One of the most common questions we get asked as advisors is, “How do I not ruin my kids with money?” Many successful couples face the reality that their wealth will one day flow to one of three places: charity, their kids, or the IRS. And the reality that their kids will eventually inherit significant sums of money keeps them awake at night.
At Archetype, our mission is to help families thrive across generations. How? By mitigating the technical and relational risks to their wealth. As part of my role, I fly each year to various conferences to study one question: How can I foster a successful transfer of wealth from our clients to the next generation?
Heir preparation is an important part of successful wealth transfer, and battling entitlement is a common refrain among parents who raised kids in an environment of abundance. So how do you counteract the negative effects of entitlement? Research has shown that genuine gratitude is actually a measurable antidote for entitlement. Developing genuine gratitude is like exercising a physical muscle at the gym – it takes repetition and time to grow.
You can find a variety of ways to develop gratitude via a quick Google search, but I wanted to share one method that I have found personally fulfilling, stretching, and life-giving. Here is my story:
My Grandfather is one of the most influential people in my life. He and my Grandmother raised six boys together on a missionary’s salary in Guam, and you can only imagine the hilarious stories that come from raising six rambunctious boys on a budget!
I esteem my Grandfather highly, but I have not always known him intimately. He lives now in South Carolina, and I do not often have the opportunity to visit him regularly. I envy those who live so near to extended family. It is a blessing!
Last November, an idea came to mind: What if I could find a way to connect with him regularly that didn’t involve traveling across the United States? A colleague had shared with me the practice of exchanging gratitude letters. Every week, she would email her girlfriends a list of ten reasons she was grateful for the past week and why.
I decided to adopt her practice and give it a try for myself. I didn’t want to be overly ambitious, so I set the terms of engagement at five reasons.
I wrote my Grandfather a letter explaining my little experiment and inviting him to participate. And I included the first of what would become a weekly series of five reasons I was grateful.
Thankfully (no pun intended), my Grandfather agreed to our engagement. And we began writing letters – real, handwritten notes – to one another on a weekly basis. Sometimes, we were grateful for the small things: A cup of tea on a quiet morning, our favorite barista at the coffee shop, or the perfect piece of chocolate at the end of a long day.
But other times, the reasons for gratefulness were deeper, a little more profound. He would be grateful for the man who stopped to help him load his groceries and take his buggy or for the couple that came over for dinner and left mutually encouraged. I learned to be thankful for a breakup or a difficult situation at work. Each week, we tried to pick five new things for which we were grateful. And always, without fail, we explained why it was that we were so grateful for that moment, person, or interaction.
I have learned more about my Grandfather these past seven months than I had in the many years prior. The beauty, though, has come from learning the more intimate details of his life. I hear in his letters about the couples he counsels and the little things he notices about his day. And within each reason, I hear the “why” for his gratitude. I file away little gems of wisdom that are tucked away in his perspective.
Our weekly letters evolved into weekly, sometimes bi-weekly, emails. Occasionally, one of us will shift back to a handwritten note. We try not to be too rigid in the matter. The key is that we share, we interact, and we encourage one another to see the good hidden in an otherwise difficult or discouraging week.
I will not dive into the mental and physical benefits of a regular gratitude practice here; much has been written on that front. But if you thought of one or two people while reading this article, I encourage you to reach out and start your own weekly gratitude letters. I have found that it is a journey with another well worth taking!
Sarah Bradley serves as a wealth advisor for Archetype Wealth Partners in Houston, TX. Sarah is a graduate of Texas A&M and a Certified Public Accountant. She worked for three years at PricewaterhouseCoopers before joining the Archetype team. Archetype exists to help families thrive across generations.
Disclaimer: 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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