In 1932, Byron Wien was welcomed into the world, and he is proud to have been born when it was easier to get a good job. He underwent a string of bad luck but still became among the most influential investors in America. He does not credit his success to any Supreme Being; after his parents died, he pulled away from God and no longer attends church or has any regard for spirituality. There is a lot you may not know about Wien besides his professional life, so here are ten facts to get you going about his personal life.
1. His Parents Died When He Was a Teenager
In 2011, Wien confessed to David Brooks of The New York Times that he was born during the Great Depression when families did not have many children. His father worked as a doctor, but Wien was not lucky enough to have him around in his adulthood. Wien’s father and mother had contracted rheumatic fever in their childhood, which affected their hearts. Consequently, his father died when Wien was nine, and five years later, his mother passed away.
2. He Began Working at the Age of 15
Most of the successful people we read about began working early, mostly due to the strained family income. It is the same case for Wien, who, although his father had enough insurance to cater for rent and food, Wien still wanted to live an above-average life. Therefore, instead of burdening his aunt with unnecessary financial demands, he took it upon himself to earn extra money to live the kind of life he wanted. At 15, he became an office boy for a company in downtown Chicago, where he spent his time after school.
3. He Was Picked to Go to Harvard
Even after his parent’s deaths, Wien continued attending the same public school. He had already shown he was a bright student; therefore was hand-picked by the principal to join Harvard. The principal explained to young Wien that most of the students at Harvard were from private schools, and they wanted to balance out; hence they wanted students from a public school. From Wien’s school, they only wanted one student, and the principal had selected Wien to go and represent them. Therefore, he warned Wien not to make a fool of himself. He ended up in the school and confessed that the experience changed him.
4. He Studied Science but Did not Intend on Pursuing It
Time flies, and when Wien joined Harvard, he did not know what path he wanted to pursue. Although science interested him thus studied it in his first years, he had no plans to pursue it. He had, however, developed a liking for writing. He became a contributor for the “Harvard Crimson,” which had attracted most of the journalists he admired, including Tony Lukas and Jack Rosenthal. By his senior year, Wien was still unsure what to study in graduate school, yet the only options were Business, Law, and Medicine. Law was out of the question considering how often he dozed during the classes; he, therefore, figured Business was the right career path so he could pursue marketing.
5. He Regrets Not Having Children
Not having children is looked down upon, and for a long time, those who chose to remain childless were harshly criticized. Wien disclosed that he now regrets not having children, which is understandable since he would have given them a comfortable life. However, the investor explained that it was not his wish not to have them; his first wife was a school teacher who dealt with children during the day and could not imagine dealing with them at night. On the other hand, his second wife felt her career would be interrupted by motherhood and that she was too old to have children anyway.
6. He Believes We Should Treat Everyone We meet As a Friend
The Jewish Journal summarized the life lessons that Wien had learned in his entire life. Among the many lessons is that you should treat everyone you meet as a friend and assume they will impact your life positively. Although he admits that some will disappoint you, others will not, and you will have expanded your network.
7. His Opinion on Philanthropy
They say the hand that gives is the one that receives, but Wien opines that some of the causes we choose to support are only to place us on a pedestal in the community. The investor explained that most people support art museums and theaters because they throw lavish parties. However, those who need generous donations are hospitals, schools, and social services that care for the underprivileged. Through them, we follow Michael Jackson’s advice to heal the world and make it a better place.
8. He Prefers to Concentrate His Stocks Instead of Diversifying
Most financial advisors will advise you to diversify your portfolio because if one fails, then another will make you money. However, Wien does not subscribe to this school of thought. According to Yahoo News, he would rather follow the advice of his late mentor, Edgar de Picciotto, who taught him that diversification is for the weak-minded. Picciotto told Wien that the ideas one is passionate about are the ones you should concentrate on because they yield lots of money.
9. He Invests $1 Million in the “10 Surprises.”
Wien believes in putting his money where his mouth is. Therefore even when he advises interested parties to invest in the “10 Surprises” he recommends every year, he also invests $1 million of his own money. Blackstone does not permit him to buy individual stocks, so he invests in Exchange Traded Funds (ETFs). It is a lucrative step for him because, in 2019, his “10 Surprises” portfolio was up by 28%.
10. He is Estranged from His Elder Brother
He regrets being estranged from his older brother, and they only talk on their respective birthdays. Wien explained that he loaned a significant amount of money to his brother years ago. Unfortunately, instead of paying it back, Wien’s brother lied about refunding it, which strained their relationship.
Written by Allen Lee
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