3 Tips to Sustain Family Wealth for 7 Generations

Passing wealth is usually done with the help of well-crafted documents by estate planning attorneys. But is this enough? It is if all you want to do is pass assets. It’s not if you want to keep the family intact for generations because wealth is more than the assets.

Wealth encompasses, in addition to your financial assets, your values, your philosophy and beliefs, your family culture, as well as the story of your significant experiences and how they shaped you. All these are just as important when passing wealth to future generations, as passing assets. Without these additional components, your family runs the risk of losing its wealth and all it stands for, within 3 generations. Studies by the Williams Group have corroborated this unfortunate outcome. Phrases like shirtsleeves to shirtsleeves within three generations have pointed to it.

Families have concerns about how money will affect future generations. Will wealth make their children/grandchildren/greatgrandchildren lazy, spoiled, unmotivated, rudderless?  Many families do not talk to their children or grandchildren about their wealth, their (the children’s and grandchildren’s) roles with the wealth or what the purpose of the wealth is for the family as the family grows from the first to the second, and third generations.

It is difficult to have these conversations without a road map and without the appropriate tools to use when talking about sensitive and difficult topics. How can you start?

First, begin by identifying what is important about the wealth to your family. Develop and communicate the “why” of the wealth. This will include talking about your family values, the purpose for the wealth, how your values impact the use and growth of the financial wealth

Second, engage in experiential teams to develop and nurture leadership strategies for the use of the family money such as philanthropy, higher education, or funding homes.  Educate the family about financial literacy and productive financial behaviors.  If family members are young, start them on a course of financial stewardship. If they are young adults, have them team up and develop a philanthropic family initiative and lead this initiative through its formation.

Third, hold meetings where you use active listening to understand. Let each person speak on the topic at hand without interruption. Make sure intentions are communicated and understood by all family members. Seek to connect rather than to win an argument.

Sustaining family wealth so future generations can thrive is about supporting collaboration, respect, trust, and retaining an environment built on communication that develops the family’s agreed upon common purpose.

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When Trust Wavers…

Family dynamics can be challenging at times. I am reminded of a situation where one family member, a sister, asked her brother why they had stopped talking to each other. Silence was her reply. After asking the same question a few times, and getting silence as the repeated response, she got up from the table and left. That was the last time she engaged in conversation with him for years.

Her family had a history of mistrust. Behind the scenes, there were not so subtle attempts by most family members to influence the remaining parent in directing how and to whom her assets should be dispersed.  Family gatherings were polite and casual as family members placated their elder mother in hopes it would rebalance her estate plan in their favor.  The sister witnessed this behavior and chose not to participate in it, thinking that having a well-mannered relationship with all would prevail in the end.

Years later, after their mother had passed and the will was read, this sister, who had forged an independent life for herself while still reaching out to her siblings, found she had been completely omitted from any estate distribution; no assets, no jewelry, no books, no mention, no nothing. It wasn’t the assets she felt she deserved, it was the omission of her in any way, that hurt her.  She felt like she really did not need to be there.  It was embarrassing to feel that she really wasn’t part of the family. The brother, who responded to her in silence years before was the executor or their mother’s will. As the sister later learned, there had been some underhanded tactics used to try to convince the mother of one sibling’s family’s “wonderful” intentions while undermining the intentions of the other siblings.

Family members, as trust wavered, found ways to undermine ones that had weaker positions in the family while elevating themselves. It destroyed the family harmony. After the mother’s passing, and will was read, lawsuits were filed, letters of betrayal were found, and the family was destroyed.

Is breaking trust and family discord really worth it? IT is a tough question to ask and very important to consider, when cordial harmony mask darker intentions. People will rebuild family units but consider how much stronger a family can become when trust and harmony are nurtured.

Have you been Mansplained? Been What?!

I was recently involved in a robust online conversation on mansplaining. As soon as the topic was raised, opinions started flying in, ranging from irritated frustration at the experience to recharacterizing mansplaining as verbal kidnapping. I would have remained a spectator to the group conversation until verbal kidnapping was presented as a description to mansplainng. That was my moment of: “Wait a second, that seems a little much.”

Mansplain is defined in the online Merriam-Webster dictionary as: to explain something to a woman in a condescending way that assumes she has no knowledge about the topic.

As I have experienced mansplaining, I thought I would bring it up here to gain perspective and understanding. Here, in part, is what I shared with the online conversation.

“I am adding to this robust dialogue as I cannot reconcile the phrase ‘verbal kidnapping.’ (with mansplaining). Kidnapping means: take by force. This is different than taken by surprise or be overwhelmed or belittle or even attempted to connect with.

Having come up in male dominated industries, financial, jazz guitar, and entrepreneurial success, I have experienced it many times, sometimes overt and sometimes covert. For quite some time, I took it personally, like they were exhibiting behaviors because I deserved it/asked for it/put out the vibe/looked like I wanted it/was a target for their unloading. Eventually that turned to understanding that it was not about me, they did not even know me but they needed to wield their power/show me who’s got the upper hand/offer friendly unsolicited advice/want to show off/join the conversation/demonstrate how intelligent they were/demonstrate how keenly aware or observant they were being/ and more.

Initially, I either stood stunned or snorted out a weak comment only to fine I was fueling the fire, the fire of false objectives and false perceptions by the mansplainer. I then shifted to inquiry in my attempt to gain understanding as to their intention with being so directive with me.

So, how do I deal with it today? IT DEPENDS. It depends on the situation, my perception of their intent, that which I want to protect within myself, the point I want to make….

For one person I might cut them short  to end a ‘correction’ or added ‘expertise’ they want to interject.

For another person, I might let them go on until I see an opening and then end the conversation in full awareness that their behavioral habit will continue with someone else. I choose not to take the time to get into the fray.

For yet another person, I may ask them their intent on sharing with me as I want them to be clear as to whether they perceive me as unprofessional/unqualified/not at their level or perplexed at my keen insight which might contrast with my small stature.  😊 These may all come into play.  I can then respond more appropriately with more clarity

I no longer initially judge mansplainers to be foe. And it’s not just mansplainers, there are womynsplainers. The wolf wears either gender sheep’s clothing to get in to the stall!

Tell me your thoughts? Have you been mansplained? How do you deal with it in a way that preserves the essence of who you are, your values?

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.

You Need the Right Focus to Live a Life that Matters

As you may know, the concept of purpose and its practice is key to happiness. Purpose is difficult for many people to grasp because we are encouraged to be constantly on the go, and to fit in, neither of which speak to purpose. It is easy to wander through life and look back at an advanced age and wonder: “What happened? Why am I unsatisfied? What was my purpose?”

What is purpose? The Etymology Dictionary says that “purpose” stems from the 14th century Anglo-French purposer, meaning “to design.” However, purpose did not just appear then, it had already played an essential role in Asia, the Middle East and civilizations going back millenniums. Purpose is a cornerstone to living a life that matters.

Author and co-founding partner of the Australian company, Sonder, Jonathan Hopkins, wrote in a blog wrote: “Successful organizations (like Nike, IKEA, Ben & Jerrys, Lorna Jane, Apple) all have an idealistic purpose which is followed, worshipped and preached by its employees and customers alike. Without a powerful purpose, leaders will struggle to motivate their employees and customers will struggle to find a reason to connect with the organization.”

What is your purpose and how are you expressing that in your community?

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

What This Mom Said When Asked Where Squirtle Was

Recently, I went out to a local park which housed a lake, that serves a spot  to heron, beavers, ducks, birds, and turtles. While I was there, the turtle count was 49 on just one log, nestled in the reeds. As I was looking at the turtles from my viewpoint on an extended pier, I head a child ask their parent: “Where is the Squirtle?”

I had to listen to Mom’s response. Her child was sincere in the question and worried that the Squirtle might not at the lake.

There was a slight hesitation as Mom carefully considered her response. She finally replied: “Here, Squirtles are found in their separate characters. Over there is the turtle. See its hard shell. Let’s watch what it does and consider why it does why it does, before we look for the Squirrel, the other part of the Squirtle.”

The child accepted the response and the challenge imbedded in it. Instead of joining the others who knew what was occurring on their phone and tablet screens as they crept through the park, this child began exploring and interacting with the world around her.

It was an incredible contrast in style.

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Wisdom from the Ages Can Be Accessed from this One Tip

I recently read a recommended book. The author, Benjamin Franklin (1706-1790) wrote an autobiography, which was published posthumously in 1868. I would like to share a point that resonates with me and is as relevant today as it was for him, two hundred plus years ago.

To give you a little background, Franklin believed strongly in the attributes virtues had He went so far as to define the thirteen core virtues which were cornerstones to his life.  He defined what each meant to him, and this is insightful,  because he understood that each person defined virtues, individually. His definition was not necessarily theirs and vice versa.

Rather than focus on all thirteen virtues, he isolated one at a time. He started with temperance which he described as: “eat not to dullness, drink not to elevation” and focused on it for a week. He then moved on to the next, which for him, was silence, defined for him as: “speak not but what may benefit others or yourself; avoid trifling conversation”, the next week he focused on order “let all things have their places; resolution “resolve to perform what you ought, perform without fail what you resolve” and so on.

As he focused on only one virtue per week, he could gain greater understanding of it for himself and its valuable application in his life. As the years went by he became dedicated and pronounced with his virtues, refining them in his daily life.   This contributed to the respect he garnished. He took the time to live from his “virtues”, intimately.

Each day he would begin by asking himself: “What good shall I do this day.” In the evening, he would reflect on his morning question by asking: “What good have I done to-day?” using one of the thirteen virtues he was focusing on.

Now, that is Wisdom from the ages.

Listen for It, Listen to It, It’s There to Help

Have you ever found yourself in a situation where you have witnessed your own behaviors in action?

Here is an example: You are in your car, driving down the highway, it’s twilight, with the sun just about out of sight. But it’s not quite night. Others in their cars, like you, are heading home, perhaps distracted, already thinking about dinner, to dos, tv shows, and home conversations.

You turn your signal in to indicate your intention to move from the left the middle lane. You look to see if anyone from the far-right lane is indicating they are going to turn to the middle lane. All clear.

Then that voice, one you have heard inside your head before, reaches out and tells you not to go into the middle lane, that far-right lane car is going to move into the middle lane.  You stay where you are and sure enough, THAT car moves into the middle lane about which you had signaled your intention. And they moved over without any signal, nothing. But you knew. Good thing you listened to THAT voice. It may have saved you a trip to the hospital.

How do you recognize THAT voice? It’s a protective, sagacious, and valuable voice. Researchers at the University of Toronto, Scarborough, conducted a study where participants repeated a word over and over as they performed a test: push the button when a certain symbol flashes on the screen. As this symbol flashed on the screen frequently, it could set off and did set off impulsive responses. The researchers found that when participants could not listen to their own inner “talk”, they were more likely to act more impulsively.  The researchers said this about the study: “Without being able to verbalize messages to themselves, they were not able to exercise the same amount of self-control as when they could themselves through the process.”

Listen for it, listen to it…your inner voice. It’s there to help.

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.