Family Dynamics

I recently attended “The Advanced Wealth Symposium – Phase II”—a two day workshop put on by the Raymond James Wealth Planning group. I had attended Phase I back in March and this was a “deeper dive” on a variety of subjects that affect the mass affluent, high net worth and ultra-high net worth market (those can be defined by people with investable assets of $1-2 million, $5-10 million or $25 million +--I’m not sure what the financial media would call people in between those numbers).

I came away with some new ideas on how to solve very complex financial cases. One of our case studies had a family where one spouse (58 years old) was a corporate executive of a public company with $38 million of their $45 million investible net worth in that public company’s stock. They had two young adult children (one with special needs), a nice home plus a nice vacation home, and expensive toys like watercraft that all needed insurance. The family wanted to plan for the rest of their lives. They had some sophisticated financial needs and we discussed different ways to deal with them.

My biggest takeaway is something that I already knew and was reinforced…the quality of family relationships is often the most important thing in people’s lives. A few characteristics of successful families are:

  • Communication—informal things like family dinners and formal things like conversations about money, end-of-life care and legacies
  • Investing in family – education, vacations, holidays/traditions, projects
  • Knowing family history – sense of belonging and sharing identity
  • Focus on shared values

Marshall Duke is a psychology professor who developed the “Do You Know…?” 20 questions about family stories. These questions are designed as a starting point for sharing family stories—a way to begin to ask and to tell, and to begin a family tradition of sharing the stories of our lives.

  1. Do you know how your parents met?
  2. Do you know where your mother grew up?
  3. Do you know where your father grew up?
  4. Do you know where some of your grandparents grew up?
  5. Do you know where some of your grandparents met?
  6. Do you know where your parents were married?
  7. Do you know what went on when you were being born?
  8. Do you know the source of your name?
  9. Do you know some things about what happened when your brothers or sisters were being born?
  10. Do you know which person in your family you look most like?
  11. Do you know which person in the family you act most like?
  12. Do you know some of the illnesses and injuries that your parents experienced when they were younger?
  13. Do you know some of the lessons that your parents learned from good or bad experiences?
  14. Do you know some things that happened to your mom or dad when they were in school?
  15. Do you know the national background of your family (such as English, German, Russian, etc.)?
  16. Do you know some of the jobs that your parents had when they were young?
  17. Do you know some awards that your parents received when they were young?
  18. Do you know the names of the schools that your mom went to?
  19. Do you know the names of the schools that your dad went to?
  20. Do you know about a relative whose face “froze” in a grumpy position because he or she did not smile enough?

I hope these questions help you to begin to learn more of your family stories and share them across generations.

My last takeaway from the workshop was a reinforcement that what clients want from their advisors is to understand life’s different stages and help to navigate through them. We will continue to strive to do this to the best of our ability.

-Gary Weiss, December 2019

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