Family Confab – A Calling to “Wealthness”
Money, and for that matter the attainment of financial independence, is one of the most sought-after goals in life. However, as you and your loved ones have likely experienced, financial matters are complicated and can often times appear to more of a burden than a blessing. Do any of the following statements sound familiar?
“It is hard to save for the future”
“I wish my spouse and I could agree on money matters”
“Investing is way over my head”
“Wills are for dead people”
“I don’t have the time for Family finances: I am too busy!”
If so, you are not alone. Family Confab was created to bring together individuals and their families to build meaningful, and prosperous, long-term financial “Wealthness”
The multigenerational attainment of financial maturity
The federal government is encouraging Canadians to better their financial literacy (visit www.fcac-acfc.gc.ca). We believe this is appropriate and admirable; however, a deeper and more meaningful pursuit is what we call “Financial Maturity”. In the Dictionary, the term “maturity” means to fully develop powers of mind and body, complete in natural development. We believe that Financial Maturity plays a central role in the pursuit of Family Wealthness.
The Oxford Dictionary defines “wealth” variously as:
- The state of being rich; material prosperity
- An abundance of valuable possessions or money
- A plentiful supply of a particular or desirable thing
The etymology of the word derives from the Olde English “weal,” meaning health or best interests.
The Oxford Dictionary defines “ness” variously as:
- A headland or promontory
- Denotes action, quality or state or measure of being
We have coined the term “wealth-ness” to refer to a state of abundance of health and material possessions to achieve a life well-lived. For a Family to sustain prosperity across generations, wealthness – more than wealth – must be transmitted across the Family cohorts. We aspire that Family Confab will achieve this calling.
The Oxford Dictionary defines “confab” variously as:
- Chat together (Latin)
- An informal private conversation/discussion
- A meeting of members of a particular group
Our Family Confab is a multi-faceted program designed to inspire a healthy and successful attitude towards the custodianship of money across family generations by having The Family committed to, and actively and jointly engaged in, that process.
A successful Family Confab can:
- leave a lasting positive impact on generations far into the future
- mitigate money worries and thereby reduce stress
- build a coherent Family philosophy towards life and wealth
- build a Family culture where difficult subjects are discussed and differences are addressed
“Heirs must be prepared to receive their wealth and learn to use it according to the values of the Family. To help them, they must inherit not only financial wealth, but many other capabilities, connections and resources that prepare them to achieve the highest and best purposes of their inheritances.”
Dr. Dennis Jaffe
Six Dimensions of Wealth: Leaving the
Fullest Value of your wealth to your Heirs
Family Confab is important because the multigenerational management of money is important to families of all income stratas. We all know, or have read, about nightmare stories of family financial mismanagement. Frequently, these situations ruin lives, and weave a web of grief that spans multiple generations. The measurable, and unmeasurable, cost of poor financial skills can be large.
Many Canadians need help with financial planning and management for the simple reason that it was never taught to us. Most educational programs do not take us through these topics. Thus, what we learn, we learn from our families and the School of Hard Knocks. A lot of our financial savvy comes from the Family genome. Sometimes this is good and sometimes this is bad.
Recent scientific advancements have created genome mapping. Genome maps help scientists identify genes that, for instance, might be involved in human disease, which may pass along a family genetic line. Disease genes tend to be located close to the landmark genes; ergo, those landmark genes tend to be “markers” to help locate/identify the disease genes. The more detailed the genome map, the more likely it can identify “disease” genes. A real genome map (and its more detailed genome sequence) is indecipherable to a layman….merely a series of alphabetic characters in a particular order, eg GCCATTGACGTC.
Perhaps Family Financial Genome mapping ought to be next. Like a road map, a Family Financial genome map is a set of landmarks that tells people where they are, and helps them get to where they want to go. What might this involve? Family members might undertake a series of questions whose yes/no responses speak to the underlying financial psyche of that person, which contribute to the Family Financial Genome, eg
- “I believe that my children should learn to support themselves and expect no inheritance”
- “I believe that financial problems always sort themselves out, and don’t require remedial action”
- “I believe in putting a significant portion of income into savings throughout a working career”
- “I don’t believe my kids should work at menial jobs through school when they are going to be professionals one day”
- “My Family and I have a consistent concept of what constitutes success”
- “My Family and I have a consistent concept of what constitutes happiness”
These responses can be aggregated and sequenced into a map like the one cited above. Then they can be aggregated across all Family cohort members and compared. Who in the Family Line had the gene for profligate spending? Or parsimony? Or industriousness? Or laziness? Where and When along the Family Line did prosperity develop? Or decline? What values caused either of those? Where along the Family Line did social responsibility develop? Egocentrism?
Inconsistent Family responses can be identified and investigated. The Family Financial “disease genes” can be identified from their root source and addressed.
Genome mapping also enables scientists to compare the genomes of different species, yielding insights from comparisons. Similarly, the Family Financial Genome map needs to look outside the Family to compare to “norms.” Some “disease genes” may be systemic in the surrounding society, like cancer is to physical genome, youth entitlement is to financial genomes.
Entropy is a term that is applied to thermodynamics, information systems, etc. There are many definitions of entropy, including:
“A measure of loss of information in a transmitted message”
Inevitable and steady deterioration of a system or society”
“Measure of a system’s energy that is unavailable for doing useful work”
Entropy can apply across corporations and family generations, too. The wealth-creating generation’s drive and zeal may not be replicated across future family cohorts, as enhancement morphs into entitlement. Imagine multi-generational wealth management akin to an ongoing relay track race. The senior cohort generation leads off and passes on the baton of values to the next generation who in turn carry it to the next generation, and so on. The Family Capital driven to pursue meaningful life accordingly can suffer from entropy, and the baton drops. The generation that fails to carry it forward may falter, drop the baton, and cause the Family to fall by the wayside.
Family Financial Genome mapping and recognition of Family Entropy creates a need for the family to embrace “Family Confab,” which systemically approaches the multigenerational attainment of financial maturity by paying heed to all of the spokes on the wheel.
Family Confab aspires to sustain the information flow about Family culture across cohorts.
Family Confab should result in defining a Statement of Family Values….“This Family believes in…. ,” which would include, inter alia, financial values.
It might include in the Family Process a periodic Family Confab Round Table:
- “What are our individual and collective…for the next year…for the next five years? How will we work together to attain them, and what plans /sacrifices will this require?”
- “Do we/should we practice the Silo School of home economics by putting money away regularly for specific purposes (vacation, major purchases, renovations, education, retirement)?”
- “How do we manage life’s never-ending one-time annual costs (house & car insurance, property taxes, mortgage bonusing, RRSP contributions)?”
- “Are we victims of the “wealth effect” when house values keep going up?”
- “Are foreign real estate investors a bigger asset to us than our own human capital to earn a living?”
- “How much fortitude do we have as a Family to lean into the Joneses Phenomenon?”
We shall explore what Dr. Dennis Jaffe calls a “Family Constitution,” and develop a Family “Treasure Book” where Family members of all ages contribute their thoughts on what the Family does well, what it does poorly, what the Family values are, what is given and what is taken back, etc What are the most important issues for the success of your family? Do those priorities change over time? Do you feel those important issues are under control? Out of control? Is there agreement amongst family members on these issues? Where do family finances rank in this list? If you are a parent, do you believe your offspring have a healthy attitude towards money? How do your money values compare to those of your parents?
Family Treasure Book chapter topics may include:
|My Family believes in …||My Family supports me by…|
|My Family is good at||I support My Family by…|
|My Family is not good at…||We are blessed by…|
|My Family’s beliefs are reflected to the outside world through…||We are cursed by…|
Our Family Confab Program will deliver a series of modules to help Families raise their Family Capital across all of the generational cohorts. Different modules will be targeted to the different cohorts, eg children aged 5-12, 13-18, adults aged 19-30, 30-60 etc. Some modules will be built for the multigenerational Family as a whole.
Understanding a broader application of “compounding”
We usually associate the concept of compounding with financial math. For instance, I recently explained to a 37 year old client that she had done well to accumulate $200,000 in her RRSP already. If she contributed no more for the rest of her life, today’s sum should compound to $1.6M upon her retirement.
But an equally important application of compounding relates in Family Confab’s concept of Wealthness: the growth in the number of Family members and the potential reduction of Family wealth per member. I have been telling the story several times in our Board Room this Fall about the multi-generational accretion of wealth. Imagine the #1 cohort of a family, which consists of Mom, Dad and a child. The couple were good at earning income and good at not spending it, with the result that over their family life time, they accumulated a fair amount of wealth and were able to afford a “good life style” … lets say $8M.
The Family of three in cohort #1 (below) can prudently live that good life style, and still accrete future wealth. The primary goal of the inter-generational transfer of Family wealthness to the child is about inspiring that adult child to replicate the parents’ ability to generate wealth. That child needs to assemble the education, motivation and good life decision-making skills to do so.
If the child is not successful at that, then the #2 cohort of his/her Family effectively become welfare cases of the Family unit. Now the Family wealth of $8M needs to sustain six people, not three, and that likely means two homes plus income subsidies. It is logical that six cannot live the same lifestyle as three if the wealth pot is not growing. The equally important issue is how the children in #2 cohort will be raised. If the parenting model in cohort #1 was unsuccessful, how will the cohort #2 parents instill the right values in their children?
And then we come to #3 cohort, at which point the family wealth needs to sustain three homes and 12 people in the manner to which they have become accustomed. Again, it is logical that 12 cannot live the same lifestyle as 3, or 6. Lastly, the great grandparents of Cohort #1 pass away, and Cohort #4 adds 12 more.
The lesson is that it is less important to build structures to secure the inter-generational passing of the accumulated Family financial wealth created by Cohort #1 than it is to instill the values that cause subsequent Cohorts to accrete further wealth, not just harvest it. The first task can be assigned to hired professional advisors; the second task rests squarely within the Family.
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