In 1986 Warren Buffett, the so-called Oracle of Omaha and all-round investment sage, told Fortune magazine that he’d be leaving the bulk of his considerable fortune to charity and gifting his children just “enough money so that they would feel they could do anything, but not so much that they could do nothing”. In Buffett speak that equates to “a few hundred thousand dollars”.
Buffett hasn’t shifted from this often-reported position, but over the years he has revealed some personal tips about parenting, which include sharing the details of your Will and final wishes, letting your children carve their own path in life, and not letting your wealth spoil your children’s future.
helping children to distinguish between needs and wants, and instilling a sense of financial responsibility.
To my mind, you can’t talk about successfully transferring generational wealth without sharing generational wisdom. Both are important, but the one without the other could have potentially disastrous implications when money starts changing hands.
Generational Wealth and Generational Wisdom
Before we get down to the wisdom part, I think it’s important to understand exactly why handing over a blank check without adequately preparing your children for this responsibility could be a dangerous thing to do.
This conversation starts by looking at the distribution of personal wealth in the USA. Right now, the bulk of America’s wealth is in the hands of the Baby Boomer generation (aged 58 to 76), who hold about 53.2 percent or about $59.96 trillion. Millennials (age 26 to 41) have about 4.6 percent of our country’s wealth.
History tells us that the Baby Boomers had relatively higher incomes and less debt than Millennials, which enabled them to accumulate more wealth. Conversely, Millennials have been hard hit during their most acquisitive years by the 2008 global recession and the 2020 global pandemic.
While these successive financial body blows have been challenging, it is also true that in the next decade or so wealth will begin to change hands as Millennials inherit from their parents and even grandparents.
From an investment perspective we focus a great deal on ways in which to build generational wealth through investing, be it through stocks and bonds, life insurance, property ownership, opening a Roth IRA account or thanks to a 401(k).
If you haven’t yet created a strategy to guide this wealth transfer to the next generation, then I invite you to get in touch with me so we can start the process. Given our extensive network of trusted experts, we are also able to help you solve more specific queries, such as accessing the right estate planning attorney for your needs.
This may seem like a grim topic, but accumulating and successfully transferring generational wealth is an essential part of leaving a legacy. Then again, so too is sharing generational wisdom. As evangelist Billy Graham once said: “The greatest legacy one can pass on to one’s children and grandchildren is not money or other material things accumulated in one’s life, but rather a legacy of character and faith.”
My Philosophy on Living a Good Life
When I’m not working, you’ll find me taking time to enjoy the simple things in life, spending time with my family, actively participating in our church and community, and indulging my passion for travel. Over the years I’ve put words on paper to share my thoughts and my philosophy of life with my children – knowing that one day, when I am gone, they can turn to these views and find comfort and direction.
I don’t restrict myself to only sharing investment insights with my children, although I’m surprised by how much they’ve absorbed about wealth management and smart financial behaviors over the dinner table!
These are some of my favorites one-liners, which I’ve actually heard my children repeating to friends and occasionally back to me:
- On healthy eating: “Eat your food as your medicines. Otherwise, you have to eat medicine as your food.”
- On true love: “The one who loves you will never leave you, because – even if there are 100 reasons to give up – they will find one reason to hold on.”
- On empathy and humanity: “There is a big difference between a human being and being human. Only a few folks really understand that.”
- On life’s journey: “You are loved when you are born. You will be loved when you die. In between, you have to manage!”
- On cherishing others: “If you just want to walk fast, walk alone; but, if you want to walk far, walk together!”
Leaving a Legacy to My Children
I may not be a Walt Whitman or a Maya Angelou, but by sharing the following letter to my children I hope I can inspire you to leave a legacy that is as much about generational wisdom as it is about transferring generational wealth. I call this ‘Daddy’s philosophy on living a good life’:
Family and church are the glue to life.
Compound interest is the end-goal of investing.
Purpose is the reason for your journey through life.
Passion is the fire that lights your way.
If you have passion for something – pursue it.
The best feeling in the world is to get paid for what you love to do.
Remember that everything worthwhile in life takes work.
Work a bit harder than the person sitting beside you – believe me, management will notice.
Never work to sustain a lifestyle; that way you are always in charge – not your bills.
Expect more out of yourself than anyone else.
Envision your success.
The only limitation you have is you.
If you live well, you will earn well.
Success is the unfolding of the design of your life.
Do things that make you unique and you will attract success.
Life is about experiences.
Take time to enjoy the simple things in life.
Respect the flag.
Appreciate your freedom.
Listen to your elders.
Create your own path of life.
Don’t get caught up in consumerism.
Remember as you age – life speeds up.
Make friends with the geek – someday you may be working for them.
Be kind to everyone.
Take time alone to reflect.
Gather up your thoughts and invest them for the future.
Shut your mind down only to sleep.
Never stop learning, read – read – read.
Travel – it teaches.
Write down your ideas. Don’t trust your memory.
Share your knowledge. Remember wisdom un-invested is a waste of time.
Accept what is.
Let go of what was.
And have faith in what could be.
Never let fear decide your future.
Build a financial wall around your family.
When you have children of your own one day, don’t educate them to be rich. Educate them to be happy, so as they grow they appreciate the value of things, not the price.
And listen to your Daddy. God made him for a reason. He always has your back.