You are fortunate because the most difficult challenges you face are not financial, but, instead, they are relationship-based and family-based. Money can be a source of anxiety that can affect your family relationships. After 35 years of working with individuals and families of wealth, I have discovered that the hardest yet most rewarding conversations in your family can help you make better decisions. My interest is in a broader perspective and your family challenges. I serve as a resource as you engage in breakthrough conversations to expand your understanding of your family and enhance each member’s growth.
Five people e-mailed her the same response: Get a copy of the book Wealth in Families, by Charles W. Collier, a senior philanthropic adviser at Harvard University. Ms. Schrader read the book and liked it so much that she bought a dozen more copies to give to other people - then invited Mr. Collier to speak to more than 200 donors and advisers at her community fund. The approach Mr. Collier advocates in his book, published by Harvard University and now in its fifth printing, is quickly gaining notice as a tool to help fund raisers bring in large gifts.
“Stepfamily inheritances are a very complex issue,” says Peter Solomon ’60, MBA ’63. “It’s an ongoing conversation and I don’t have all of the answers.” Solomon, chairman of Peter J. Solomon Company, L. P., an investment banking advisory firm in New York City, has thought deeply about inheritances for the next generation. He has also taken a stand for the principle of equality of distributions made during his lifetime. He makes current gifts to his children, his wife’s children, and all of their grandchildren in equal amounts. In his estate plan, he leaves money to his children and to his wife, both to secure her financial position and to support her charitable giving.
As Harvard's Senior Philanthropic Adviser, Charles W. Collier has had many opportunities to observe the social and psychological dimensions of financial wealth as it relates to the development and functioning of families. His book, Wealth in Families, recently revised and republished, discusses a number of his observations. In this interview, we asked him to expand on some of the ideas in his book.
The beach house. The cabin in the mountains. The cottage on the lake. Vacation homes often become an integral part of a family’s identity. Away from the stresses of everyday life, family members enjoy quality time with one another and forge some of their most important memories. For many families, their roots are in their vacation homes. Such attachments make effective planning for the future of the properties so critical and complex.
“My wife and I talked to our two daughters about a prenuptial arrangement when they were in college,” says Steve Baird ’74, president and CEO of a family business, Baird & Warner, a real estate company in Chicago. “After a number of conversations, they agreed to have a prenuptial arrangement when they get married. Our business has been good to the family for five generations, and I hope that the enterprise will survive another generation.”
“I used to think I was up against more than I actually am regarding our daughters’ inheritances,” says Bill Collatos ’76, founding managing partner of Spectrum Equity Investors in Boston. “The dialogue between my wife and me has taken an interesting turn. For some time, we had differences about how much to give our three daughters, but, after a few years and numerous conversations, we came up with the principles and the strategy, and then the dollar amounts came into sharper focus.”
MTM : Your book, Wealth in Families , stresses the importance of families asking what you call "the big questions."What do you mean by that and how does it help resolve family differences?
CC : I think asking essential questions is a key to family cohesion. I call it "the art of questions." When I ask parents what they want for their children, they say: "I just want them to be happy." Then I ask an important question: "What will make them truly happy?" They typically respond, "Being passionate about something."
High-net-worth families face difficult decisions in managing family wealth: How should they talk to children about the breadth of the family's assets? How do they structure an estate plan that minimizes taxes but still accomplishes family's objectives? Financial questions such as these deserve serious deliberation, but high-net-worth families also should devote considerable energy to maximizing the non-financial components of family wealth.
Adviser recently spoke with wealth planning expert Charles W. Collier about the privileges and responsibilities of affluence and family inheritance. Adviser: Are there other ways to evaluate wealth aside from how much money we have in our estates? Collier: I agree with Jay Hughes that true family wealth has four components: human, intellectual, social and financial capital.
As nationally recognized expert in planned giving and family philanthropy, Harvard University's Senior Philanthropic Advisor Charles W. Collier has worked with hundreds of individuals and families to help them discover the meaning of legacy and encourage the principle of generosity beyond the family unit. Wealth in Families, is the culmination of years of research and experience exploring such questions. In the conversation that follows, Collier discusses how advisors can better serve their clients by helping them focus more on the "whys" than the "how-tos" of their charitable giving.
In working with families, I have come to the conclusion that asking probing questions is more important than providing quick answers. Here are six essential questions. The first question you might ask yourself is: What impact do I want to have? There are tow parts to this question. What impact do I want to have on society? What impact do I want to have on my family?