The family meeting was wrapping up when the cousins (ages 4–14) arrived to report on their afternoon of financial education. The younger children were eager to describe a budget they’d created for a bug family with bad spending habits; the older children were ready to share cash flow plans they wanted to apply to their allowances. The parents and advisors were excited to see the children building financial skills and values.
As Sam watched the children make their presentations, he reflected on the issues he and his siblings had been discussing in the family meeting. They were about to break ground on an ambitious international development process that would take at least two decades to come to fruition. The children would be young adults at that point, while some of their aunts and uncles would be ready to retire from active involvement in the family enterprise.
While bringing in professional management was part of the succession plan, questions had been raised about how to involve the next generation in the big vision of the family without making the children feel that they were either required or entitled to join the family business. The family was clear that, within the context of policies requiring preparation and selection, each child should be free to choose. No one had to join the business, nor should anyone be given a job just because they were family.
Watching the children present their reports, Sam realized the education process was working: the children were acquiring basic financial skills that would serve them well as they became more independent and gained access to significant resources. But he wanted to go further. Why not weave the development project the family was about to launch into the children’s education process?
Later, Sam challenged his key financial advisor and the head of the education team: “I want the cousins to grow up with the project in an organic way,” he said, “feeling a sense of ownership. I want to use the project as a learning vehicle, but I don’t want the children to feel either burdened by or entitled to it. How can we do that?” Excited by Sam’s vision, the advisor and the education expert promised a plan that would feel like an adventure to the kids while exposing them to the possibilities of the project their parents had initiated.
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This is the second part of an initial 2-part Thought Leadership Series from Inverness Counsel authored by Joline Godfrey, an innovator in financial education for children and families, and author of “Raising Financially Fit Kids”. Stories and names used are fictional, but based on experiences adapted for illustration purposes.