What to Teach Your Heirs About Wealth

How to Pass Your Financial Values Down to Your Heirs

Wealth is an opportunity and a privilege.

But it can also be a weighty responsibility — especially when it comes to your children.

As a parent, grandparent, or other relative, you want to pass on what you’ve learned about wealth to the next generation.

That being said, you want the family legacy to be about more than astute money management; you want it to reflect your personal values, which may include a social conscience and philanthropic ideals.

So, how do you share your financial knowledge — along with your charitable intent — with future generations?

START AT AN EARLY AGE

Multi-billionaires Bill Gates and Warren Buffett have vowed to leave the majority of their fortunes to charity, reasoning that large inheritances would do their children more harm than good.

Though you might not be a multi-billionaire, you probably have similar concerns. And the solution is education.

Studies show that marketers start targeting children as early as age 2. So the sooner you begin talking about money, the better.

NORMALIZE MONEY TALK

Explain the meaning and purpose of employment, the importance of managing credit and paying bills, and the fact that ATMs aren’t magic cash machines. Let children practice what they’ve learned with real-world experiences like allowances and after-school jobs.

As your children grow older, their financial education should become more rigorous.

Learning how to create a budget, respect the role of credit and debt, and develop strategies for funding important goals such as a college education helps teens make the important transition from child to adult.

While many parents are competent financial educators and role models, we could all use more support in this arena. Take a stand by asking your school district to incorporate personal finance topics into its core curriculum, or to offer it as a separate life skills course.

SET A CHARITABLE EXAMPLE

If we want to ensure future generations of charity, we must teach our children how to give their time, skills, and money.

The best way to do this is by setting an example. You can pursue your own philanthropic and volunteer activities — or, even better, you can involve the whole family in charitable activities based around shared interests like the outdoors, sports, or religion.

UTILIZE INCENTIVE PLANNING

If you’ve worked hard to amass wealth, you might worry that your values will die with you; that your heirs won’t espouse them like you did.

In this situation, creating a testamentary trust might help. This would allow you to reward your children’s desired behaviors — and discourage their undesirable ones.

Here are a few ways a trust could accomplish this:

  • Offer educational support for heirs who pursue a specific field of study or attend a particular institution
  • Promote “family values” by providing income support to heirs who stay at home to raise children, or who foster or adopt children in need
  • Withhold benefits from heirs convicted of a crime, or who fail conditional drug or alcohol testing

If you choose to go this route, a financial advisor will be an essential teammate to have. They can help you create a successful legacy by articulating the values, beliefs, and priorities you want to perpetuate, and show you how best to communicate these to your estate planning attorney to ensure their inclusion in your legal documents.

Working together, you can offer education that goes beyond a financial inheritance — and that lasts long after you’re gone.

If you would like to discuss this, or any other topic affecting your financial life, then please don’t hesitate to get in touch.

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