Sunday 14th August, 2005


Accumulating wealth

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The prized collection of art at the Uffizi Museum in Florence, Rome, was willed to the people of Florence, in 1716 by Maria Luisa, of the ruling Medici family, when she recognised that she had no surviving heirs.

Her will was so well formulated that items of the collection that had been removed by Napoleon, had to be repatriated to the city of Florence years after. The Uffizi is a manifestation of accumulated wealth and represents the kind of assets to target at the highest peak of the pyramid of the financial independence.

The concept of the wealth pyramid in an old one, often used to illustrate the essence of foundation planning and the heights of aspiration.

Imagine that you were to place all your assets into a pyramid- like structure. It is widest at its base, and peaks at the top. The assets that would form the basics of wealth accumulation are at the base: life insurance policies, health insurance, and pension plans.

Every other asset should be accumulated after these first provisions have been secured. Only life insurance provides income replacement, and only pension plans guarantee a stream of income for life. These are foundation!

On top of these would be placed your principal residence, and other significant property. These are big ticket items that serve in the provision of shelter for the family.

After you have acquired those assets, you would then explore other types of investments such as mutual funds, stocks, and bonds. You may venture into the commodity markets, or the futures and options markets. These would be positioned atop the layer of tangible property.

At the apex of the pyramid you are then free to accumulate assets in the line of gem stones and fine art.

Once you have filled all the layers of the pyramid, you may then pat yourself on the back, and begin to consider, like Maria Luisa, to whom you may Will these assets.

While it may be true that too many of us are forever occupied in just making ends meet from month to month, it is an experience to travel and see the evidence that others have left behind. The wealth is stupendous, and ought to be a motivator and an inspiration or at least a source of encouragement to those who feel great things are unattainable, or not for us.

Maria Luisa was a woman, a female, in the age when, for most of the world’s population, women were not recognised with a voice, or to legally own property. In fact women were commonly believed to be the property of their husbands. But she left a testimony of great strength, and remarkable value that was all hers.

The Basilica San Marco in St Marks Square, and the Dolge Palace of Venice are also stark testimony to the quantum of wealth that is available to those who seek it. These well preserved buildings represented the seat of the magistracy, the seat of the Senate and the seat of the Church, under the doctrine of St Mark, in 15th Century Venice. Much of the ceiling is fretwork, and fresco par-excellence, in gilded gold.

That wealth is available is beyond question, that it is available for the resourceful and the ambitious is beyond refute.

But perhaps what was more astounding than all the wealth in the ancient paintings of the Palace, was the fact that everywhere that a Dolge (magistrate) was depicted, so too was St Mark, with his brown hair, distinctive beard, and halo. It was as though originally, the Church and the State were united in rule!

n Raziah Ahmed is a registered financial consultant.

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