- Wealth becomes a legacy and is available to achieve the goals when families recognize money for its interactive purpose.
- Family meetings often result in greater comfort, authentic communication and dispute resolution.
- A common family vision helps members accomplish their goals and maintain positive familial relationships.
- Kything is a technique to help family members stay aware of each other's needs and goals.
As we discussed in Part One of this article series, seven out of ten families can't maintain their wealth through the third generation. Here we'll delve deeper into wealth preparation planning using a fictional example based on real events.
Prior to the inheritance, the Jones family already had competent financial planners. They had a plan for their assets that ensured a modest retirement income. They were also already working with their attorney to create prenuptial agreements for their sons' future spouses. They were aware of the concept of wealth as a transaction. My job was to help them recognize the money as an interaction through family heritage and values, personal development, community service, and philanthropy.
With the large inheritance, the Jones family needed to clarify their family values concerning money and wealth so they could apply those values to guide future years. It was also important for them to identify and articulate their grandfather's values so that his legacy continued to live in the family.
Family traditions promote its heritage. I encouraged the Jones family to create and hold family meetings not only to discuss their values about money and wealth but also to identify and preserve family traditions and keep them current as the family grows and changes.
Psychologist Mihaly Czikszentmihaly writes, "Now that the integrity of the family has become a matter of personal choice, it cannot survive except for the regular infusion of psychic energy." (Finding Flow: The Psychology of Engagement with Everyday Life, Basic Books, April 1998)
Czikszentmihaly's point reinforces the argument that holding regular family meetings is critical to family (and business) success. Families with new wealth are often at greater risk and must work to implement family meetings to preserve their relationships.
I use the term "family self" when talking about personal development with a family vision. Each member of the Jones family needed to recognize his or her life perspective within the family purpose. I offered several excellent resources, including Richard Leider's The Power of Purpose and Greg LaVoy's Callings. To help individuals think about their purpose, Callings asks, "What is the one question you were born to answer?"
The Jones family understood that living a purposeful life is akin to happiness. Money does not create happiness, but living a purposeful life does. I promoted Jones family meetings because they also help develop emotional equity in the family and provide support for each other.
Community service and philanthropy
In The Congruent Life, C. Michael Thompson writes, "Service is on the outside what prayer is like on the inside." Service and philanthropy is the antidote to consumption in our culture. A family uses the family meeting to discuss how their gifts should be used to benefit the community and how to give back.
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The power of a common family vision
All of these family aspects - heritage, self, service and philanthropy - draw from a common source: the family vision. A common family vision helps the family accomplish their goals and maintain positive family relationships. It unites the family. It is so critical that it requires the same serious consideration as wealth management, consultancies and planning. That's why I encourage families to create their vision and recite it every day.
The common vision draws from family values and is crafted to voice an ideal future. It is stated personally as "I am, we are." The family vision contains several key aspects, including a prayer for loving kindness, an individual vision and kything. Kything is a developed skill of consciously living in the loving presence of others. It is also formed into a statement.
I offer an example from my practice, changing the family names. You may find it helpful to develop a common vision through family meetings of your own.
Lincoln Common Family* Vision
As a loving and loyal family we are committed to open communication, creating a trusting environment and giving back to our community. With integrity and honesty at our core, we promote hard work, validating each other's gifts and creating financial stability for the benefit of our company, family and community.
*Note: the Lincolns consist of a couple, Van and Kelly; their two sons, Mark and Max; and daughters-in-law Sharon and Sheila.
Prayer for Loving Kindness
(This is how the family associates themselves to their greatest spirituality.)
May our family be filled with loving kindness
May we be well
May our family be peaceful and at ease
May our family be happy.
Kelly's Individual Vision
(This is a guided purpose developed and stated by the individual.)
I am a very caring person. I bring leadership, organization, companionship and knowledge to the family. I want my family to feel comfortable coming to me for any reason, good or bad. I always put Van and the business first - taking care of what needs to be done at home so that Van can focus on the business 100 percent.
(Family members state these to sustain and stay aware of each other and their needs.)
May Van provide knowledge and experiences of his life along with his personal values to his children, grandchildren and other key business associates so that they are happy, content and successful. May Van give back to the community and others.
May Mark be a loyal, caring, determined and devoted husband, son and brother, who works to further develop and strengthen the family businesses to benefit our family, employees and the less fortunate. May Mark be grateful every day for the gifts of family, fortune and the opportunity to help others achieve success.
May Sheila be a supportive wife, contributing to the common good of our family, the business and those in need. May Sheila be committed to honesty and open communication within the family structure, giving time and energy to fulfill those goals.
May Max help lead his family and the family's businesses and make them stronger. May Max be honest, open-minded and trusting with family members and provide guidance and help to those who seek it.
May Sharon support her husband in his efforts to achieve his goals. May she provide patience, openness and open communication to create a trusting and close family.
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Why develop and memorize these statements?
One reason to do this is to program your subconscious. Top athletes visualize and talk themselves through their expected high performance. This "mantra" helps to maintain focus on what you want in your life.
Each member of the family creates an individual vision. This goal helps the entire family be vision-driven as opposed to problem-focused.
The family kything helps other family members know what each person wants. The family commits to recite each other's statement. Each family member knows that the other members of the family are putting psychic energy into their well-being and committing to each other's success and creating the family team.
Family meetings also help produce a greater comfort, authentic communication and the ability to resolve family disputes. Cultural anthropologist Angeles Arrien phrases it this way in The Four-Fold Way: "to speak your truth without judgment, criticism or blame."
I certainly believe in honesty, openness and candor in everything. However, these need to occur in the spirit of kindness, care and respect for others.
To prevent disputes, Arrien suggests saying what you mean, doing what you say and saying it is so when it is so. She also suggests that you not let your difference with someone go beyond three days. Resolve it as soon as you can.
The family should have a system of leadership that promotes learning and growing. It should be discussed in family meetings. Thatâ€™s because families, and their businesses, are always changing. Recognizing this helps individuals feel comfortable and understood as generations move into, through or away from a business.
Living in gratitude is a quality to be nurtured - in individuals, in their families, in their businesses, indeed across the globe. Gratitude is not just feeling thankful or maintaining a positive mental attitude. It is a conscious appreciation or acknowledgment that positive things have occurred. It is the ability to recognize the positive (not burying the negative) during dire happenings in our lives.
Wealth becomes a legacy and is available to achieve the goals when families recognize money for its interactive purpose. Family meetings can build the emotional equity of the family so that all can lead purposeful lives because they understand that service and gratitude are the essence of happiness.