Family Wealth – 3 Things To Pass On Besides Money

Family Wealth – 3 Things To Pass On Besides Money

As I get older, it seems that my interests and priorities continue to change. I’m a Generation X’er which is defined as someone born between 1965 – 1979.

In the U.S. we are 80+ million strong!

So when I recently read about how over the next 25 years, baby boomers will be transferring over $60 trillion dollars to our group, it made me reflect on what we should teach our kids in case they get their hands on some of it.

But first, here’s a brief history lesson for you….

Vanderbilt vs Rockefeller

Cornelius Vanderbilt


In the 19th century, Cornelius Vanderbilt was the richest man in America with MORE money than the US Treasury.

Pretty strong there Cornelius!

At the time, he donated enough money to start a major university that still bears his name today, Vanderbilt University.

Unfortunately, within a few generations after his death in 1877, Vanderbilt’s fortune was completely depleted by heirs that knew how to spend his money but did little to maintain and grow the family wealth.

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John D. Rockefeller


Let’s compare Vanderbilt to another well-known person of wealth during the same era, John D. Rockefeller.

Rockefeller was founder of Standard Oil and America’s first billionaire.

Seven generations and 80 years after his death, Rockefeller’s family continues to oversee (and enjoy) one of the world’s largest fortunes.

Why is that?

How can two extremely wealthy men from the same era have two completely different outcomes?

Let’s explore a few….

3 Steps To Passing On Family Wealth

#1 Family Values

Six generations removed from John D. Rockefeller, younger David Rockefeller remembers receiving an allowance at the age of 10 from his father.

His father taught him the importance of giving at an early age. Specifically his father instructed him to take a portion and give it to the church or charity.

A generous person will prosper; whoever refreshes others will be refreshed.” – Proverbs 11:25

David’s father explained to him that this is what his great, great grandfather did with his first paycheck.

Giving and philanthropy is a value that has persisted in the Rockefeller family for many generations.

Unfortunately, not all family values are created equal. Sometimes a family value big enough to keep the family together is a value BIGGER than the family itself.

It’s something powerful and significant enough that succeeding generations can point to with pride and say, “That’s what we’re all about.”

What about you? What values are you teaching your kids that they’d believe are worth fighting for? NO amount of success in your practice/work will make up for being a FAILURE at home.

#2 Family Leadership

How many people do you know that are GREAT at work (i.e. the area’s best orthopedic surgeon) but can’t stay married to save his life?

Too often we see this play out where someone is fantastic in their career but struggles with home life.

No amount of success at your career will make up for a FAILURE at home.

Success in the marketplace involves a level of leadership. The best coaches and business owners I know are fantastic leaders – they’re able to influence others to see things the way they see them which leads to action.

Question: How much thought, effort and planning are you giving to the leadership of your family?

I’m NOT talking about your leadership of position but the leadership of influence.

Influential leaders get others to follow them because they make the destination look attractive.

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Walt Disney

One of the MOST influential leaders of all time is Walt Disney. Have you thought about how they keep the most heavily visited theme park litter-free?

Walt had a vision to create a safe, clean, family-oriented destination that was different from the then dirty theme parks.

It’s no wonder that when visiting, you’ll notice ALL employees (CEO to janitor) picking up any trash littering the park.

#3 Family Communication

How are you attempting to transfer family values to members of your family?

Unfortunately, too few of us (like the Vanderbilts) fail to do our part. Our leadership initiates values but also don’t forget about constant communication.

If you haven’t already done so, consider starting family-focused conversations.

Related article: How To Teach Kids About Money

One of the keys to building inter-generational wealth is to develop trust and accountability among family members.

Proverbs 13:22 –A good man leaves an inheritance to his children’s children, and the wealth of the sinner is stored up for the righteous.”

Your kids, grand kids and other heirs need to understand the importance of family wealth planning. They also should be aware of how to prepare themselves to take on responsibility to ensure the plan’s success.

Here Rachel Cruze (Dave Ramsey’s daughter), shares how her dad passes on the family wealth values:

She explains that ever since she can remember, her parents hold a meeting once a year to discuss who gets what inheritance along with other family issues talked about.

This way, everything her parents wish to happen clearly gets communicated on a yearly basis. Not when it’s too late!

Final Word

You’ll notice that the three steps discussed today could apply to either billionaires or the lower class of the population. It doesn’t matter.

Unfortunately, too few families practice anything like them to pass on the true wealth of the family – which, if you haven’t figured it out yet, has very little to do with money.

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