Despite the downturn, the number of US households with a net worth of $5 million or more still is at record levels. Increasingly, these millions of baby boomers — who primarily earned their money the hard way, by themselves rather than by inheriting it — have wrestled with how to nurture their children’s empathy and work ethic.
They worry about their offspring growing up with a sense of entitlement.
The challenges of raising children in affluent circumstances are persuading parents — mothers in particular — to bring families into meetings to talk about fears, share stories, become educated and listen to advice. Typically, they’re exploring their family values and mission. It’s not about estate planning but about preparing the next generation.
Even so, teaching kids about financial values and the lessons of giving has little to do with how much wealth the family controls. One of the most effective ways to educate your children is one of the simplest: Model the behavior you want to see in them.
Many donors want their kids to participate in family giving plans but take the kids’ interest for granted and won’t grant them any real authority. Try to avoid hovering, nagging or putting strings on their choices. Let kids go about the process in their own way. If it seems a tad out of control, pull in a knowledgeable third party who can be objective.
Keep listening. If you want the next generation to grow into the family’s traditions and values, you must work at it.
One family with an established private foundation created a junior board and brought on ten next-gen kids, ranging in age from 14 – 24. The junior board sat in on board meetings and were allowed to vote 10% of the grant budget. But they also had to do due diligence on the organizations they funded, including research and follow-up visits.
In addition, more and more families are setting up discretionary funds for offspring, who may be scattered around the country, so that the younger generation can support causes they choose in their own communities.