Jul 28, 2021

Wealth Architects’ Coming of Age

Jul 28, 2021
Mark T. Johnsen
Chief Wealth Architect, CEO & Founder
On June 25th , Wealth Architects turned 16. It is hard to believe we have reached adolescence as it seems like it was just yesterday that we opened our doors. In many cultures the coming of age is an important milestone - the transition between childhood and adulthood which can often be a very meaningful yet difficult transition. Reflecting on our anniversary, I am struck how similar this transition is now for Wealth Architects.

Having two teenagers who have recently experienced this milestone with a third not far behind, there is never a dull moment at home to say the least! Being together full-time with them this year has me thinking deeply about what it means to be “coming of age” and our own development and transition as a company. It struck me that my teenagers and Wealth Architects have grown up together. So, I wanted to share a few of my reflections on where we have been, where we are going and most importantly, our gratitude for your support and inspiration along the way. If you read no further my last point is something I know I don’t hear enough from my own teens ­­– Thank you!

Core Values

This coming-of-age in the teenage years can be difficult. We can deal with broken hearts, disappointment, finding our own identities, and the challenges of increased responsibility, often for the first time. Part of what makes adolescence challenging is the process of developing a better sense of who we are and who we want to be. At the same time, it represents a tremendous opportunity for us to spread our wings and dream, to take all we have learned and try to become all we can possibly be. I believe we are at that inflection point as an organization.

As founders, like parents, we do our best to instill a set of core values and sense of purpose in our families and organizations from the beginning. Hopefully, those values stick and represent a strong foundation by serving as direction during ambiguous times. We hope that this set of deeply held beliefs and principles will define an enduring code of conduct – the rules of engagement in the journey to bring a vision for oneself to life.

Having lost my father in these formative teenage years, I recognize how important this foundation of values was for my future. They allowed me to thrive and grow up to be more purposeful and impactful in the world. Witnessing these teenage years now both at home and at work, I can clearly see the influence of those values in where we find ourselves today, and how they will serve as our compass for the future vision of Wealth Architects.

Independent Thinking

I think the teenage years can be summed up as the desire for independence. It’s a word that is meaningful for us, as it is the very reason we launched Wealth Architects. Independence represents the day we took the risk to leave the traditional Wall Street firm to build our own brand of “wealth” management, and to become fiduciaries to serve you in what we believe is the most ethical, client-centered standard in our industry. We value our independence because it enables us to seek fundamental truths and to always think and act objectively with you in mind.

Building Trusted Relationships

As teens, we begin to truly understand how trust is the foundation for all our relationships. It is hard-won and easily lost. It requires continual work to keep yet is extremely difficult to repair. To build trust, you need to be both a person of character and competence. I feel extremely fortunate to work with such an incredible team who embody both character and competence and make building trust the foundation of all our relationships (both inside and outside WA).

As you have experienced, our team is made up of extremely authentic and purposeful individuals who constantly strive to be objective, transparent, and to do the right things for the people and organizations we serve. At WA we hire for character and competence but continually work on both to become our best selves. I think our batting average has been pretty strong here, but as a young CEO, I have learned some lessons along the way. We don’t always get it right, and nothing pains me more than losing a client or a team member who we value because of it. Building and keeping your trust is always our #1 priority – please let us know if we ever get off track.

Serving with Care and Compassion

We call it “making an impact”. Our aspiration is for you to feel like we are making a meaningful difference both in your finances and your life as your advisors. We also strive to be a leader in our industry for a different kind of wealth advising; the kind that reflects high-quality care, personal touch and service excellence delivered in an accessible way powered by efficiency, collaboration and innovation.

Something I am extremely proud of within this core value is the diversity and inclusivity of our team. My hope is that this core value will allow us to lead our field by making these opportunities to both work in, and to be served by, this profession even more equitable going forward. 

Simplifying the Complex

“Simple” is not always a quality we associate with teens but is nevertheless one of our goals as we guide our clients through complex financial-life issues.

We aim to take the mystery out of finances and simplify your lives so you can focus on what is truly most important. We are continually striving to find ways to provide better tools and educational resources to help manage your financial-life complexity. In this area, we continue to innovate and hope that we can deliver simpler reporting and technology tools over time to track your progress in building a wealthier life.

Much like a modern-day teenager, we have embraced working and connecting virtually. We activated our LinkedIn page this year and hope you find the things we post as respectful, helpful and educational. We also realize many of you are not on social media, so we will continue to share the new resources our team is producing on the Wisdom section of our website and our newsletters.

Enhancing Wellbeing

It can be easy to lose sight of what is most essential in life. However, we believe that a wealthier life is achieving overall well-being beyond just financial stability. We are on a mission to change the definition of wealth back to being truly “well”. Financial security is a part of the equation, but it is only one piece of the puzzle.

Both our investment and planning philosophies are rooted in academic research, and we enjoy introducing thought leaders in these fields to our WA community. Events like our Wealthier Life Series and Wealth Architects University were born on that premise, and they have evolved to bring experts together with you to discuss issues that impact the whole of our well-being. 

Finally, I believe we have to become products of our own product here at WA. To help shape the arc and trajectory of your lives, we as people have to find our own “why”. We invest heavily in the personal and professional development of our team. Lois Cole, my good friend and co-founder, helped to launch our “Dream Manager” program a few years ago to introduce well-being coaches to our team to help them build their own wealthier lives. I am proud that our extraordinary team has earned us recognition as a “Great Place to Work”.

Please continue to let us know how we can innovate our services to help you build greater well-being in your life. It is your stories that inspire us and shape our work.

Becoming the Best We Can Be

As many of you may know, I am a student of John Wooden, the legendary UCLA basketball coach who created the Pyramid of Success. I was very fortunate to be a student-athlete at UCLA and to absorb his wisdom. His definition of success is the best I have ever found: “Success is peace of mind which is the direct result of self-satisfaction in knowing you did your best to become the best that you are capable of becoming.”

I have adopted Wooden’s wisdom in leading our team to become the best we can be. Our team has exceeded my expectations at every turn and embraces Wooden’s spirit of success by giving their best each and every day.

The Future of WA

As we continue to innovate ourselves and grow, my hope is that our core values will stand firm and that we continue to embrace a beginner’s mindset each and every day. The one thing I am certain of is that we have a lot to learn – particularly myself as a CEO. So we as a team are committed to a growth mindset as we continue to evolve through our adolescence as a company. 

And as we evolve, we will continue to measure our success in three simple ways: 1.) Are we serving you with excellence? 2.) Are we making a meaningful impact in your life? Finally, 3.) Are we creating value for you as a client? As stakeholders invested in seeing us grow up responsibly, we hope you will continue to keep us accountable to our core values and these measures.


I know I can never hear enough words of gratitude from my teenagers so I want to express them to you on behalf of our team. As most cultures and religions have specific ceremonies or celebrations associated with coming of age, we hope to celebrate our coming of age and raise a glass with you, and our entire WA community, in-person very soon.

In closing – I simply want to say “Thank You” for giving us the reason to exist. It is your story that inspires the Wealth Architects story, and we are so grateful that you share it with us.

We look forward to growing up together on this journey to build wealthier lives, families and communities.

All our best,