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.

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Active Listening is Key to Strong Communication

How often do we fast forward through a conversation because A: We know what they’re going to say, anyway; B: We have something we want to say and are no longer listening to the other person or C: Our mind is wandering to something else and leave them speaking to the air? Never, right?!
When communication is rocky, use this tool to change the dynamic of the conversation: Active Listening. Active listening means listening to the intention of the speaker rather than inserting your own conclusion or meaning. It means taking the time to understand what the other person is saying instead of making assumptions.

For instance, the speaker may say: “I can’t give you money. I need it.” It is easy to make a judgment or assumption about what the speaker is saying but what is really being said here? As the active listener, you take the time to find out rather than jump to your conclusions and assumptions. This is an opportunity for inquiry with an exploratory response like: “Tell me more about what you need it for” or a question like: “So I can better understand, what is important about money to you?” Inquire with a sense of wonder rather than a sense of pre-conceived judgment.

It is important to learn, in active listening, what the speaker intends, with their words. In the example above, the speaker might be inferring that they have few resources and need to keep their resources for their immediate obligations. It could mean that the speaker is not yet convinced that your request is valid or important enough for them to give you any. It could mean that the timing of your request is inappropriate. It could mean that the speaker does not trust you. It could mean that you did not approach the subject in a way that was acceptable to the speaker. There are so many reasons that could have precipitated the speaker’s response. Active listening eliminates the need to assume, to judge or to react and use an inquiring methodology with your mind open to understand what is motivating the speaker to say what they said.

When you listen actively, you provide space for the speaker to tell you about their intentions and motivations. When the speaker has completed their comment, you, the receiver, can reflect and paraphrase what you heard, and relaying what you understood their underlying motivation or interests are. For example, if the speaker were to say: “You never help in the house”, you can reflect and paraphrase by responding: “It sounds like another hand with chores is important to you.” Then follow up with a question: “What would it look like if you had help in the house?” Note how this helps diffuse any shame or blame tricks, tactics or techniques. Note how this type of a response can create a bridge of connection rather than create a wedge of contention.

Communication is active. Tell me where you have found active listening benefit you.

Key Strategies to Keep Money Intact Across Generations

When the subject of passing money to the next generation is broached, a question that is often asked is: “What are you going to do with the money?” Although this is a great question, I think there is a farther-reaching question to ask as well: “How is the recipient being prepared to receive their inheritance?” What make this question so compelling? Because it redirects the subject from being about the money to being about preparing the inheritors. And this is so important yet often omitted.

There is a common phenomenon taking place around the world. This phenomenon even has a phrase associated with it. It has to do with the common consequence to inherited money: inherited wealth does not tend to survive beyond 3 or 4 generations. Independent studies have found that 70% of families lose their wealth by the end of the second generation while 90% of families lose their wealth by the end of the third generation. The common phrase that accompanies this horrible unintended consequence is: in the U.S., shirtsleeves to shirtsleeves in three generations; in China, rice paddies to rice paddies in 3 generations; in Italy, barn stall to stars to barn stalls in 3 generations. Although this may be a common consequence to wealth, thankfully, today, this common phenomenon is being addressed head on. Families are looking to change the statistical probability to their accumulated wealth.

Let’s look at two strategies families are using to keep their wealth intact as it moves across the generations.

The first strategy is the passing down of the story, the one that describes how challenges ere overcome, how successes were dealt with, and what it meant for the creators of the wealth to build that which they can pass on. This is important for a family to have because each generation is farther removed from the wealth and having the story reminds them of their roots and of the principles it took to accumulate the wealth future generations have become accustomed to having. When succeeding generations understand what it took to build the wealth in an experiential rather than in a didactic fashion, there is a much greater chance for financial stewardship across generations.

The second strategy is to pierce the veil of sheltered silence, that silence protecting the status quo and instead, talk about the purpose of the money and supporting money stewardship in the family. Teaching money skills, like the 5 S.I.D.E.S. (Save, Invest, Donate, Earn and Spend)© of Money, help family members feel more confident with money conversations. Developing family philanthropic initiatives give families a formal method to talk about how their money impacts their community. Holding Money Nights, where one topic about money is discussed without judgment or interruption, develops deeper trust and more engaging conversations around money.

Find tools to use with your family so that the money you accumulate can stay intact across generations.

How do you view money as a family? Let me know your thoughts.

How Could My Parents Blow It?

As the multi trillion-dollar asset based makes its way from one generation to the next, in what has been called the biggest asset transfer in history, I hear a repeating question that has plagued families for hundreds of years: “How could my parents blow it when my grandparents had so much money?”

According to the Williams Group, a wealth consultant group, 70% of wealth families lose their money by the end of the second generation and 90% of these families find their wealth has been squandered, spent, or squabbled over by the end of the third generation. And they are not the only ones to have uncovered troubling findings. U.S. Trust found, in their survey of high net worth individuals, that 78% of the wealth holders feel that the next generation is “not financially responsible enough to handle inheritance.” 64% of those surveyed have disclosed little to their children about their financial wealth.

I have heard many stories due to the work I do with families, keeping them connected across generations, when money matters. One family’s senior generation, turned over all financial decisions, after receiving a large payoff for the sale of a product, to their financial advisor. The financial advisor has become the arbiter of family and friend loans. The financial advisor decides how and when the money is to be used. The family has not established its own purpose to the money. There are no family conversations about money. Although the sale of the product was completed two years ago, there are already disagreements about whether or not to let the next generation know about their wealth, where to send their children to college, and whether or not to help an older generation with their mounting health care bills. The financial advisor is not equipped to help the family build a framework of purpose to the money so family conversations about money can be neutral rather than tense.

Another family, whose story I know, doesn’t want their children to know about the money they received from the sale of a business. They decided, after receiving their initial check that nothing would change at home. But within a few months, one parent had quit work, wanted to move their parents to live near them, and was adamant that they did not want their older teenage children to know anything about “the money” as it may ruin them. The other parent has found that they cannot engage in a meaningful conversation with their spouse about their money. It has created a gap between them.

Money, in families, needs to become just another topic conversation or more families run the risk of finding that their money becomes a “home wrecker.” When money is not talked about and understood for its role in the family’s life, data supports the fear that the next generation will “blow it.”

“How did my parents blow it when my grandparents had so much money?” is a question I am often asked. “They didn’t know any better. Nobody taught them about what money meant to them nor helped them construct a framework of purpose that the family shared, developed and sustained across generations.

What can you do to affect a framework of purpose and financial smarts in your family? Let me know I would like to hear your comments.

Do Not Forget the Past; It Provides Mighty Support

When we forget those who have come before, like our great- grandparents, we forget our history. When we forget our history, we must begin again leaving new footprints that are themselves, swept away and forgotten as our great grandchildren look back at photos of us and wonder who we were.

 

Contrast this with those families who have captured, and meaningfully nurture the values and enduring traits of those who have come before them as a pillar to support their own lives today and tomorrow.

 

If you do not care how your family will thrive or if it will drift into a fog of insignificance, your family’s history will play out as it has for centuries for most families. Great grandparents have no meaning, they have been forgotten. New generations start afresh as if nothing came before them.

 

But if carrying on the spark of “what matters most” to your family, as a group of like-minded connected individuals, then your family story is an important element to your family’s success. And you must create that story. It will not create itself.

 

Researchers at Emory University found that “…family stories provide a sense of identity through time, and help children understand who they are in the world.”  When adolescents can see the values and traits they share with past family members, they form a stronger sense of well-being and a stronger sense of identity.  This Emory University study also showed that ​there is real benefit in sharing the stories about where the family came from, both geographically and through their values. Family stories keep families connected through generations by its narrative.

 

Your story, the one that will live on, will include how you met challenges, what successes have meant to you, what values you deem to be important and why and how they have guided you. Your story will describe how you came to value what you do value so those who come after you can understand themselves better by hearing from you. When they understand themselves better, they have more confidence and feel more secure in a world where those without this foundation, struggle to be seen and known.

 

Do you have a family story in your family, one that benefits its members, is shared because it came from the “author’s” experience?  Let me know. I would love to hear your thoughts on this important recommendation.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Prepare Your Family for Money It Will be Inheriting

It is estimated that 20,000 families will each transfer over $20,000,000 to the next generation next year. They will continue doing so, it is forecasted, for the next twenty-nine years. Although this may sound fortuitous, research tells us that 70% of these families will find their wealth gone by the end of the second generation and by the end of the third generation 90% of these families will find their wealth squandered or spent. Unless they take steps to keep the wealth, families will find themselves falling into this statistic.

Money that has been amassed, will be gone, for most families, by the time their grandchildren are thinking about what they can pass to their heirs.  The great estate and trust planning coupled with the precise tax and investment positioning, although essential, is not enough. There is an element that most families do not put in place to ensure that their money passes to next generations intact. And that missing element is the preparation of the family for the receipt of the money.

Heirs need a blueprint and a roadmap to know how to sustain the wealth through the generations. They need to master skills of leadership, and family cohesion to successfully steward their new responsibilities associated with the money. Only when families have and master the roadmap to success, will they be able to grow cohesively as a family for many generations.

 

Let me know how your family is attending to preparing the family for its roles as financial beneficiaries. What kind of conversations are you having? How do family members feel about this forthcoming transfer? How is the family talking about the transfer of financial stewardship?

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How Will You Be Remembered? How Do You Want to Be Remembered?

How do you want to be remembered? How will you be remembered? Is there a gap between the two responses?

If so, identify an element to that gap that you can address and take action on. Then, craft the first action step you can take towards bridging that gap. For example, a woman I spoke with wanted to be remembered as a creator of evocative paintings. When I asked how she would be remembered she said that she would not be remembered as a painter as she kept her paintings in her studio.

Realizing that she would most likely be remembered differently than how she wanted to be remembered, she decided to put a few pieces on walls in her home. She did not stop there. She organized an art show for family and friends. What began as a bridge to gap the distance between how she wanted to be remembered and how she would be remembered became an annual “Get Connected with Art” Show (now celebrating its eleventh year) where select artists, their families and friends came together to share their legacy through art.  Art pieces were sold, auctioned, and given away. This woman is both ecstatic and amazed at what resulted by addressing a gap to her legacy. She will now be remembered for her art…and much more.

How will you be remembered? How do you want to be remembered? Are they aligned? What is the first step you can take to bridge the gap? Let me know your thoughts on this topic.

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There’s Power in This Conversation that Matters

Knowing she was dying, Anne wanted to make sure her children knew who all the people in the pictures were. So, together, she and her two children went through five albums and hundreds of loose photos that reminded Anne of her past, her heritage, the things she did, and the people to whom she was connected by blood, but knew little about.

When I came over to visit, Anne instructed her adult children to show me the pictures on the guest room wall and explain who everyone was in those photos. But her children were unsure of who these people were. Yes, they had listened as their Mom reviewed the pictures with them, but they quickly forgot the information. Most of the people did not mean anything to them. The photos were pictures of the past without anything more to connect the children to them.

When I returned to the room where Anne was spending most of her waking hours, I wanted to help her communicate some of the meaning that these pictures had that she wanted to pass on to her children.

I asked Anne to step back, in her mind, to a time in her life, when she was a little girl, 10 or younger; I could see her expression change as her mind and imagination took her back to her home in Canada. I then asked her to think of someone, a school teacher, a religious teacher, a sports coach, a friend’s parent, an after school organizational leader, someone who had had a tremendous positive impact on her at that time of her life. Without hesitation, a big smile beamed across her face, her shallow eyes began to gleam as she whispered: “Lisa, my best friend.” I asked Anne to describe her friend Lisa and as she did her eyes sparkled with joy and contentment. I asked Anne what powerful positive benefit Lisa had on her back then. Again, without hesitation, Anne gazed into my eyes and boldly stated: “Acceptance. Lisa showed me then, as she always has, the power and possibility of acceptance.” Delving into the value of acceptance for Anne became a powerful compass point in Anne’s life. As she talked about the power and beauty acceptance had had in her own life tears welled up in her eyes. She thanked me for finding a way for her to recognize this.

I, who have known Anne for ten years, felt a shock wave of new understanding as I learned how important acceptance was to Anne. Anne confirmed this by saying acceptance is one of the most important values for her. She smiled. I looked over at her adult children, who had witnessed this conversation and their eyes expressed a sense of amazement as they just understood something profound about their mother they never really knew or understood before.  It was a profound moment of great bonding for all of us.

As tears came to their eyes, the children said: “In this short conversation we have gotten to know our mother so much more powerfully and in ways we will never forget. We can carry the value of acceptance forward, in her honor, in our lives.

Imagine knowing the people in the photographs on the guest wall in this way.  This is where the connection is, not in the scene they are in or the pose they have struck. In this experience, revealed by a few key questions that matter, Anne will be more than a photograph. She will hold something that matters, a value, which her children will honor, perpetuate and pass on to their children.

Isn’t it time to have more conversations that matter?   2015.05.27.Kirkland.Juanita Bay Beach.Water Droplets on Leaf006

Statistics Show We are not Raising Financially Literate Kids

Kids, ages 10-14 scored a 54%, ages 15-18 scored a 60% on a 30 question national financial literacy test. This test measured their ability to save, earn and grow money.

 

Kids have access to money but do they understand how to use money? According to this financial literacy test, no. Of course, they know how to spend but can they count the change they have received? Is it the correct amount?  Next time you have a transaction where you give a $20 bill for an item costing less than $10 watch the change making ability of the cashier. How easy or hard is it for your child to determine if the cashier gave them right change when the register does not tell them what the correct change should be?

 

Do kids check their receipts to make sure they were charged correctly?  Research conducted in 2012 by uSwitch found that 70% of consumers were overcharged on a bill in the last year…and did not know it until it was pointed out to them.

 

Just how familiar are kids with making change, with being charged correctly, or with being overcharged? When they see these habits in adults who show them how to model behaviors, it is easier for them to do the same. When kids do not see a model to imitate, checking receipts or counting change can be embarrassing. They feel uncomfortable not trusting or believing the cashier. They have not been taught how to properly deal with this.

 

It’s time to teach kids about money. After all they use it every day and checking their receipts and counting their change is a good habit to learn. You might even decide to reward them for discrepancies they find.  This will go a long way to raising health financially literate kids.

 

Leave a comment and tell me what you do to encourage and build your kids’ healthy money habits? Let me know if you need help with this endeavor. We can help.

The Time Has Come and Yes, I Do Feel Different

I have experienced discrimination. I remember being an early longshore woman in the Midwest, before woman were able to join the union. I was the woman who could last long enough to make it into the union, but the union kept its doors closed to me.

 

I remember being ridiculed for driving a truck, for being intelligent, for wearing pants in college, and for running for office in organizations that had not yet nurtured or cultivated women leaders. I did these things, not to prove a point, but simply because I could.

 

So, today, I have to admit, it does feel different now that a woman will be the official nominee of a major political party in the U.S.  I feel that I and women in general must be taken seriously when we step out of “traditional roles” and contribute talents, skills, perspectives and brain to the fabric of society.

 

This is a great moment, a legacy moment that will carry us, with more grace and confidence and acceptance into the world we shape.

 

We asked for this. We got it. Now we have to take responsibility for what we have created. This is big. It is a legacy moment.

 

Let me know how it feels to you to have a woman candidate of a major party here in the United States. I would love to read your comment.