The Family Story is Powerful to Children

Several years ago, Emory University commissioned a study. The study was hosted by two prominent Emory psychologists, Robyn Fivush and Marshall Duke, and a former graduate student, Jennifer Bohanek. They wanted to understand the impact of family stories to a family’s dynamics with their adolescent members.

“Family stories” the researchers wrote, “…help children understand who they are in the world.” These unique and important stories help children understand who they are and where they come from, in a different way, but akin to the DNA tests available for us to take today. Neither of these will tell us who we are going to become, but they do shed light into that which brought us here.

The power of the important story is its experiential transmission of connectivity. Before this study, researchers had an inkling that family stories contributed to a child’s well-being and identity but had not measured their ideas. Now there was evidence. The study found that the teenagers in the study expressed “…higher levels of emotional well-being, and also higher levels of identity achievement, even when controlling for general level of family functioning.” Wow!

Although this is the first study of its kind to use a Do You Know Scale of measurement, it certainly is, for some, an eye opener, while for others, confirmation, on the power of important family stories.

What is your family’s story; not the where when or how, but the story of who and the why of the family? Your family story is a thread, a  link to identity and connection. Tell it to your family.

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A Look Back and a Peek Forward

As 2018 closes its remaining open doors , I reflect back on those who have made my year the satisfying one it has been. I appreciate your journey to elevating that which matters and to strengthening the world of legacy, life and money matters.

 

Thank you for your support of the work Focus and Sustain promotes.

Thank you for your commitment to significance and purpose.

Thank you for sharing your stories of success and the weighty challenges you faced and dealt with.

 You have given me great insight with the conversations we have had.

 

You have given me an opportunity to think more clearly with the questions you have asked and the stories you have shared of your own journey on creating, building and sustaining  strong legacy families, lives with purpose, and powerful money behaviors.

 

You have been an essential ingredient to making the circle of Strength and Significance mightier than it was when this year began.

 

As I peek into the year ahead,

 

I wish you a Meaningfully Focused 2019

Give Your Family Its Wings

Are you building your wealth only to see it gone by the time your great, great grandchildren are growing up and asking about their roots? Most families do not keep ancestral footprints. You can change that by creating a living and engaging family history, footprint, and legacy.

According to research done by The Williams Group, who researched families of great wealth,  70% of families with  assets and stories, values and meaning, will find their money gone by the end of the 2nd generation. Shocking? For those 70%, probably yes.

The research continued to find that 90% of families are unable to have their wealth pass on beyond the third generation, in other words, beyond their grandchildren.  Why is this?

Families survive and thrive not by money transfers alone, the above statistic evidences that.  Families stay together because of a “why.” This “why” is the glue that voluntarily keeps them unified. This “why” includes the history of who you are, where you came from, what shaped you. It is your family’s living legacy.

Consider this: the etymology of Legacy according to the Online Etymology Dictionary stems from the 14th Century French: “legate-body of persons sent on a mission”, and from the middle Latin “ambassador or envoy.” Give your family its wings by creating its legacy. This will keep them connected for generations well beyond your initial contributions.

Who is Ready for their Inheritance?

If you have young kids, and you are wealthy, are your children wealthy? What about your grandchildren, are they wealthy? When I ask these questions to clients, they inevitable pause. I can almost see the wheels spinning in their heads as they consider the money paradigm  existing in their lives.

 

I often hear how they want their kids and grandkids to understand the value of thrift, to see and appreciate how hard it once was, not take money for granted, and yet also give their children and/or grandchildren opportunities and advantages available to them. But how can your progeny learn about life’s hardships when they have private tutors, unique vacations, and financial ignorance?

 

Money is not often discussed in families with wealth. The Wilmington Trust, in a poll they conducted,  found that sixty seven percent of respondents said they were uncomfortable talking about eventual inheritances and only ten percent provided complete information to their heirs.

 

Concerned that they might thwart motivation, self-worth, and confidence, wealth holders often will askew conversations about money. Hope, intuition, seat of pants guidance are common methodologies, but they are not recipes for success. Trusts and timelines are common tools to allocate money to next generations but neither of these prepare the inheritors from being ready to receive the money. Let me repeat that: neither of these prepare the inheritors from being ready to receive the money. Maybe it’s time to change that paradigm .

 

Prepare your family for their inheritance. Mentor them to become stewards of that which you worked hard and proudly to accumulate.  Ask them what money means to them. Ask them what they would do with money. Give them a small amount of money to see how they handle it. Let them make mistakes while mentoring them towards stewardship.

 

This is such an important topic, rather than avoid or delay talking about money, use the tools that allow you to create an environment of healthy money conversations and stewardship.   Contact me if you want to learn how to talk about money.

 

Money can become just another conversation. But you need to create that environment so when asked: “Who is Ready for their inheritance?” your children and grandchildren can say: “We are. We are stewards to a legacy. And we are ready in our roles and responsibilities to steward our inheritance.”

The Family with a Mission Sets a Cornerstone of Longevity

When I ask people about experiences they have had with the transition of wealth in their families, often, I get a shake of the head followed by a story of at least one person or one family branch creating an issue with the terms of distribution. This is still astounding to me, twenty years plus of asking this question.

Why, today, in our “enlightened states”, where information and coaches are ever present, do we fall into patterns that have been around for centuries? Why do we have to say: “My family is different” or “They get along. They’ll figure it out” only to find our families are right in the mix of fallen, disrupted, and broken families? I really do not get it.

What are we so afraid of uncovering that we would rather avoid, deny or hide it than seek to overcome it?

Many people think that merely preparing the assets for their eventual distribution is the answer to passing on an estate successfully. But those of you who have experienced, or, know of a family where distrust or antipathy, cloaked in polite communication, know a great mistake left  irreparable consequences.  Families are torn apart when instead they could have learned how to stay connected.

Becoming a legacy family means preparing the beneficiaries, your family members, to receive the assets. It means understanding the purpose of the wealth and the purpose of the family so the two can co-exist with agreement, understanding, and with stewardship that passes on what it has received and cultivated to the next generation.  Becoming a legacy family means looking at each other, understanding what you want to accomplish together and finding that place of agreement through shared values and inclusivity. Legacy derives from the word legate or mission. When a family has a mission, it sets a cornerstone of longevity.

I will stop here to give you an opportunity to soak in the essence of what has been conveyed here.

concrete hallway between white pillars and building

Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

Smart Money Tips for Kids from 3 to 22

Without a foundation of financial competence, people run the eventual risk of squandering, spending, or squabbling over money. Because of this it is essential to impart financial competence directly and early.

Having an early and repeated exposure to real money, gives children a direct experience with money. Collect coins and sort them into various sizes so your children are introduced to money.  Have them count the total of different coins and bills as an arithmetic and financial exercise. The writer downer here is to introduce them to money itself. Kids relate to the direct experience with it.

Observe your children with money and let them experience it. Be informal yet frequent about your dialogue with them about it. Kids from 5-7 age love games. Games that involve bartering are great activities for them. In this age group introduce them to different ways money is used.  Remember the piggy bank? This is a great time to introduce the piggy bank to your children.

8-11-year old children are at a great age to experience setting limits and making choices. Delayed gratification is an important trait to develop. You may have heard of the Stanford experiments to determine the effect of immediate versus delayed gratification. Delayed gratification correlated with higher SAT scores. It also correlated with self- control.  In this age group, delayed gratification can be expressed in self-determined goals/objectives and even incentives from you.

Preteens love to make buying decisions. They can handle the concept of limits. Have them set limits for themselves. They can understand ramification and consequences to exceeding budgets. Have them make budgets, not as tedious chores, but as a fun activity with gratifying outcomes.

Teens feel the pressure of their peers. This need of belonging can tug at their financial behaviors. “But, you don’t understand, I need this…now!” is a common plea. Reinforce their sense of responsibility by having your teens communicate the “why” of their, a “why” with consequences. This is also a wonderful time to Introduce them to the concept of earning, trading talents and skills for money that does not come from a family member.

Spreading their wings and testing their independent lives, young adults are often thrown into a world of a financial tightrope on which they may feel unprepared to take on. They have so many needs and wants tugging at them. How do they decide when to spend, when to save, how to invest and donate?  This is a time for young adults, if they haven’t already, to identify what money means to them and set up a system they can follow to save, invest, donate, earn, and spend.

We Need More Money Nights at Home

At a recent Ivy League School alumnae dinner, the host asked the attendees, to indicate, by a show of hands, if they engaged in financial discussions with their children and/or grandchildren on a monthly or more frequent basis? Of the 100 attendees, how many hands do you think went up?  3 raised their hands.

What did I glean from this? That few families have “money nights” at home. Although 17 states require a “course”, only 5 states require a stand-alone semester in personal finance before graduation from high school. We are not one of them.

It is up to us, the family, to teach kids about money. As Jack Weatherford, former Professor of anthropology at Macalester college in Minnesota, and award the Order of the Polar Star, Mongolia’s highest national honor for foreigners, pointed out: “…money is uniquely human. No version or analog of it exists among any members of the animal kingdom. We have to pass on its meaning to our future money stewards.”

Then how do we talk to our kids about money? Well it depends on their age, inclinations, and maturity. As you introduce money conversations/money nights and money stewardship at home, remember to guide and advise rather than dictate, encourage rather than criticize, be consistent, be flexible, be objective and purposeful about money, keep extended family members in the loop about your financial “rules”, be open to questions, mistakes, and ideas your children might have. Encourage accountability and praise their successes. Money just needs to become another conversation.

When children experience money early they will discover, tweak, and learn from their decisions, mistakes, and challenges. They will become familiar with money and its various facets. They will experience how to use it productively, so they can become stewards of money. This is what we all want.

How is money communicated in your home? Let me know I’d like to know.

There is Power in that Talking Stick

 

I was watching a movie the other day, Tanna, set in a remote Pacific Island, and acted by the Yakel Tribe members. In an intense scene between warring parties, I was struck by their communication. Even in the heat of opinions and attacks, they had a natural and respectful ability to let each person speak, fully, before another person got up to speak. They did not interrupt. They did not use escalating threats. They listened to the speaker before making their remarks. It was inspiring to watch.

This view into this tribe’s ability to communicate with an opposing tribe, when stakes and tension were high reminded me of an incident that occurred earlier this year. In a U.S. Senator’s office, during the stopgap spending bill talks were held. Senator Susan Collins used her “talking stick” as a tool to let others in the meeting know that the person holding the stick had the authority to speak. Everyone else had to wait until that person was done speaking and the talking stick was released before one of them could have their turn.

In this scenario, the “Talking Stick” has several key purposes. The first is to allow the speaker the platform to speak sans interruption. Second, the stick reminds others that they are to listen as their time to talk has not yet come. Third, the sticks passed from one speaker to the next. But at this meeting, an interruption did occur. Instead of holding on to the stick, the speaker hurled it towards the interrupter and missed, chipping a glass sculpture instead.

Much can be learned from the power in the “Talking Stick”. It has been used for centuries as a tool in negotiations, mediations, family meetings and sensitive facilitated discussions.  It is a powerful reminder to where the room’s attendees’ attention should be centered as well as a reminder that the person with the stick has control of the message until the stick is relinquished.

If you have not used a talking stick in a meeting, give it a shot. It is amazing how it can keep meetings on track, viewpoints respected, and keep tempers from flaring and accusations from hurling.

The Hero’s Story is Significant

 

Over the holidays, I attended the annual Seattle Business Magazine’s Family Business Awards Dinner. It was a fantastic event, honoring family businesses who deserve recognition in categories such as: Best Practices, Community Involvement and Family Business of the Year.

During the dinner, Chris Schiller, Managing Director of Cascadia Capital, gave a compelling introduction to the Family Business of the Year award.

I would like to quote Chris, as I thought his words were applicable to those of us who ork in guiding and consulting with family businesses and/or their families.

Chris began his talk by saying: “In thinking about tonight’s wonderful celebration of family business, it struck me that the eminent mythologist, writer and lecturer, Joseph Campbell’s Hero’s Journey, is much like the story of family business. All of the family businesses in this room have followed a similar path to Joseph Campbell’s hero, with you or one of your family taking the risk to start a company, then embarking on the journey of building your business, meeting tremendous challenges and personal struggles on the journey, finding various mentors (maybe including the family business advisors in this room) to help you overcome those challenges, and then crossing over into a period of transformation that leads to your ultimate success as a business and a family.

For all of you family businesses in this room, you likely have not arrived yet… rather your story continues to grow with your current generation and the next generation coming up. Often the journey is more important than the destination, as they say.

As investment bankers, my Cascadia colleagues and I live in a world of left brain… financial statements, revenue and EBITDA, numbers. Often the value of a business is ascribed largely to these numbers. However, what I have learned and what drives us, rather, is the stories of our family business clients. We are able to exercise our right brain to tell our client’s story to the market in a way that we find the optimal partner that embraces that story, and thereby sees value that others do not see in just the numbers. These stories are really what drives our passion for working with family business. “

These words were inspiring for me. Thank you, Chris, for speaking them and then letting me share them here. The story of the business is so important for families who continue their businesses across generations.

Holiday Family Giving Conversations Can Reap Great Benefits

At a recent University alumnae dinner, the host asked the attendees, to indicate, by a show of hands,
who engaged in family philanthropy. Nearly the entire room or about 150 guests raised their hands. But when the host followed up by asking who engaged the family in a conversation about the meaning of philanthropy and the impact they want their donations to have both for the organization (s) and the family, only 2 raised their hand.

With the holidays providing a favored setting for family conversations, perhaps this can be an appropriate setting to start a conversation about the impact of giving for the family.

Remember these 3 tips to make your conversation more engaging, should you choose to initiate a family conversation on charitable giving. Know and communicate the intention of the conversation and its intended outcome. Keep the conversation friendly and inviting rather than judgmental and limiting. Have an inclusive conversation by ensuring that everyone has an opportunity to say what is on their minds and in their hearts, without interruption.

When each member feels heard, understood and included, they feel connected. This connection can reap great benefits for families as they initiate or develop their family giving.

Holidays and giving, bring it home for deeper cheer.