Leaving an inheritance for your children is an amazing opportunity. However, leaving the best inheritance for your children doesn’t mean leaving them millions of dollars. Today, it is easy to get lost in the battle for planning your own retirement, let alone the notion of leaving a pile of cash for the next generation. Is life really about working to exhaustion just to be making money enough for retirement and hopefully have enough money left to give as an inheritance?
I propose there is far more to an inheritance than money. Today, I want to share some tenants my wife and I try to live out as we shape the legacy and inheritance we would like to leave our children. We hope this is thought-provoking and you are able to use some of it to reinforce, or start to establish your own plan for leaving an inheritance for the next generation.
LEAVING AN INHERITANCE OF MOTIVATION
Teach your children what it means to never quit, never-give-up, and never settle. At the same time, teach them what it means to be humble, honest, and brave. Even when failing, we teach our children what it means to persevere in the storms life throws at us. (And it is never too late to get back up again). In us, our children have PLENTY of examples of what not to do, and we will never be perfect. But hey, life isn’t about being perfect, anyway!
Leaving an Inheritance of Faith
I fully appreciate and respect that others may have a different perspective on this and I’m certainly not trying to “thump” anyone.
For my family, this concept of an inheritance is fundamentally anchored in our faith in Jesus Christ. I am not a pastor nor a religious leader, and I’ve certainly made major mistakes in my life. My wife and I start with what we read in the Bible and do our best to live out what it teaches and we hope to pass that on to our kids. The Bible is full of wisdom, and there is always something there to learn. This is a work in progress for us; one that we strive for each day.
We hope our kids come back to the Bible when the going gets rough. Personally, when I’m down and out (and I’ve been there), faith is that deep, deep unwavering drive that pulls me out of the ditch and gets me going again. At the end of the day, I’m thankful for the Love I’ve been given. I try to live it out, and I hope our children will continue to do so in their lives as well.
Teach them not to rely on what the world, government, or others will do for them. That way will never be enough! Building out a solid foundation of good character is one way to help kids be successful and able to take care of themselves and others. We’ve found character is delicate and if we’re not careful, it can be quenched by the well-intended feedback we provide. This is why I carefully chose the word “cultivate” in this section. It is like a garden – it takes time and must be tended to on a regular basis.
Thankfulness and Thoughtfulness
Sometimes, it is the little things that go far! Taking a moment to “say thanks” and also looking out for others is a great way to make a positive impact on those we act with. Being thankful is sometimes easier said than done, and hopefully, we can teach our children to be thankful for what we have been blessed with.
Diligence and Determination
Persevering is essential! Trying again, and staying the course is critical for youngsters (especially with all the chaos life brings to a young mind). The process of picking goals, planning, and accomplishing what they set out to do is exciting to watch! (Especially when they don’t succeed on the first try but get up and try again). My wife and I hope they continue to diligently pursue excellence!
Boldness and Bravery
There is a time and place for independence, and we hope our children will stand up for what they believe in as adults. Naturally, this starts at a young age, and we try to look for opportunities for our children to respectfully disagree with what we’ve suggested. This is a fine balance, but we hope to give them the freedom to explore and make their own choices. This can be especially cute when our youngest puts their foot down!
LEAVING AN INHERITANCE OF FINANCIAL AND VOCATIONAL EDUCATION
There is a lot riding on a good education, whether the traditional college route, trade, or technical skill, etc. However, equally important (if not more so) is learning to be financially literate. Our goal is to start small, with the concepts of saving and giving, and develop more as the children get older, along with exploring vocational interests. Blend the two, and provide a solid academic education along with a Mêtis-oriented financial education!
Investing in a Financial Education
The opportunities are everywhere! From planning a budget, grocery shopping, and planning a vacation, we try to make the kids part of finances in our house. (However, we are careful to keep the “stress” of money off of their little shoulders at this point). For now, we’ve had some great talks about saving money, earning money, interest, giving, and most recently, buying a stock.
We also give them a chance to earn a few extra bucks around the house so they can begin to appreciate the value of a dollar and hard work. Interestingly, they don’t want as many extra miscellaneous toys when they have to pay for it with their hard-earned dollars 🙂
Teach them to Fish…
…and they’ll never go hungry! (or so the saying goes)… Ultimately, and probably obviously, we want them to be able to provide for themselves one day. If at all possible, we would also love to see them in a vocation of their dreams where they can take care of themselves and others.
Watching children grow and develop dreams and interests is very special. Providing opportunities to explore, dream, and invent along the way is a priority. They love to learn! Along the way, we try to uncover patterns of interest for them so we can gently provide more opportunities to learn and unpack those dreams.
By helping them investigate, research, and grow (i.e. “teaching them to fish”) we hope they’ll be encouraged to pursue their interests and passions into a vocation that suits them well, and provides sufficient finances one day. Check out my blog post “48 Days to the Work You Love” for more on seeking a vocation, and put the information to work!
Teach them to follow their dreams
Especially while they are young, we try to cultivate a home where they can dream big without the pressure feeling forced into a career they were never made for. For example, my daughter has gone through myriad career choices including Chief Justice of the Supreme Court, Astronaut, and Park Ranger. Sometimes, she will ask me if it is ok to try something else, and I always reassure her to keep dreaming and to keep “trying it all on” for size. Being a kid goes quickly, and soon they’ll be grown-up. But even then, we hope they never stop dreaming BIG!
LEAVING AN INHERITANCE OF MONEY
Leaving an inheritance comes in two forms: the intangibles and the materials. In my opinion, the lesser of the two is materials (i.e. money). Firstly, we try to abide by the points mentioned already and place an emphasis on the intangible. After that, and secondarily, we want to leave our children money and help them financially. However, that step is never at the expense of the other points. For example, leaving too much money could create some serious “rot” in character and end up doing more damage than good.
We try to strike a careful balance and err on the side of leaving “less money” and a rich life instead. After all, money only does so much good and a lot of bad if handled poorly.
Don’t be a Financial Burden in Retirement
A fundamental pillar to this whole thing is to take care of business, manage the house, finances, and dollars, etc., so that an inheritance is even available. Finances have to be in order before that can be done. An essential element of that is to ensure we aren’t a financial burden to our children in retirement and twilight years. After all, what is the point of leaving some money for the next generation if they are also inheriting a financial bomb as well?
Practice Mêtis in your Money Matters in all aspects of your life so that you can have the blessing of being a blessing both now and then.
Leave them money… when they’re ready to handle it
Plan ahead. Parents know their kids and should take that into consideration when leaving an inheritance of money. Similar to the previous point about too much money, there is also danger in leaving money too early. Solve this easily by adding some basic parameters to your Trust. Additionally, start today with choosing to lead by example and teaching Mêtis in Money Matters at a young age.
Beyond that, consider an age for each child where the blessing you intended for them will be realized because they are ready to handle it. Leaving money or assets to a child who isn’t responsible or financially mature could waste a lifetime of your hard work.
At one point, billionaires such as Warren Buffett, Mark Zuckerberg, and Bill Gates have made conscious decisions to leave vast swaths of their wealth to charity instead of their children. I LOVE Mr. Buffett’s comment to Fortune Magazine (1986) on the matter. His children can expect “enough money to so that they would feel they could do anything, but not so much that they could do nothing.”
I tend to agree! Children with an expectation of a big payday may be de-incentivized to work hard, forge their own path, and may never uncover critical life-lessons that come from learning the “value of a dollar.” Don’t turn your kiddos into little trust fund brats 🙂
LEAVING AN INHERITANCE OF MEMORIES
When it is all said and done, we hope our kids will have a full basket of good memories and experiences to guide them in their life. And if they choose to have kids one day, we hope our children can pass-on what they’ve learned. We hope generation can share with generation, and that each will benefit from the work and experience of those who have gone before them.
There is so much more to life than money and “stuff” and we hope our kids find value in that which is not tangible, in Faith, and in love for all.
I wish you the best of luck in your endeavors! Keep up the hard work, keep developing yourself, and keep cultivating Mêtis in your Money Matters. Diligently pursue excellence, my friends!
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