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Five ways to preserve family wealth – and unity

- Ryan Zeeb and Todd RhineContributors

This file photo shows the 102nd running of the Boston Marathon. Persevering toward a goal, like a marathon, is an important step in maintaining family finances. (Melanie Stetson Freeman/The Christian Science Monitor/File)

2. Develop, maintain, and regularly revisit your vision

“Where there is no vision, the people perish.” – Prov. 29:18

A clear, well-defined, and frequently articulated vision for the present and the future is a core characteristic of successful families.  It is also the source document for the inspiration, direction, planning, and interfamily education that will help preserve and strengthen the family and its assets from generation to generation. This should include family history and heritage, encouragement for the heirs to develop their vision, and the characteristics and skills needed for current and future success.

When children are young this can be a very simple message.  I’ve seen grandparents give grandchildren a $10 bill and say: “Our family has been blessed, so in turn we help other people.  Your job with this money is to figure out how you can help someone else with it, because that’s what this family does; we help people with our money.”

Another client saw the family's factory burn down twice, destroying its manufacturing business. After the second fire, in which an uncle died, the founder was so overcome with grief that he didn’t think he could start over.  Ultimately, the community rallied around him and they did start over and grew to be much larger (the largest employer in the county).  Later, the founder said part of the family vision was to support the community. He realized he had the ability to provide many jobs, and fund church and other needed charitable activities, and be an example of how to run a business honestly and with integrity.  The third generation is now successfully running this company with the same values passed down from their grandfather.

This vision is often revisited by future generations as a reference point for both financial and nonfinancial decisions, and the family's heritage statement is updated to include additions to the family story and life lessons.

Find a family that has remained unified and strong for generations, and you will find a family with a clearly defined and shared vision.


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