Money Talks: The Inheritance Trap

Written by: Cale Dowell

Do you plan to leave an inheritance to your kids?

A 2015 report by US News found that Baby Boomers control 70% of all of the disposable income in the United States, which is leading to the largest transference of wealth in human history over the next 30 years.[1] To put this in perspective, that is nearly two times the current GDP of the United States that will be moving into the hands of the next generation, whether directly or indirectly.

Leaving an inheritance is a sensitive subject. More often than not, we don’t talk about it with our peers, our pastor, our kids... even our spouse. So it begs the question: aside from an estate planning attorney, who are we talking to about it?

I had the opportunity recently to connect with Todd Dekruyter, author of Navigating Life with More Than Enough and President of Family Meridian. Todd has focused his career on bringing staying power to family legacies by engaging in discussion on this sensitive topic, and I asked him about his experience working with ultra-high net worth families as they navigate inheritance.

“Money is like fire. It has an immense ability to be a blessing and a curse; cook your food and burn your socks off," Todd said.

Indeed, 78% of wealthy families do not believe their children are prepared for the wealth they will receive. [2] But that hasn’t stopped 88% of high net worth (HNW) families from planning to leave behind significant assets to their heirs or beneficiaries. [3]

Todd went on to explain that we often make the mistake of defining inheritance as money. When, in reality, money is only a fraction of the inheritance you are going to leave behind.

“A family’s true wealth is more than money. It includes five distinct capital,” Todd said:

  • Financial Capital – the money we invest
  • Intellectual Capital – the knowledge we invest
  • Emotional Capital – the relationships we invest in
  • Character Capital – the integrity we live out
  • Spiritual Capital – the wisdom and influence we pass on

He calls this a “Full Inheritance”. Whether you intend to or not, when you leave this earth you will leave behind something in each one of these capitals. And the truth is that leaving behind a sum of money might be the easiest of the five capitals to pass on. Consequently, the other capitals are often ignored or forgotten.

As I pondered my conversation with Todd in the context of my own daughter, I thought about the “Full Inheritance” I might leave behind. It helped me to clarify what actually matters most:

I care a great deal that she has a good head on her shoulders; able to navigate the ups and downs of life. I care that she builds relationships with people that are honest and true; that stick beside her even in her worst moments. I care that she has positive attitude, a “never give up” work ethic, and that she leads a life of integrity. And most importantly, I care that she develops a deep and powerful faith that delivers a steadfast identity and purpose.

Those truths illuminated that I don’t care nearly as much if my daughter has an extra dollar to spend in the future. And yet, the vast majority of my time is spent on building up my Financial Capital. Moreover, my resources today are skewed towards the activities which involve my financial life... such as estate planning or tax advice. But outside of family vacations, I don’t spend nearly as much time or money on planning our family’s legacy or intentionally building up a “Full Inheritance”.

That’s going to change.

Like many of you, I was moved by President George H.W. Bush’s passing, and was privileged to witness his final journey. In particular, I treasured his son reading a quote from the 41st president’s inaugural address:

“We cannot hope only to leave our children a bigger car, a bigger bank account. We must hope to give them a sense of what it means to be a loyal friend, a loving parent, a citizen who leaves his home, his neighborhood and town better than he found it”.

In his 73 years of marriage, President Bush stumbled onto something we often forget: a legacy isn’t forged through what we accomplish in this world (even being President of the United States). A true legacy is built in the small opportunities we have every day to invest in the people we love and those that need a helping hand.

In those final days of our lives, I’m willing to bet that people will care more about the moments when we shared a sincere smile, a tender hug, a warm hand… not another $1 million dollars.

And here’s the truth: regardless of how small or large my pile of money becomes, I have the opportunity to pass on an incredibly significant inheritance. And so do you.

As I challenge myself, I also challenge you to think about the legacy you want to leave behind. The stories and values you want your great-grandchildren to talk about and model. 

How will you be intentional in passing it on?






Cale Dowell serves as Vice President for Archetype Wealth Partners and resides in Houston with his wife Lynne and their young daughter. Cale is seeking to create a paradigm shift in the way the financial services industry serves and impacts people. Archetype exists to help families thrive across generations.


Our intent in providing this material is purely for informational purposes, as of the date hereof, and may be subject to change without notice. This article does not intend to constitute accounting, legal, tax, or other professional advice. Visitors and readers should not act upon the content or information found here without first seeking appropriate advice from a trusted accountant, financial planner, lawyer or other professional.

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