Do you want to leave a lasting legacy for your children and grandchildren? Are you building a business or accumulating wealth with the hope that it will benefit your heirs and provide them with the opportunity to live happy, fulfilled lives? If so, you had better start talking about it with your children—now.
The Importance of Communication
One of the biggest reasons that wealth is historically made and lost in three generations is not because families lack an estate plan or fail to have family trusts, etc. It is due to trust and communication, or a lack thereof. It’s true, most parents do not like to talk about money. However, communication is key to successfully preserving a family legacy.
The family must work proactively together to maintain its legacy and ensure that it is working to benefit its family members. As the family’s leader, it is up to you to foster a spirit of cooperation and teamwork. It is incumbent upon you to rally the family and unify its members around the common goal of managing the family’s legacy. How do I do that, you ask? Well, you can start by holding family meetings.
No matter what age your children are, get in the habit of holding a regular family meeting. The purpose of these meetings is not to talk about money, the family business or succession planning. The purpose of these meetings is to build trust and establish open lines of communication. The earlier your start, the better.
Your children will get used to talking to you and their siblings about their life, their problems, their success and failures. It will instill in them the principal that the family works together to solve the family’s problems. They will develop the habit of looking out for each other. These meetings will serve to strengthen the family unit, which long term will strengthen and preserve its legacy.
Here is a simple tip I once received that works wonders. I forget where exactly it originates from, but I want to pay it forward by sharing it with you. It is a practice I use with my own family. My boys just started third and fourth grade, and we have had this tradition for a few years now, so we started just around the beginning of school.
Every week, usually at dinner on Sunday, we hold a family meeting. The agenda is always the same. We go around the table and discuss these three topics: (1) What went well this week? (2) What did not go well this week? (3) What do we have to plan for the upcoming week? It is a great way to get the family comfortable with communication—my kids actually look forward to our family meetings.
The agenda is short, but focused and meaningful. It allows us to share our successes, reflect on our own imperfections and contemplate ways to improve, and it organizes us as a family for the week ahead. Mostly though, it brings us together as a family unit. It is upon this foundation that we will build more meaningful conversations over time.
As they get older, the strong bond we will have built through these meetings will enable us to have deeper, more meaningful conversations about life, purpose, legacy and yes, even money. I am training my family to work together, to care for each other’s happiness and well-being, to create a family legacy that will last for generations. If you want to leave a lasting legacy, I encourage you to do the same.
DISCLAIMER: The information contained in this article is for informational purposes only and is not intended, and must not be taken, as legal advice on any particular set of facts or circumstances. You need to contact a lawyer licensed in your jurisdiction for advice on specific legal issues.