Talking about wealth – an approach to succession, my weekly perspective


Storytime. There once was a rich person who on the outside showed all the signs of the western ideal of wealth, a big house, fancy car, vacations, a yacht and an airplane. I use the word rich to distinguish what this person had from a wealthy person. This person as rich as she was, did not feel fulfilled. The unfulfilled hunger for more wealth was always there because there always was someone else richer. This person did not pause to reflect on why she was chasing after all this wealth, especially because more of it did not lead to greater satisfaction. Sadly, she passed, suddenly, and then the family fell in on itself as each member litigated the estate to get their “fair share” of the estate. Was her lifetime of work worth it?

What is wealth? This is a definition unique to your family. Money in the bank is one measure. The impact of that wealth on the family and the community can be an alternate measure. It is up to you, the leader of the family to define what wealth is, to you. More importantly is the quest for wealth a goal in itself (in my view relatively fleeting) or merely a product from the goals that you set and the goal is really more important?

Once defined, then sharing this vision of wealth can be a goal. First share this with your spouse to enable you and your spouse to have a common approach to the discussions around wealth with the rest of the family. Then include your children.

The most important message, in my view, “with wealth comes responsibility”. Many families never start the conversation around wealth. It is never too late. Start now and do so carefully. Many have gone down this path before so rely on the resources and professionals around to help prepare and guide you through these necessary conversations, essential as they are, with all of your family.

This is one facet of many conversations that will help you progress along your path to the succession of your family enterprise.

Learn, think, apply!