The proven path to preserving long-term wealth

What I call Family Wealth Ways are exactly that—ways to develop and preserve family wealth for generations to come.

Family Wealth Ways are rooted in practices drawn from family governance, family wealth dynamics, sound succession planning, and family-centered estate planning services.  As an evangelist for those services, I have simplified their core concepts and practices to make them more accessible and easier to use.

I’ve done this because many families of wealth fail to use those services, even when they are offered.  They often see them as too complicated, technical, “psychological,” or time consuming.

Family Wealth Ways focus on four essential elements of wealth preservation:

  • Rich Parenting is my term for parenting children amid significant wealth. Wealth complicates parenting, particularly when a family lacks strong traditions of family wealth.  Rich Parenting can help you avoid raising children afflicted with failure to launch, affluenza, spendthrift behavior, and similar hazards.  Rich Parenting applies mainly to children from about six years of age into their teens.
  • Wealth Literacy is my term for family financial education. Wealth Literacy begins with financial literacy—budgeting, saving, spending, investing, using credit and insurance, and similar skills.  Wealth Literacy goes beyond those basics to help family members preserve and enhance family wealth.  This means understanding asset performance and wealth-preservation practices, among other things.
  • Family governance was originally developed for families with businesses to help them manage the family versus business situations that often undermine an enterprise. But governance is also essential for families with investment portfolios, real estate, intellectual property, and other jointly owned assets.  Why?  Because family governance practices help family members to manage issues that complicate matters around any kind of jointly owned assets.
  • Graceful Exits is my term for succession and estate planning that prepares heirs for their future responsibilities. As one trust officer told, me, “Most estate planning mainly aims at massaging the ego of the wealth owner.”  Of course, it also is geared to minimizing taxes, providing liquidity, protecting assets, and ensuring orderly asset-transfers.  No one would argue with those goals, which I myself pursue.  But preparing heirs for their responsibilities should be equally important because they are the ones who will need to preserve the family’s intergenerational wealth.

The financial services, accounting, and legal industries are mainly devoted to helping clients to achieve high returns and avoid taxes.

That could easily lead you to believe that the greatest threats to your long-term wealth are low returns and high taxes.

But that belief is false.

The greatest threats to your long-term wealth

While cases of fortunes lost to low returns and high taxes obviously exist, most family fortunes (and family businesses) are lost through poor management, bad decisions, and intra-family conflicts.

In other words, the greatest threat to your family’s long-term wealth is your family.

Yet there are far fewer practitioners who can help you to battle home-grown enemies of wealth relative to those who can help you to maximize returns and minimize taxes.

Those practitioners are experts in family wealth dynamics and family governance.  They are consultants in family business management and succession planning.

They also include a handful of trust officers, bankers, family office executives, and wealth managers who help families with long-term wealth preservation.  This group also extends to certain attorneys and accountants working in this relatively small arena.

Few investment advisors mention the work of these specialists to their clients until “the feces hits the fan,” as one family governance practitioner told me.  “At that point,” she added, “it is usually too late to help the family do anything more than clean up the mess.”

Family wealth practices are neglected because they generally provide lower margins than investment management, legal, or accounting services, and the outcomes can be even harder to predict.  It’s also often hard for people to see the need for these services.  All of this translates to lower demand.

However, lack of these practices underpins every case of family fortunes squandered on unrealistic ventures, family lawsuits, sheer laziness, or lifestyles that heirs could never afford on their own.

By the same token, these practices are evident in the many cases of family members who have a commitment to preserving family wealth and further developing it.

As a business writer, I have built my career on my ability to translate challenging concepts and complex practices into simple ideas and easy-to-follow steps.

As an evangelist for long-term family wealth preservation, I now aim to do the same for practices such as family dynamics, wealth literacy, and family governance—and to help advisors to bring these services to their clients.

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