Matt Abels

The concept is simple, but often gets overlooked, especially in our profession. As financial planners, we spend a lot of time discussing with clients how to pass assets (what they earned) to the next generation in the most efficient way.  Typically, the goals are to ensure taxes and fees are minimized, assets are passed to the appropriate parties, and the individuals inheriting the wealth are financially mature enough to handle it.  As financial advisors, it can be easy to assume our clients have thought through the financial maturity aspect.  The fact is, most people haven’t spent enough time thinking through how prepared their heirs may be to inherit their wealth.  I think we owe it to our clients to help guide them down a different path, which is sharing with their family the lessons and values they learned along the way.

So, how do you get started?  It’s actually quite simple, but takes thought and intentionality.  Here are just a few ways to get started:

  • Write down what’s important to you. Spend some time writing down what you’ve learned over the years.  Include any stories or lessons you learned and how they influenced you and your family.  What values do you want your kids and grandkids to carry with them?  You can do this in a number of different formats from a legacy letter, ethical will, or something more formal like drafting a family mission, vision, and values statement.  Regardless of the format, spend some time writing down what’s important to you, and share it with your family.
  • Use technology to tell the stories. Think of some stories you don’t want the family to forget, and capture them on video.  Interview your parents or grandparents and have them tell the stories of things that impacted their lives.  How did they meet? What was the most challenging time of their life?  If you’d like help with this, you can hire companies that will come out with a video crew and lead this interview process. However, it doesn’t need to be that formal.  You can simply grab your phone, write down a few questions, and get started.
  • Be intentional with your time together. Use your time together during the holidays or other family events to tell the stories.  Have each person share what they learned and accomplished over the last year.  This does not need to be a fancy PowerPoint, just have everyone spend five minutes giving the family an update.  You’ll be amazed at what you can learn from each other.

While nothing on this list is difficult, it does take some thought and discipline to get it done, which is often the biggest hurdle.  I would encourage you to spend some time thinking about how your family can move beyond sharing what was earned, and move to sharing what was learned. I think you’ll be very thankful you did.

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