Last week had the pleasure of a first meeting with a young man (we’ll call him Jack) who represents the youngest generation in a family that I have been working with for seven years.  While preparing for the appointment, it occurred to me that this was the first time in my career that this phenomenon had occurred.  I have worked with siblings, formerly married couples, the elderly and their trustees, but never had I met individually with the first, second and third generations of the same family unit.

I wondered before the meeting, would I recognize Jack’s money values as being consistent with those of his parents and grandparents?  Would there be a thread that linked the way each generation related to their money?

Our consultation couldn’t have been more basic:  how best to allocate a moderate amount of cash into an investment portfolio which reflected Jack’s general profile, objectives and constraints.  Upon reflection, I realized that I was moved less by the obvious inter-connectedness of the family than by the ways in which money linked them together, and for the good.

I have seen many examples of this:  the transformation of an inheritance into a meaningful financial outcome for heirs and their families; a grandparent opening an educational account for their grandchild where the parents may not have had the means to do so; a family consciously budgeting for an annual vacation which the eventual adult children continue (using their own money); a child using the savings of her accumulated allowances to buy a gift for her parent.

What struck me as I listened to Jack outlining his financial goals and investment expectations was the uniformity of the approach to money between all three generations of his family.  Money values that had originated with his grandparents, and which I had witnessed during conversations with his parents, were now being espoused by Jack, age 21.

Many in my profession are of the belief that the innocent money messages we receive as children are carried forward into our adult lives.  A person given cash willy-nilly all their lives may never learn to save; the children of parents who are fearful of the stock market are usually less inclined to invest as adults; someone who witnessed their family suffering in the Great Depression may never be comfortable spending their money, no matter how much of it they have.

Conversely, a child who is taught to save their allowance and is rewarded for doing so can learn to appreciate the value of compound interest; a person who grows up being involved in family discussions about charitable giving sees the impact of money on the greater good; parents who educate their kids about the role of money in our society, both for good and otherwise, will likely produce adults with a broad understanding of money, who can then hopefully direct their own income and savings in a more well-rounded manner.

We may not be able to fully dictate the financial values our children carry into the world, but we most certainly can influence them, as I have now seen, first hand.

Advertisements
%d bloggers like this: