It’s that time of year again. Spring! A great time of year for families to gather around the ball field, get together for a reunion, or simply sit around the fire pit and share stories. Many would agree that family traditions are the comfort food that nourishes our most satisfying relationships. We’d like to invite you to begin a NEW and important family tradition: family wealth planning conversations.
Family Wealth Planning Conversations?
We consider many of the folks we work with to be “family stewards”. Meaning they primarily seek to use their wealth to care for themselves and their family. Therefore, considering family conversations about money are an excellent way to foster a strong family dynamic. At their best, family wealth planning conversations engage every member, each contributing their talents and interests to achieving collective and personal lifetime goals.
That’s not to say everyone must participate equally. As we work with families, one individual often emerges as the spokesperson or steward for the group. That’s fine … if the role is based on a mutual and deliberately planned arrangement. If it is instead based on unspoken assumptions or force of habit, your family wealth planning may benefit from a fresh conversation.
Even if your family is in full agreement on who is best suited to champion its interests, there’s always life’s many “what ifs.” Are others in your family adequately prepared to assume the stewardship role when and if it is required of them? Might they have unexpressed questions or concerns that are best addressed well before that day may arrive? Carving out time to hold candid conversations is where this important work all begins. In Lighting the Torch by George Kinder he writes about the importance of family communication by stating, “It is good to remember that we all respond well to being heard, being understood, being appreciated, and being supported in what touches our hearts in the most poignant way.”1
An Advisor Can Help Guide This Tradition
To kick off your family wealth planning conversation, consider asking a trusted advisor to be a moderator for the discussion. Perhaps it would be your CPA, your financial advisor, an estate planning attorney that you are close with, or even your insurance professional. For many people, especially business owners, these professionals are almost like family and have helped guide you through important decisions for many years. For example, a firm such as Sensenig Capital can be a great resource toward exploring many key financial matters. The following are important questions to consider, among many others:
- How would each of you define your roles in family wealth planning?
- Are each of you satisfied with your current roles?
- Do all family members have the essential information, should they be required to increase their participation? (For example, do they know how to be in touch with us directly?)
- Are there other questions, suggestions or family wealth dynamics you’d like to explore, either immediately or over time?
- How can a close advisor be a resource to each of you in these and other areas?
We encourage you to think outside the box on this! For example, even though some members of the family may be apprehensive to attend a meeting or conference call such as this, the entire family may benefit for their point-of-view on certain matters. You may well discover insights about one another that could strengthen both your financial conversations as well as your overall family dynamics.
In addition, the role of a trusted advisor can be an important one in family wealth planning. As Roy Diliberto wrote in his book Financial Planning, The Next Step, “When clients were asked in-depth questions about their histories, they made their own discoveries about their lives and what was important to them.” Diliberto goes on the state, “In order for us [advisors] to be more effective in helping our clients achieve their goals in life, we need to have as much information about them as they are willing to share.”2
We consider many of the folks we work with to be “family stewards”. Meaning they primarily seek to use their wealth to care for themselves and their family. Therefore, considering family conversations about money are an excellent way to foster a strong family dynamic.
It’s Not a One-Time Event
As tradition suggests, consider this a recurring conversation … perhaps once a year or on whatever frequency is most convenient for each person involved. Regardless of who may be “in charge” of your wealth, the family as a whole is dependent on the outcome of the efforts.
If you are interested in the idea of starting your own family wealth planning conversation please contact our firm or consider reaching out to one of your own trusted advisors. We think you will find great benefits in starting this new tradition. Remember, enabling a forum for everyone’s voice to be heard is another way you can achieve your greatest life goals, keeping your family’s wealth fresh and meaningful over time.
1. “Lighting The Torch” by George D. Kinder. Copyright 2006. FPA Press.
2. “Financial Planning, The Next Step” by Roy T. Diliberto. Copyright 2006. FPA Press.