MR. MICHAEL LIERSCH:  Hey humans, I'm Michael Liersch, and this is My Next Move podcast, presented by JPMorgan.  I'm a behavioral scientist, which is just a fancy way of saying I help humans understand their behaviors to make better money decisions.  Each episode, I take a look at our interactions with money and consider science-based techniques to help you move closer to your financial goals.


On this episode I'm talking to all-star investor and one of my favorite human beings in the JPMorgan family, who some of you may recognize from his basketball days, David Robinson.  David has a storied career winning two NBA championships, being awarded several MVP awards, and playing on the 1992 Dream Team, so he's certainly not a stranger to achieving goals.  But his story doesn't end there.  David is also a philanthropist, entrepreneur, investor, and most importantly, a family man.  David built Admiral Capital Group around socially conscious investing, which currently holds a portfolio spanning across upscale hotels, retail, real estate holdings, and one of the world's largest hospitality companies.  I spoke to David about his views on money as a tool to get things done, how he talks about money to his children, and how he and his spouse make financial decisions.  Here is my conversation with David Robinson. 


David, I'm so excited to talk to you today.  I know a lot of listeners are excited to hear from you.  One of the main reasons why is that I know authenticity is a big part of who you are.  In the limited time I've gotten to know you, that's come across already, and you've spoken about that I know to others.  And this podcast is all about being authentic, specifically in the domain of money.




MR. LIERSCH:  And so a lot of people have difficult money conversations with their families, with themselves.  For example, they're embarrassed by their money, and they don't know how to navigate that.  They're embarrassed to talk about their money with other people.  They don't know how to navigate that.  So with respect to authenticity, I want you to think about as I'm structuring your introduction, how you describe yourself, who you are.  And the reason why I'm asking that is a lot of people may know you as someone who was in the military and the Navy.  People know you as someone who was this amazing basketball player, perhaps the best player to ever play the game.  People may think of you as a philanthropist who is passionate about education, or people may think of you as a business person who really manages and runs funds.  So how would you describe yourself in an authentic way where our listeners could understand who you think you are? 


MR. ROBINSON:  Well I think I've been shaped mostly by my faith.  I think that's probably the way I would describe myself.




MR. ROBINSON:  I feel like I've built my life around people, and I built my life around my mission in just being who I'm supposed to be, utilizing the talents that I've been given the best way I can.  So I think if I had to have one way for people to identify me, I'd say identify me by being a man who used his talents and resources in a way that was a blessing to others.


MR. LIERSCH:  So when you think about this idea of how you've come to your passions and purposes and these childhood lessons that you've learned, and then how you've translated that into your own adult life, growing up would you say that you were resource-constrained, or do you feel like there were…


MR. ROBINSON:  Yeah, that's a good way to put it. 


MR. LIERSCH:  Okay. 


MR. ROBINSON:  We weren't poor by any stretch of the, my father was enlisted in the Navy.  My mother was a licensed practical nurse.  So I mean we were a middle-class family.  But certainly going to college, I knew I was going to have to earn a scholarship or pay my way through college.  My parents were willing, but I don't think the resources were there to support three kids going to whatever college they wanted to.


MR. LIERSCH:  Sure. 


MR. ROBINSON:  So I think it built in me a certain independence and a certain desire to kind of prove myself at an early age.


MR. LIERSCH:  So a big question we get from listeners is this idea of sometimes there are natural resource constraints.  For example, you chose a particular path or found a particular purpose because you know those constraints existed.  However, there are some human beings where things are relatively unconstrained.




MR. LIERSCH:  So they don't really need to pursue a passion and purpose in order to have enough money to make their way.  And so how would you think about building in resilience?  And maybe you can think about how you do it for your own three children, how do you build in those resilient experiences so that they identify their passions and purposes? 


MR. ROBINSON:  I'm a big fan of allowing them to figure those things out for themselves.  I have these passions.  I love education. Everybody knows this is what I do.  I build schools; I teach.  It's great.  But I don't expect my kids to be that necessarily.  I'd love for them to build upon what we've done for 25 years, but not in the same way, right.  I want them to bring their own talents, their own passions to the table.  So for me, I've spent a lot of time in particular with my own children trying to help them explore, figure out where are you good, what are your natural talents, and then what are the circumstances you've been put into.  And so I'm also a big believer in setting an example and a tone, right.  They've come with me.  They've come to the schools, they've come to the neighborhoods to where we've fed people, where we've done things and--




MR. LIERSCH:  So would those be translating your values into experiences? 


MR. ROBINSON:  Exactly.  And so then they, even more than what I say, I think they pick up what I'm doing.  And then they say okay, well what do I think is authentic?




MR. ROBINSON:  Like what's real for them.


MR. LIERSCH:  So one of the pieces of advice that we've given to listeners is to this idea of carrying across a culture or a narrative is to actually meet and talk about money.  


MR. ROBINSON:  Yes, yes. 


MR. LIERSCH:  And I'd love to get your thoughts on that.  So what we've recommended is literally setting aside a defined period of time to talk about things like values, your philosophy, and then how that might translate into how you demonstrate that through money.




MR. LIERSCH:  And the reason why I'm highlighting it is I'm going ask you kind of a tough question to fill the blank in, to close this out after you answer this question. 


MR. ROBINSON:  Okay, okay.  Well my view on money is this.  Money is a tool, right.  It's a resource.  But you build your life around the relationships, and I was in a business where we did well, playing basketball.  You're going to make a lot of money; you know you're going to sign big contracts.  And then okay, here I'm getting ready to get married.  What am I going to do?  Well do I love her?  Do I not love her?  Am I going to share my money with her?  Well of course I'm going to share my money.  I mean you know, to me, where would you even start?  Yes, like she's my partner; she is everything in my life.  I'm going to share.  So I think money has to be in its right place, and when it's not in its right place, it dictates things in a way that's not beneficial for the family.  But when it's in its right place, we can talk about money all day long, because it's just a tool.  And so with my boys, I've tried to have them grow up where money is just a tool.  It's I'm going to teach you how to use it.  At a young age, I had them investing in the stock market and doing different things where they could experience it.  But I made it very clear to them--


MR. LIERSCH:  [Interposing] And how did you do that?  How did you give them money to invest in the stock market so you could see…


MR. ROBINSON:  Well one summer when they were smaller, I said here's $2,000 each.




MR. ROBINSON:  Let's look at the stock market.  I said here's what you do.  look around you, the things you like to use.




MR. ROBINSON:  What do you like?  You like Nintendo; you like Netflix.  What do you like? 


MR. LIERSCH:  And so you made it relatable.


MR. ROBINSON:  I made it relatable for them.  I said we're going to invest in stocks that you think are good stocks, are good products.  And so actually the two older ones were too lazy to actually give me five products.  The youngest one, and he was like nine years old at the time, but the youngest one came back with his list.  




MR. ROBINSON:  He was like Disney, Netflix, and it was like an interesting five.  And within a year, I think it was within a, just a little over a year, they doubled their money.  Those stocks were flying up; everything was doing well.




MR. ROBINSON:  And I said oh, this is fun.  Now first of all I'm going to take my cut because that's what we do, right.  I helped you.


MR. LIERSCH:  Your fees. 


MR. ROBINSON:  And they're like no, you don't get any, Dad.  I'm like yes, I do.  And so then teaching them about how money works, and then I said okay, are you going to reinvest it?




MR. ROBINSON:  And not one of them wanted to put the money back in.  They all wanted to take their cash and run.


MR. LIERSCH:  Oh, really? 


MR. ROBINSON:  But it's interesting to see how they think about this…


MR. LIERSCH:  I agree.  My daughter actually, she has, we give her an allowance.  And I just realized about two weeks ago she has a whole drawer full of money as I was cleaning her room.  And so same idea, right.




MR. LIERSCH:  Take that cash, and it's nerve-wracking sometimes to reinvest it.  So what advice did you give them?


MR. ROBINSON:  Well they felt like it was a gamble.  And I said well yeah, well that's kind of what investing is.  It's a measured gamble, and you have to think about the risk.  But I'm not mad at them for wanting to take their money and go.  I just wanted them to understand hey, this is how the world works, right.  If you have some money, you can either sit on it, hold it, spend it, or you can try to put it to work.  And that was a good early lesson, and that's as far as we took that one.  But I try to do little things here and there.


MR. LIERSCH:  You made it collaborative, it sounds like, - -. 


MR. ROBINSON:  Yeah, it was collaborative; it was fun.  They got to read the papers and watch the stocks of their favorite, of their favorite things.  And that was, it lasted about a year.  And then they didn't want to play anymore, so we moved on.  But those are the ways I've tried to kind of use money in a way that they understand that it is a great tool.


MR. LIERSCH:  So that gets into the last sentence I'm going to have you fill the blank on.  And the reason why I'm doing this is again, a lot of families are very focused on this idea of giving in families, how much is too much to give, what stifles passion and purpose.  It's a big topic of the podcast.  How do I talk to children, how do I educate young people about wealth?  How do I educate myself? 




MR. LIERSCH:  So one of the sentences we've been asking people to complete is the following one, and I have an intuition of what you're going to say, and I want to tell you what a lot of people say after you answer.  Is that okay? 


MR. ROBINSON:  Okay, great.


MR. LIERSCH:  All right.


MR. ROBINSON:  Let's play.


MR. LIERSCH:  So I want you to think about filling in the following sentence.  In my family, a monetary gift is a way to express dot, dot, dot.  In my family, a monetary gift is a way to express dot, dot, dot.


MR. ROBINSON:  Responsibility.


MR. LIERSCH:  Responsibility. 


MR. ROBINSON:  Yeah, in my family, if I give you money, if I give my children money, it's a way that I express to them that I trust you, that I believe in you, because I think you're going to be responsible with it.  They know I'm not going to give them money if I think they're going to waste it.  They just know that.  And so it's, they know that if Dad gives us money, we better not run off and do something stupid, 'cause if we do, he will not be giving us money anytime soon again.  And aside from the college youthful experiences, the real life, they're in the real world now, they're working.  And so my gift to them is that hey, I've watched you grow up, I know you're smart now, I know you're responsible, and I trust you.  And fortunately they're at an age now where I can say that about all three of those kids.  I would trust them with everything I have.  Because I know their heart, and I've watched them live.  And that's a good thing to be able to say, right.  They're all over 21.  I could give you everything today.  But for me, it's a way to communicate trust and responsibility.


MR. LIERSCH:  So just to close us out, the most common way people tend to answer that is in my family, a monetary gift is a way to express love.  And so I thought that would be interesting to you, interesting for our listeners to contemplate.  And within the framework you just highlighted, there is something called the shirtsleeves-to-shirtsleeves phenomenon, which we talked about earlier today, which is this idea that research suggests 70% of the time by the children's generation, so second generation of having made wealth, the money is gone.  And by the grandchildren, 90% of the time the money is gone.  And the number one reason research suggests is actually a lack of trust in a family.




MR. LIERSCH:  In things like communication.  So David, I am so grateful for you sharing your thoughts, your feelings about money, about your family, how you communicate in your family about yourself and your identity with our listeners.


MR. ROBINSON:  No, thanks for having - -. 


MR. LIERSCH:  Thank you so much, I appreciate it.  That was David Robinson.  If you want to keep up with him, you can follow David on Twitter at DavidtheAdmiral, all one word.  That's it for this episode of My Next Move.  If there's a topic you as human beings want me to discuss, email it to MyNextMove.podcast@JPMorgan.com.  If you like the show, remember to rate and review the show on Apple Podcast, or wherever you listen to the podcast.  Oh, and if you really like the podcast, tell your friends to listen.  My Next Move is produced by JPMorgan.  I'm Michael Liersch, reminding you to make your next move today.



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You probably know David Robinson as one of the greatest players in basketball history, but he has also achieved great off-the-court success as a philanthropist, entrepreneur, investor and family man.

In this episode of My Next Move, host Michael Liersch asked Robinson about how he’s handled certain issues that concern many families, including how to help children develop a sense of purpose in life and a responsible approach to money.   

Robinson’s answers? Family values that are grounded in such ideas as: “Money is a tool and a resource, but you build your life around relationships.” And sharing these values through role modeling–as he’s seen that his sons learn best by watching what he does.

“I’m a big believer in setting an example and a tone,” says Robinson.

Basketball fans know and love Robinson’s story: He grew up as the second of three children in a middle-class, military family. His dad, Ambrose Robinson, was a sonar technician for the U.S. Navy. His mother, Freda, was a licensed nurse.

Robinson went to the Naval Academy on a basketball scholarship and, upon graduating in 1987, was the first player picked in the NBA draft, going to the San Antonio Spurs. The Spurs waited two years while Robinson fulfilled his active-duty obligation to the Navy. Too tall at 7'1" for many positions that make for a good career in the Navy, Robinson served out his commitment as a civil engineering officer at a Georgia submarine base.

Nicknamed “the Admiral,” Robinson played center for the Spurs his entire NBA career. He was a 10-time All-Star and twice won Olympic Gold. Considered one of the best centers in NBA history, Robinson was inducted into the Basketball Hall of Fame in 2009.   

Robinson’s philanthropic journey began before he retired from basketball. In 2003, he founded, funded and helped teach at the Carver Academy in San Antonio. The school—named after the African American educator and scientist George Washington Carver—is dedicated to serving a socioeconomically and culturally diverse student population.

Robinson has also built Admiral Capital Group, a $100 million private equity firm focused on socially conscious investing.

Throughout it all, says Robinson, now 53 years old, he has wanted “to be a man who used his talents and resources in a way that was a blessing to others.”

Robinson has taught his sons, now in their twenties, both by example and through concrete experiences. As education is one of his greatest passions, Robinson brought his sons, since they were boys, with him to the schools he’s supported. He’s also taken them to some of the underprivileged neighborhoods where he and his wife, Valerie, have offered help through their foundation.  

He’s confronted the issue of having a larger-than-life dad head on: “I’d love for them to build upon my work, but not in the same way,” Robinson says. “I want them to bring their own talents—their own passions—to the table. So I’ve spent a lot of time helping them explore” to figure out their natural talents and assess their own circumstances.

His approach seems to have had a positive impact. One of Robinson’s sons played football at the University of Notre Dame, but left the game after a concussion. He was elected class president as a senior and is now working as a business development associate for Sotheby’s. Another son—who studied human relations, communications and media—works for Admiral Capital Group. The third is currently at Duke University playing basketball.  

When his children were younger, Robinson also took the experiential approach to teaching them about money. “I’ve tried to have them grow up where money is just a tool, and I’m going to teach you how to use it.” 

For example, he once gave each son $2,000 to invest in the stock market. To make the exercise relatable, he told them to look around and find the companies that made products they enjoyed. One boy came back with a short list that included Disney and Netflix.

“It was fun,” says Robinson. “They got to read the papers and watch the stocks of their favorite things. It lasted a year and then they didn’t want to play anymore—so we moved on.” Still, he felt the boys did get to see firsthand that “if you have some money, you can sit on it, hold it, spend it or try to put it to work.”

Now that his sons are young adults, Robinson has an additional message for them.

“When I give my children money, it’s a way that I express to them that I’ve watched you grow up, that I know that you’re responsible, that I trust you and I believe in you,” he says.  

To hear more from David Robinson, follow him on Twitter at DavidtheAdmiral. To listen to more of the My Next Move podcast series, subscribe via Apple Podcasts or Google Play. For additional insights into how to teach children about money, please contact your J.P. Morgan advisor.