Frequently Asked Questions
“The two most important days of our lives are the day we were born, and the day we find out why!”
- Mark Twain
We know that although we’ve spent 50 years working with clients, worldwide, we do not have all the “answers” for everything; we can only share with you our experience and the experience of our clients, friends, and our years of research. If you have a specific question, unique to your family, and would like some insight, please feel free to ask.
When do we, as parents, begin to talk about family wealth with our heirs? What age is the most useful to begin the discussion of money?
You can begin as early as age 4 or 5, helping them divide their allowance or buy gifts, etc., into three pots: one for consumption, one for savings, and one for charity.
Family money shows up in businesses and assets. The use and abuse of this energy is very obvious to most children, depending upon their age and maturity.
You can create incentives by agreeing to match the savings they create every quarter. As the kids mature, other incentives are useful to stimulate their growth and knowledge of money, as well as the use and abuse of money. There are other ideas mentioned in our book Philanthropy Heirs & Values.
Money is a storehouse of energy. For example: When we see a delicious-looking apple, and decide to take a bite, do we ever stop and think about how it got into our hands in the first place? We do know we had to buy the apple--with money – never thinking any more about it. The money we tendered, whether we were aware or not, was to pay a whole line of people, responsible in some way to produce that apple for our enjoyment. There was someone who first developed the apple seed for the farmer, who in turn used tools, developed by someone else, to plant, to grow the apple tree, or perhaps a large orchard. Someone else developed the tools and products to trim, fertilize, water, and nurture. All this took time and someone’s energy to make it all come together. When the apples are ready for harvest, they'll need to be picked, sorted, washed, put into boxes, and sent to a vendor, who will then deliver to our local market. This process also requires energy, just to produce the apple for purchase. The money we used in this process is to replace, or pay, for all the work involved, just so we could enjoy an apple...Who knew? Energy=money=energy.
How do we find a way to identify the common values our family has, especially within three generations?
Know that most families have similar values across generations, but rarely do they have an articulated process for identifying those values in a way that shows up. Even the in-laws will find they have similar values to the family’s. We find that no team, no family, and no country or business can stay together long-term without common values, common mission, and trust. So when the values' process is articulated, it is amazing to find a 90-year-old and a 16-year-old in sync over and over again.
The Process© we have developed works 98% of the time.
Is it possible to be in alignment with everyone, and by everyone, we mean the generations: Millennials, Baby-boomers, Gen X, Silents, and GI?
Please refer to our answer to the above question, How do we find a way to identify the common values our family has, especially within three generations?
Trust and Communication
Trust and communication are major core-issues within every family, business, religion, education, government, and between nations and cultures. How does a family ever agree on the definition of trust and begin to rebuild it if it is broken, or when betrayal exists?
Trust and communication can be read about in our book, Preparing Heirs, as part of that process, Chapter 3.
The issue of trust and the distinctions of the components of trust, developed by Dr. Fernando Flores, are the most useful we have found over our 50 years. The breakdown of trust is the single, largest cause of communication breakdowns, followed by the problem of different perceptions. These two fundamentals create enormous problems at every level and, when wrapped with care, can be addressed within any family who wants to be open and learn. This requires an Ontological Coach, with years of training and experience in addressing trust and communication breakdowns within families.
When trust is an issue in any of the above domains, how do we build the communication bridges needed to survive as a family and culture?
The breakdown of trust and communication is a frequent problem, requiring the work of a skilled coaching team to start with a process which will identify where trust and communication has broken down. They will help the family learn the distinctions and practice the tools to develop the skills needed in rebuilding trust and overcome betrayal. This takes time and a willingness to be open to learn. This can occur in a reasonable length of time – eight to ten meetings; some take longer.
How do we help our heirs find their passions, to be able to focus on their future?
Passions are an offshoot of interests, and begin early. The problem is we do not recognize them and are not taught to use the skills needed. Dr. Daniel Amen, the noted expert in brain scans and assessing NFL players, notes that those with Attention Deficit Disorder, ADD, are not substandard as education has painted them, but are geniuses and need a different focus to allow their genius to flourish, “outside the box.”
How do we help our heirs avoid the problems we frequently see, regarding the mood of entitlement and lack of initiative?
Moods are always about an assessment of the future. When one grows up in an atmosphere of very luxurious surroundings, and they see things being used as part of a lifestyle, they begin to assume money and things determine who they are. Therefore, the mood, or assessment of entitlement, is one they naturally gravitate toward. When they learn they will be the beneficiary of some money, some assume they have enough to maintain their lifestyle and go back to money and things determining who they are.
This requires new language and distinctions to learn and develop the skills to master, along with some good work in philanthropy in areas of interest and passion. We find this is very useful in their development. Read Philanthropy Heirs & Values for more information.
How do we help our heirs learn about the magnitude of their wealth, and avoid the problems we see, which create the opportunistic spouse filing for divorce, as a way of accessing that wealth?
The question is not about when and how to help heirs learn about money or wealth. The question is about trust. Trust in their judgment of spouse, and lack of trust in the spouse, which may not even exist yet. The problem is one of building the trust and communication skills within the family, so the question ceases to be a question.
At what age do we begin to introduce wealth to our heirs?
You can introduce philanthropy and savings to children as young as four or five. The key is to help them learn.
How about charitable giving and philanthropy? When is the right time, or age, to involve the heirs to help them learn and grow?
Please refer to the answer to the above question. At what age do we begin to introduce wealth to our heirs?
Is philanthropy a tool to help teach family values? If so, how do we begin and when?
Philanthropy is a stealth training tool for teaching values to children. Read Philanthropy Heirs & Values for some ideas.
Our children and grandchildren get embarrassed when they see our names on university buildings or on something named after our family. How is this mitigated?
The names on university buildings, hospitals, or any structure are a real compliment to you and your family’s willingness to support those institutions which you value. The issue is not the name on the building; it is why the name is on the building and what the family definition of wealth is.
If the definition of wealth is cash, stocks, bonds, real estate and business interests, then the above perceptions may be true. If the background, education, experience, networking capacity and family name is part of that definition, then the larger picture of what it means to the family, and how much you contribute to the world, changes the family’s perception of wealth and gives pride for the gifts you are as people and family for generations.
Heir Equality & Roles
We love our children equally. How do we address the family’s equal issues in terms of ownership of assets, and/or inheritance, so this issue will not create resentment, anger, or victim hood among family members and spouses?
Equal vs. fair is a misnomer. It is the heart speaking, to say we love all our heirs equally. Yet when one has a broken arm and we get it fixed, do we then give the other children an equal amount of money we paid to the doctor? If one has a handicap, then do we send money to all the others to match the cost of helping the handicapped child?
We have always treated them fairly. What’s missing is:
- Values everyone participated in developing and has agreed upon.
- A family mission or purpose for our wealth (success) is defined by everyone, including spouses and grandchildren over 16.
- A glossary which defines every word in the mission, including fair vs. equal, if that is part of the mission or purpose.
- Develop trust and communication skills within the family to eliminate cordial hypocrisy.
Ownership of business assets, management of business resources, skills, competence, and lack of agreed upon standards for various roles, can create great misunderstandings within family units. In-laws, cousins, and their values and competence can create much mischief. How is this addressed to satisfy and address their issues, and when do we start?
The values, mission and glossary, along with the newly adjusted estate plan, will identify many roles which will be needed to fulfill the mission and plan. All roles will need to have qualification and performance standards developed for them. These standards can be used to select family members and other advisers to take those roles. This alone will reduce, if not eliminate, much of these issues.
Bill Gates did not graduate from college. If his grandfather had established a standard, or a college degree for managing assets, it may have been a hindrance to his motivation and passion development. How is this issue mitigated?
Values, mission, glossary, trust, and role development will keep the doors open. The process for developing this will establish a protocol that future generations will use to select new interests, passions, and roles. This will begin to mitigate these issues.