Who is Willing to Step up and Play Big?

I am calling out for a GoFundMe project. But first, let me tell you why I am suggesting this. It seems the government has been doling out a lot of money lately, with more to come. Putting aside politics, it is a phenomenal gesture with, to be expected, guarded questions about the “payback.”  One question I have heard concerns the payback from the businesses agreeing to receive this money. Another question asks how this “bailout” will affect future taxes and inflation. These are relevant questions, for which responses are guarded, whispered, or left for later. That worries me.

I have donated to a few GoFundMe campaigns during this COVID-19 shelter in place and have observed the results and outcomes of these and additional contributions. One was for an alma mater housing its students who couldn’t return home, one was for a restaurant to buy, prepare and deliver food to the stressed and overworked hospital workers, still another for an organization on the frontline of providing shelter to women in transition from homeless to housing. I am delighted to participate but it is not enough. “Who can do enough?” I asked myself.  

There is a giving pledge where billionaires have committed to give away at least 50% of their wealth to philanthropic projects. Now, here is where impactful money resides. Should any of their influencers or they themselves be reading this, I have an idea. Put together a bank for business. Seed it with a portion of your pledge and help those small businesses who need a lifeline. Googling, I discovered that 99 percent of the businesses are considered small businesses-over 30 million; 88 percent of them have 20 employees or less. This “bank” could offer a programs where they become the source that pays back these debts to the government. Have you heard of John Beresford Tipton? He was the fictional gentleman on a TV show, The Millionaire, which you can view on YouTube, who gave away $1,00,000, with no strings attached. We could watch this epic show on our favorite streaming channel. It would eclipse Tiger King.

Business in general, and small business in particular, need to know “someone has their back.” Understandably, they do not trust the government. But they might trust the philanthropist. Who is ready to step up, not by liquidating holdings, but by raising big cash among their peers?

A Mighty Thank You

When I think of you who have been affected by my blogs

I see shimmering stars light my path

When I think of you who have focused on stewardship

I am touched by a commitment to best practices

You, in your dedication to a richer and more meaningful life

Make me smile from ear to ear with joy

I applaud your commitment to lives and legacies that matter

May your commitment to 2020 give you the capacity to see far!

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]

Learn Where Life and Money Intersect for Money Mastery

I received a call from a gentleman who was referred to me. He was concerned about what his kids would do with his money, once they inherited it.

He told me he spent fifteen years building a company that he sold to another company for a generous profit. He said this new cash and stock infusion was significant to him. It represented an achievement he had worked hard to gain. He knew that the money was enough for he and his wife to live on and enough for his kids to benefit from but that’s not what he wanted the money to do. “I don’t want the money to provide so much security that life becomes a series of reality tv like experiences for my two teen age kids, caught up in the moment without any particular drive or interest. They’re already putting pressure on us about increasing their allowances and buying them new cars. It’s gotten tough on my wife and I to deal with this without feeling resentful.”

As our conversation continued, he revealed that money was never given to him as a child. He had to work for it. His wife also never had a lot growing up although she was given her parents’ car when she was 16 with the knowledge that she would have to turn it over to her brother when she was nineteen and he was sixteen. They couldn’t understand or appreciate their children’s covert and overt demands for money.

After a couple of meetings to understand their concerns and objectives, we decided to put together a 3-part financial program for the family. The first section was the “Financial Conversation.” This gave the kids an opportunity to express what money meant to them, their experience with money and what challenges they had with money. Their parents could only ask questions if they needed clarification on what was being discussed, not questions to judge or criticize. Then the parents had a chance to talk about what money meant to them, their experience with money and challenges they have faced with money.

Doing this in an environment where each participant felt like they could say what they wanted without fear of reprisal or judgment was crucial.  Each member came away from that meeting with a greater understanding of what money meant to themselves and to each other. This created a bond between them which we are now using in an exercise which involves an experience around money that the kids are doing as a team. They will report on their outcomes at the next meeting.

It is important for life and money to intersect so they can support each other rather than conflict with each other. It is critically important to do so in families where money matters so money and life can each be talked about with understanding and purpose rather than with judgment and directives.

Is Silence Always Golden?

Think back for a moment, back 2 generations and bring your grandparents to mind.  Can you name all 4 of them? If you can, I have another question for you: can you name their hobbies and interests …for all 4 of them? And if you can, I have one more question for you:  do you know what they stood for, or, said differently, what they believed in? Interesting? You are an exception if you know what even two of your grandparents believed in.

Now, join me as I take you one generation further back. How many of you can name your great grandparents…all 8 of them? In a room of 100 people, when I ask this question, I am amazed at how few can name all their great grandparents.

With the first set of questions, usually about 95% of the room can name their grandparents, about 65% can name their hobbies or interests, and less than 20% can name what all four pf their grandparents stood for.  Going back one generation further it is rare when more than 3% can name their great grandparents.  This is tragic because research has shown how beneficial it is for a child’s well-being to understand their family’s storied history.

In the 1990s, Dr. Duke, a psychologist at Emory University, along with a colleague, Dr. Robyn Fivush, tested a hypothesis. This initial thought was developed by a psychologist who found, while working with children that “The ones who know a lot about their families tend to do better when they face challenges.”  Dr. Duke and Dr. Fivush developed a measure to test this hypothesis.  From responses, they concluded that the more people knew about their family’s history, the stronger their sense of control over their lives, their higher their self-esteem and the successfully their believed their families functioned.”

Is silence always golden? No! How are you sharing your family story?

For more information, read here: https://www.nytimes.com/2013/03/17/fashion/the-family-stories-that-bind-us-this-life.html

2 Critical Issues Facing Family Businesses

For families with businesses, there are two big problems 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.

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.

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.

Take Action to Avoid the #1 Regret People Have

Recently, I read an article about regret. Of course, it included the biggest regret people have, which I will disclose a little later. But first, what, exactly, is regret?

According to the Miriam Webster Dictionary, the definition of the noun regret is: “1-sorrow aroused by circumstances beyond one’s control or power to repair and 2-an expression of distressing emotion (such as sorrow).” I find those to be interesting definitions and I feel I need to add one more which is remorse or shame  not following up or completing that which I had the power to complete or repair but lacked the motivation, strength, or courage to affect. Let’s look at the etymology of “regret” to discover more about its meaning. Regret appears in old Norse as grata, meaning to weep, or groan, in the Proto-Germanic as gretan, meaning weep and in the French as regreter meaning “ pain or distress in the mind at something done or left undone.” These give me a clearer framework to work with when I hear the word regret.

In the article I was reading about regret, authored by Diana Bruk and published online by MSN, six studies were conducted with hundreds of participants. Each participant was asked what they regretted most in life. While people tended to regret their actions (current behaviors or activities) more in the short term, their inactions (things they did not do or behaviors they did not model) were regretted more in the long term.  We tend to put off, in the short term, actions, which in the long term, we regret having neglected. But all this was merely a backdrop to what people regret most.

The number one regret people have, according to these six studies is: not fulfilling their ideal self. WOW!!!!

You can avoid this regret. By knowing your values, your mission, setting your goals, both long and short term, then having a method of achieving your goals while expressing your mission and values, you will sidestep this huge regret.

And a shout out to those of you who have taken up the Life Focus System, you model the axiom of living your ideal self. You have constructed ways to return to the path, when you stray from it. You live a life of focused purpose. You reap its benefits, both short and long term.

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