Jillian Wagenheim, Founder & Principal, Sertus Consulting
Farrah Azizi, Private Philanthropy Advisor, Give Great Group
Coventry Edwards-Pitt takes a non traditional approach with her book, Raised Healthy, Wealthy & Wise, by utilizing lessons and takeaways of inheritors who transitioned successfully into their roles. One of the first books that veers from the ‘what didn’t work’ approach for families of wealth, Edwards-Pitt emphasizes that it is never too early or too late to have conversations with our children and grandchildren and encourages readers to find the ‘narrow doorways’ to enter into these conversations. She emphasizes the importance of parents taking the reins to build resilience in inheritors and that they should never assume that things will just ‘work out’.
In the 21/64 National Book Club’s October 2018 reading of the book there was an extensive discussion of the family conversations that Edwards-Pitt describes in her book. Regularly utilizing family conversations that evoke shared understanding, surface family values, and amplify family narratives are key to raising successful and grounded inheritors. Engaging in these family conversations can feel awkward in the beginning, however, the Book Club’s participants normalized these feelings of discomfort in our discussions. It is critical to start these conversations from a place of empathy and to understand that even amongst one family, each family member can have varying perspectives. Notably, these types of conversations should not be limited to families of wealth; there can be meaning for all families to take opportunities to test, explore, and discuss their values and how that affects them.
For both families and their advisors, there are a number of resources available to initiate or facilitate these family conversations. 21/64 offers a number of tools including the Picture Your Legacy Cards, for example. Families can lean on both their philanthropic advisors to walk them through these discussions as well as family therapists and family business advisors. Often times participating in a family genealogy charting exercise or a strengths assessment can help family members better understand what they have inherited beyond financial wealth such as values, strengths, and perspectives. Other than informa exercises, formal training in financial literacy can equip inheritors with the tools that will be necessary for them to actively participate in their family’s wealth, and shared volunteer experiences can build strong ties within a family that help them withstand trials to come.
Throughout the book, Edwards-Pitt and the successful inheritors that she draws from, affirm the importance of setting clear expectations, limits, and being consistent. Families of wealth are often uniquely challenged in this way; responsibilities can easily be paid away for someone else to address, and chores may seem superfluous. Moreover, the increasingly fast-paced lives adults and children are now leading make consistency, limit-setting, and discipline often more difficult to enact. Yet, as Brené Brown has said, “to be clear is to be kind, to be unclear is to be unkind” and parents would benefit to keep this adage front of mind with children of any age.