Part 1 — Family Meetings: Understanding and Communicating Family Goals

We all want to raise children who will be careful with money, but how? One of the best ways is to create a family culture of open communication about the family’s values, and the real meaning of wealth.


Part of any family meeting should focus on communication and education. Both of these are two-way streets. The older generation can learn from younger generations, sometimes more than the other way around. This recognition is essential in creating an environment for information sharing, a key element in preparing the next generation.




Communication can be difficult, especially when multiple generations are involved. There are preexisting mindsets that can get in the way and blur the process. Effective communication does not happen the same way for every generation. Understanding mindsets and matching the message to the audience is essential in effectively creating an environment for information sharing.




Communication styles are often summarized along these lines:


The Greatest Generation (1900-1945): Discreet, wants to be respected for age and experience, loyal to the enterprise, logical, formal, personal interaction is important, and don’t waste their time.

Baby Boomers (1946-1964): Diplomatic, likes to be seen as open and flexible (but?), consensus builders, pressed for details, and resents being manipulated or controlled.

Gen-X (1965-1980): Blunt, immediate, prefers electronic communication, rejects micromanagement and jargon, wants to see results, and good at bridging the older and younger generations.

Millenials/Gen-Y (1981-2000): Polite, wants to be respected, even more tuned to electronic communication, not as good at personal communication – comfortable at a distance, “visual” and “technical” thinkers, rejects negativity, willing and eager to take risks, and prefers to learn in teams while being entertained and excited.




Open communication and educating the younger generation, while also allowing them to educate others, can be a huge asset in preparing the next generation and creating an environment for information sharing.


Another huge part of education: Sharing family stories and discussing family values.  When we share family stories, we connect both with the past and with each other. This is an opportunity to create important links from one generation to another. Family values often form great common reference points, allowing everyone to better understand what is important to the family and why.


Instilling a culture of stewardship is critical as well. Family members who do not understand “wealth” — what it really is and where it comes from — are ill prepared to carefully manage resources and to carry on the family’s mission. This covers two broad categories: lifetime wealth and legacy wealth. Lifetime wealth managed for near term needs, for current lifestyle and emergency reserves. Legacy wealth focuses on future generations and the family’s philanthropic mission. Both are important in creating a common vision and a secure future.




To assure that effective and productive communication is achieved, our Private Fiduciary team arranges and leads family meetings. Family meetings happen with all the generations together with a trusted family legal advisor facilitating the conversation, to keep the focus on productive communication and information sharing. 


Family meetings proceed with agreed rules in mind, so that everyone is heard. These rules include speaking only that which is truthful, kind, and necessary, demonstrating appreciation by soliciting and hearing every voice, knowing there are no stupid questions, and focusing on honest inquiry.




Communication and education are sometimes difficult topics, but that doesn’t mean they cannot be effectively addressed to improve family dynamics. Although generations communicate differently, open communication is the critical element in protecting and preserving family wealth for generations to come. This key element requires everyone’s openness and willingness to speak to, hear, and learn from one another. 


If your family would like to learn more about family meetings and how our Private Fiduciary team can assist in financial literacy and preserving family wealth, contact us at (626)793-9400.

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