21st Century Life-Are We Focusing on the Right Things?

It’s so easy to focus on politics or the weather, or a myriad of other things, and avoid these three key areas of our lives. When these 3 areas are left unattended, it can lead to division in families, inability to focus on our lives and create great anxiety around money.  

Our Life-we run around doing things, yet many struggle with defining their purpose. We know we have values, yet many can’t clearly describe what those values mean to them or how to incorporate them into their daily lives.

To find purpose for yourself, examine and commit to your values. They represent the core of who you are. They are the cornerstones of your life’s foundation.

Our Legacy-we leave this earth transferring the things we have but have forgotten to leave behind what matters most to us, the why of our beliefs and principles. for the next generations to build upon.

The next time your family gathers, whether it is in person or online, ask those gathering what matters most to them. Then listen. You will learn something unique about each individual and find that your connection strengthens. It will provide you with a firmer base from which to support each other.   

Our Money –we use it every day yet haven’t really identified its purpose.  Spending is an easy release valve when so often we are anxious about our money.

Set aside a time to talk about what money means to your family. Develop strategies, tactics, actions, support and accountability matrices from which to base financial conversations. Doing so will build a foundation of what matters most to you with money.

When It is a Matter of Family Harmony, Which Do you Choose?

How can you measure a family’s ability to stay connected for generations?  The simple answer is: by cohesion.  Okay, end of blog, right?  No, because we are going to look at the elements of cohesion. Cohesion is defined as the ability to stick together.  Its origin is from Latin meaning to stick or cling to. With the right elements, cohesion can provide the glue that connects families for hundred of years. Families like the Rockefeller, Blake, Rothschild, and Mogi are using these systems to keep their families united when the natural tendency for a family is to break apart or fade into irrelevance within two or three generations. 

Elements that form cohesion include: a shared value system, a shared purpose, understood standards and structure of governance. When shared values are codified, people feel that they have a rallying point.  When a family’s purpose is codified, people feel like are moving towards the same objective.  When standards and a sense of governance are honored, the rules of play are known, members know what is expected of them. All these must rest on a foundation of empathy, understanding, inclusivity, and fairness. These take attention to nurture and build.

Wills can be read, the trusts administered and relationships strain or fray or wills can be read, trusts administered because the family was unified around the purpose of the family and the final documents that supported the purpose. Which do you choose? 

The 3 Key Elements to Fostering Purpose in Unsettling Times

When a business is part of the family and as a family grows, the style of communication and agreements often need to change. Families that begin in first generations directing process, setting direction, and even making decisions for next generations, find that this mode of engagement meets with resistance (overt or covert) as the next generation takes on roles and responsibilities.

As a family grows, in breadth as well as in depth, these forms of communication that worked when the family was small start to break down. To counteract them, it is essential to step back from the day to day to day operations of the business and begin to ask about the “why” of the family business.  The value to purpose materializes and begins to take center stage. If not addressed, member may prescribe their own “why” making it more difficult to reach consensus or set meaningful and sustainable direction.

What is essential about purpose?   Purpose becomes an anchor. It becomes a compass and becomes the reverence point when contention and disagreements arise. Purpose reminds people of the overarching reason they are doing “the thing” and what its intended reach and focus is. Having a purpose to refer to can reduce the tension that can surface when people are championing their own thing.  Instead of one voice giving the family support, without purpose thee are now individual voices looking to further their own agenda.  

Three key elements to bolster purpose include the family story, both original one and the ongoing one that is updated as warranted. The second key element is the written mission statement which the family has agreed to foster and develop. The third key element is governance, not based on rigid directives, but instead, built on the furthering of the family values and its mission, a springboard to action. Governance is a set of guideline or standards for the family to uphold at home and in their community.

I have seen, in today’s COVID environment, how some families are being torn apart. They don’t have their purpose; they don’t know why they are together. Instead they find themselves at odds as individual voices are looking to further their own agendas. And why not? They don’t have an agreed to collective purpose. It’s heartbreaking. They are contacting me because they can’t talk to each other without breaking into heated arguments about the future of the family business. They are seeking resolution.

I have also seen families who have formed their purpose and found how valuable this has been to their communications, their trust, and their ability to steer their ship through the choppy waters they are in.

Purpose is a centerpiece for a family business’s longevity. It is the glue to keep family members connected as new generations develop. It is the focus that keeps the family viable as a unit through the generations. Purpose is the soul of the family.  

Email me for more information about my programs, resources, books, and workshops on building strong families.

A Project to Consider During this Unsettling Time

During this time in the “unknown” when we don’t know when things will settle, when we will return to normal or if we will, whether the COVID-19 will infect us and if so, to what degree, here is an idea to activate.  

The family story is an important story to keep, to treasure, and to pass down. Imagine your children learning more about your parents. Imagine your children’s children not only learning more about you, but also learning more about their great grandparents, the ones they may never meet.

The story is about the questions you ask. Often people will ask questions that solicit quick and easy answers like where someone lived, where they went to school, where they grew up and where they worked. These are all well and good, but they don’t, on their own, make for a compelling story, one that future generations can use to understand their heritage, to give them more confidence about their own history.

Asking questions that open your parents up to talking about the challenges they encountered and how they dealt with those challenges bring shape to an elder’s life. Asking questions about what is truly important to an elder will open the windows to the impact they have made.

Storytelling is important. If you want to learn more about capturing your family’s story, contact me at bhaj@focusandsustain.com, as I am now offering, although it is not yet on my website, a storyteller’s kit to capture that family story to share with your family for generations.

During this time in the “unknown” when we don’t know when things will settle, when we will return to normal or if we will, whether the COVID-19 will infect us and if so, to what degree, her is an idea to activate.  

The family story is an important story to keep, to treasure, and to pass down. Imagine your children learning more about your parents. Imagine your children’s children not only learning more about you, but also learning more about their great grandparents, the ones they may never meet.

The story is about the questions you ask. Often people will ask questions that solicit quick and easy answers like where someone lived, where they went to school, where they grew up and where they worked. These are all well and good, but they don’t, on their own, make for a compelling story, one that future generations can use to understand their heritage, to give them more confidence about their own history.

Asking questions that open your parents up to talking about the challenges they encountered and how they dealt with those challenges bring shape to an elder’s life. Asking questions about what is truly important to an elder will open the windows to the impact they have made.

May you and your family’s health stay well.

The family story is an important story to keep, to treasure, and to pass down. Imagine your children learning more about your parents. Imagine your children’s children not only learning more about you, but also learning more about their great grandparents, the ones they may never meet.

The story is about the questions you ask. Often people will ask questions that solicit quick and easy answers like where someone lived, where they went to school, where they grew up and where they worked. These are all well and good, but they don’t, on their own, make for a compelling story, one that future generations can use to understand their heritage, to give them more confidence about their own history.

Asking questions that open your parents up to talking about the challenges they encountered and how they dealt with those challenges bring shape to an elder’s life. Asking questions about what is truly important to an elder will open the windows to the impact they have made.

Storytelling is important. If you want to learn more about capturing your family’s story, contact me at bhaj@focusandsustain.com, as I am now offering, although it is not yet on my website, a storyteller’s kit to capture that family story to share with your family for generations.

May you and your family’s health stay well.

The Family Story Can Develop Strength, Confidence, and Empathy

We love good stories. We love to hear good ones from friends, enjoy watching riveting ones on the screen, we like to read them in books. Stories bring us into a world bigger than ourselves, rich with possibility and full of emotions that tug at our heart strings.

Then why don’t we have our own family stories? Oh, I know, those ones are boring, right?! Not right!

Family stories can be amazing guides for our lives when told with the power of intriguing events, heart wrenching emotions, and difficult challenges that were overcome. We think our own family stories are pedantic and bland and they are when looked at as endless details of this and that. But that’s not the family story to capture. Family stories that captivate and that serve as compasses are the ones that capture the strong family narrative of compelling “whys” and useful “hows.”

Sara Duke, a practicing psychologist who worked with learning disabilities, found that “The ones who know a lot about their families tend to do better when they face challenges.” Now there’s an insight! Her husband, Marshall Duke, a psychologist at Emory University who was involved in a 1990s study exploring myths and rituals in families, examined this conclusion with his colleague, Robyn Fivush. They tested the hypothesis in their “Do You Know” test which measured Sara’s results against psychological tests Marshall and Robyn had their children take. They found that “the ones who knew more about their families proved to be more resilient, meaning they could moderate the effects of stress.” Wow!

A key word for me, in the quote, is “more”. I find the “more” to include, in family stories, that which compelled the past family members to make decisions they made, their motivations, their beliefs, and what it took to meet challenges they faced. I want their story to be rich with their values and motivating principles, rather than lifeless with the details of what they did, where they lived and who they were surrounded by. Adding the “more” creates a rich platform for present and future generations to develop their strength, confidence and empathy, all strong traits of worthy individuals.

Prepare Your Family as You Do Your Assets for Greater Estate Transfer Success

I recently gave a presentation, to a professional group, on the effects of family dynamics on estate plans.  When there is a family business, when wealth is being planned to transition from generation to the next, when there is an asset of great importance or significance, family dynamics often show up to undermine well laid out plans. Look at the problems arising from Tom Petty’s estate plan regarding the interpretation of words regarding the management of his music. Aretha Franklin, who purportedly died without a will, has a slew of handwriting experts testifying to the validity of found handwritten wills. But are problems like these the plan’s fault?

So much effort is put in preparing assets for their eventual transfer. And this should be. There are great strategies out there to incorporate. However, just as important and unfortunately, too often neglected is the preparation of the family on one hand, for one generation to let go of their control, and on the other hand, for the next generation to receive those assets. It’s like preparing the plane for the flight but not preparing the pilot on how to fly the plane and how to work with their co-pilot. Both need to be prepared for a successful outcome.

For many families, certain family dynamics make it difficult to talk about various topics. Families know there is no such thing as a diplomatic hand grenade, so they avoid bringing up potentially contentious subjects or deny they exist.   

Families often dissolve into chaos and personal attacks when there is no communal foundation from which they all base their opinions. Instead, when families take the time to develop their own unique purpose, basically their “why” families find that they have a reason to build and support a common mission, one that can be passed on along with the assets.  

mother handing key to daughter [PNG Merlin Archive]

Responsible Stewardship is Key to a Successful Legacy

For families with businesses, there are issues that surface as the family grows and ensuing generations get involved or migrate away from the family business.

Conversations about the business that may have started in the living room at home, moved to the kitchen, then a conference room then to a board room, often become a struggle as families grow and as individual agendas develop. Working well together, across generations, can become tense when visions are not aligned, and responsible stewardship is not defined. Competing and contrasting priorities due to generational differences, ownership positions, and desires for the business as contrasted with desires for the family harmony, surface.

It is not natural to manage such complexity. Like a garden who needs proper care and maintenance to stay healthy, relevant, and vibrant, a family is best served by developing a disciplined and purposed component to their family and family business dealings and becoming responsible stewards of what they are growing and eventually, passing down.

Determining an initial purpose to both the family and family business initially separate the two entities so they can clearly define themselves independently. Agreeing on and articulating the value, vision and mission of each entity across generations is key to being responsible stewards. Adapting and becoming comfortable with change is the responsibility of each generation.

Questions to consider asking at home:
• Who do we want our family to be, as a family?
• What do we want our family to represent in the community?
• What is important to us as a family: what do we believe in? What do we stand for?
Creating purpose, mission, vision and family teams to develop the family’s success goes a long way to sustaining intergenerational trust and sustainability.

Questions to consider asking about the business:
• What is the purpose and mission of the business?
• Is the business meant to develop as a business or build family wealth?
• What do we need to do to support our working together?
• How do we communicate business information so it does not take over or interfere with the family environment?
Knowing the purpose of the business, communicating that to the family, developing trust in leadership development are all critical to successfully passing a business legacy and leadership from one generation to the next.

Leave me a comment on your thoughts or experiences on this important topic. I would be delighted to read 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.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Preparation is a Great Inheritance Tool

I have been part of conversation focused on what the best thing to inherit is. Some think it is cash. Some think it is real estate. Some think it is a portfolio of assets to be reinvested. I suggest it is being prepared, being prepared to become stewards of an incoming inheritance.

 

Studies show that for 90% of families where wealth makes it to the 3rd generation, it is gone by the end of this generation. This is not due to a fault of this generation. They are merely responding to a lack of preparation and instead doing what is naturally the course, spend, squander or squabble over the inheritance.

 

Each generation has a unique view and interpretation of its partnership with money and the family. The first generation carries the vision, the passion and focus to build a new company. This generation tends to sacrifice their personal life for the business. They must do so in order to build a successful enterprise.

 

The second generation has a different perspective. They have grown up with explicit or implicit expectations placed upon them to build on the family fortune that often conflict with their own personal objectives. Understandably this can create great friction. Couple this with squabbling that happens between siblings over the purpose of the wealth and there lays a sure recipe for even bigger problems. Studies confirm that 70 % of families lose their wealth by the end of the second generation.

 

For those families, whose wealth makes it to the grandchildren, there is a new perspective. The third generation is farther removed from the creation of the wealth. They are accustomed to being wealthy. From their point of view, having wealth is a birthright. They have never seen or been exposed to the struggle or the reason of making money. They are free to dream and create. They have never had nor needed the tools to build a productive life. They are only familiar with spending money.

In three generations, a family’s past and all its treasures will be lost and forgotten. Memories will fade as new generations spend their precious time scrambling to build a-new.

 

But when a family prepares its present and future for its inheritance, it can grow its bounty. A family who conscientiously grows and develops its assets, is called a legacy family. This is a family where the money as well as the family culture develops and is transferred from one generation to the next with purpose and intention. This type of family uses appropriate systems, tools and activities to stay connected through generations maintaining shared purpose, understanding, and trust. This family becomes a prepared family transferring its wealth with confidence it will grow in the family for generations.

 

Let me know your experiences on preparing inheritances for long term family connection. I would love to hear from you.

It’s Time to Alter the Traditional Financial Security Model

People are living longer lives. More years are being spent post work. And the current model of financial security funded by 401ks and social security is cracking.  Three out of five boomers, according to a recent report from Transamerica Center for Retirement Studies, are forced to retire due to “layoffs, organizational changes, health concerns and family responsibilities.” Only one in six can retire early, with a secure financial net to carry them through their golden years.  The 2008 “Great Recession” hit the boomers hard as many found their retirement savings severely reduced, were laid off, or could not find increasing salaries above inflation adjustments to fund their lifestyles.

 

Boomers are not alone.  The Generation Xers, born between the mid-1960s and the early 1980s, are concerned about their financial security. According to the Transamerica 17th annual Retirement Survey, only 12% of Xers are confident they will be able to retire comfortably, 30% have taken a loan or an early withdrawal from their retirement accounts an 86% are concerned that social security will not be there for them when they retire. Their median retirement savings is: $69,000.

 

It is time for a change to the financial model we have in place.

 

I think it is odd that people can work and then find themselves without enough money in their sunset years, after they provided great benefit to companies they worked for. I find it egregious that companies skating on the thin line of ethical standards, can jeopardize the financial security of their employees, while the founders or CEOs raid the company to line their own pockets. I think it is not right that so many retirees do not have a secure financial base at a time of life when they are more prone to disease, increasing costs, and shrinking opportunities. Dementia and Cancer are potentially major financial requirements that can reduce a couple’s assets to almost nothing. I think it is terrible that very capable workers are unable to find jobs due to efficiencies of businesses and now find themselves falling further and further behind financially. These stresses do not help people live productive lives.  

 

It is time for a change.

 

Some countries are looking at alternatives. Canada and Finland and Switzerland, for instance, are looking at a base universal income. Switzerland is talking about a guaranteed income of 30,000 Swiss francs for its citizens. Here in the U.S., Alaska has been paying its residents a dividend since the 1980s. This dividend is based on the oil revenue it produces.

 

What are you experiencing in your community as it examines its own economic security? Let me know. I would love to hear what you experience.