What Happened to the Money?

Jo's letter to George

I found this letter among the documents of a family estate. With permission I share it with you to think about. I share it with you to think about how you can guide your clients to forge a different path or to think about how you can do it different in your own family.  

“Dear George-

What happened? We were given so much, or so we thought. We had the 27 room home. We loved going to the Club on our bikes. Remember riding down the hill at full speed and breaking the speedometer because we were going that fast? Now that was fun!!

Moving into adolescence playing tennis and flirting with each other’s friends took us through so many emotional highs and slumps. Then in the winter, going to boarding school to deepen our scholastic aptitude. Little did we know that the life we grew up in was crumbling around us. Little did we know that all Grandpa had built was beginning to be squandered in impossible and improbable investments by our step-father. But you know, our older brothers must have felt something. They left home during college and quietly distanced themselves from the family. Even then I thought that was strange. Something was adrift.

A family with such wealth. And because we had it we weren't taught to make it. No, that would have been greedy and selfish, or so we were taught. Neither of us were frivolous but we never understood, as kids or as young adults, that money needed a steward, not an unbridled beneficiary.

What a rude awakening we both had. And you know, neither Grandpa nor Dad would have wanted this for us. You know, I always thought that part of mother's early death was her not being able to face the skid from riches to rags, from tens of millions to almost nothing. She would not have done well in a little apartment in the middle of town near her parents' help. 

The value of money has to be taught. I don’t know why families think that the mere fact of having money precludes bad consequences from happening to them or to their money. Money does not respect anyone’s position. That's not how it goes.  In fact, to be honest, money goes with the imaginative, the aggressor, and the one who goes after it. It’s really that simple.  We did not have a relationship with money. Although, we certainly had expectations about money, that it would always be there. And that was a problem, a big problem.

I watch others gather the money and only hope they are able to create the right family system where they make sure they understand the meaning of money in their lives. It would be of such great benefit if they did. Do you think they would believe me if I told them this? I wonder. I'll leave that to others though. I'll merely watch and turn my head if anyone should ask if there is a way to keep the money in the family. You and I know there is. We saw what happens when a family is casual and “assumptive” about it.

I hope you discuss money with your kids and grandkids. I hope you tell them that the money they will one day inherit is to be cared for as much as their own parents' love is to be honored. I hope they know what’s important about it and what it represents to them. Maybe we can make a difference. After all, we saw what didn’t work.