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Multi-Generational Wealth: Boundaries and Invitations Thumbnail

Multi-Generational Wealth: Boundaries and Invitations

My kids are in a pivotal season of life. At the time we’re sharing this, my oldest Ciera is only a few months away from her wedding day, preparing to launch her own life as a separate family unit. My son Bryce is in what would be his college years if he went the traditional path – but instead, he has jumped in with both feet into his entrepreneurial vision. He currently oversees a franchise and a team of 20+ that generates north of $750,000 a year.

As a parent, I pick my head up today and am deeply humbled by the people my kids have become. As I mentioned in a recent interview on family and money, I just about cry at the drop of a hat when I talk about them. They are each incredible.

Significantly, I think back to my own life at their age. They are so far ahead of who I was at the same benchmark. And as I believe many of you relate to – it’s the greatest compliment that my 20-year-old self was years (if not decades) behind where they are.

Today, I wanted to share a few reflections on just how we got to this point. It wasn’t always easy, but our family relationship with wealth and success has been a cornerstone of who they are today.

Imparting Stewardship to the Next Generation

One of the defining characteristics of our family’s relationship with money is that we are stewards. Whether there’s a faith component for you or not, it’s the principle that the highest use of our wealth is not our own consumption. With wealth, we have the ability (and responsibility) to make an impact in our communities where it is most needed. Purposeful generosity is non-negotiable in the Wagner household.

Our kids could look at the financial strength we’ve built and come away with very different assumptions. I’ve worked with many families that have been massively successful on the back of hard work and diligence, but their kids subtly form a sense of entitlement to the family's wealth.

This is why we have so frequently and intentionally focused on the topic of stewardship as a family. Our kids understand that the wealth we create is not their birthright, even in the will. Our heart for building wealth was so it could create an impact in the lives of those around us. We made clear from an early age that if they wanted to participate in the family wealth, they had to participate in the family mission. They had to be generous stewards, eager to focus on the needs of others experiencing lack.

Setting Boundaries with Invitations

So on one hand, our kids know that we have no plans to cut them off, even if our values don’t align. As they become their own people, our relationship is more important than our money.

On the other hand, our kids know that the lion's share of our estate (in life and death) is earmarked for our values. The largest parts of our wealth aren't shared if the values aren’t shared.

To keep this dynamic healthy, we’ve also had to be sober about how this is communicated. I highly encourage families to set boundaries on their wealth, but there also needs to be an invitation.

That’s where the vision of stewardship is critical. They need more than a set of rules to follow; they need a picture of what they’re becoming. More than that, we have always tried to incentivize our kids toward stewardship in the people they’re becoming. Here are a few examples:

Pay Your Kids to Read

People are often amazed at the books our kids have consumed and the raw quantity. We have paid our kids to read and write a report for each book since their teens. The impact that great authors (faith, business, personal development, psychology, etc) have had on my kids can’t be understated.

Create Opportunities Beyond School

Education is a critical part of molding our kids, much of which happens outside of school. Our kids have always been encouraged to be entrepreneurial. How can I be creative and create value for someone else? For Bryce specifically, his world lit up when he first dipped his toes in our franchise businesses. By 18, he ran one of the most successful regional locations for a major brand on the Ocean City, New Jersey boardwalk. And more important than his success, it lit a fire in him to invest in himself in terms of training, mentorship, and education. Experiences like this create self-propelled kids.

Generosity is Caught, Not Taught

Generosity isn’t a part of my core because it should be. It drives me because I’ve experienced it from both directions. I know the life-changing impact philanthropic investments can have. If you want your kids to catch that same vision, don’t tell them about generosity. Help them experience through volunteering or working with a specific giving goal in mind.

Envizion More for Your Family

We’ve by no means written the book on how to raise kids. In full honesty, parenting was one of our biggest weaknesses as a family for many years. It took many hard lessons and more than a few therapy sessions for us to conquer the generational vices of anger and dysfunction that held us back.

Today, our family dynamic is the result of hard work towards a shared vision. My kids have been free to become their own people, and I can’t tell you the relief I’ve experienced to see how they’ve used that freedom.

This is a longer reflection, but I’m here to encourage you: wealth should be an asset, not a stumbling block for the next generation. In some ways, it gets easier for our kids to be ruined by an inheritance the larger it grows.

It takes more than money to launch the next generation. It takes us showing up and surrounding them with support and vision.

If you want to strengthen your relationship with your adult children, especially through the vehicle of money, I’d welcome the conversation.

We’re always here to help you Envizion More.