much work behind the scenes to keep the financial train on track.