Equipping the Generations for Wealth Management

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How to help your young adult children and aging parents navigate important financial issues

Have you heard this story? On his deathbed, a man who had accumulated a significant amount of wealth told his wife he wanted to be buried with his riches. Rather than argue, his wife simply agreed.

After the funeral, a friend asked her if she had put his money in his coffin. She said, “I thought it would be simpler if I wrote a check.”

Of the many truths in life, here are two important ones:

  • You can’t take your money or possessions with you when you die.
  • We don’t like to think about death and not being here with our loved ones, so we tend to avoid it.

As a wealth advisor, I regularly talk about these truths. And here’s another one: If you’re in your 40s or 50s, there’s an excellent chance you’re part of the “sandwich generation” with young adult children who are still looking to you for guidance and/or aging parents who need assistance.

How do you help your children prepare for the responsibilities of adulthood and support your parents as they age? Let me share some tips that have worked for my husband and me.

Guiding your children

  • Communicate with your children about their inheritance. Put a plan in place and tell them what it is so there are no surprises. If, for example, you have put stipulations on what they will receive or you have decided to leave the bulk of your estate to charity, let them know. Also, be sure they know what to do if something happens to you, including who they need to contact and where your important documents are.
  • Encourage and equip them to be financially responsible now, at whatever age they are. Even very young children can be taught how to handle money, and it’s an essential skill for teens and young adults. Don’t shield them from being responsible—when you do that, you’re only clipping their wings and teaching them not to fly. Give them the support they need but push them to develop their independence so they can survive without you.
  • Let them fail. It’s a natural instinct to want to protect our children from failure, but failure is such a wonderful teacher. Don’t swoop in and rescue them—let them deal with the consequences and learn from their mistakes.

Assisting your parents

  • Accept that we are called to take care of our parents, no matter what the quality of the relationship is. God commands us to honor our parents, and that means helping them to the extent that we can when they need us. For some, this is easy because they’ve always had a good relationship with their parents. For others, it can be more challenging, but it’s something we must do. As I often say, the hard thing and the right thing are often the same thing.
  • Be whatever change is needed. The Bible talks about how children and grandchildren will pay for the mistakes and sins of their parents. Accept your parents’ imperfections even as you work to break any negative cycles. Know that our parents need grace just as we do. If we can see what our parents are struggling with and help them, if we lead by example, we can break free from generational bondage. We tend to think of generational wisdom as coming down, but it also goes up. We learn from our children and our parents can learn from us. Let’s help them continue to grow until the end of their lives.
  • Do it now. Don’t wait until next year or think you don’t need to do it until your parents reach a certain age. We’re not guaranteed tomorrow. Do what you should now so that you can move into your future without regrets.

Remember, you can’t take it with you, and the strength of the legacy you’ll eventually leave depends on the actions you take today.

Related: Estate Planning: Are Your Heirs Prepared for What You’ll Leave Them?

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