One of the unspoken rules in many families is that you don’t talk about money, and you especially don’t talk about money with your kids. What many parents are finding out, however, is that keeping hush-hush about money matters leaves children unprepared, unappreciative, and uncomfortable when they eventually come into their large inheritance.
A writer for the New York Times recently sought out a number of wealthy heirs and heiresses and asked them how they felt about coming into such a large sum of money unexpectedly; many of their answers ran along the similar lines. One heiress claimed that she “was determined to give away her inheritance as soon as she received it.” Another said that finding out about her inheritance raised a lot of questions for her, not only about what all that wealth meant, but about how it set her apart from others; “she wished she had had a better sense of the size of her wealth earlier in her life.”
Another heir states that his inheritance took him completely by surprise. “He received a call from his grandfather’s secretary asking if he wanted to serve on the board of the family foundation. He was 21 at the time, and up until that point, he said he thought his parents were just affluent professionals like his friends’ parents.”
Many parents or grandparents think that they are protecting their kids by keeping financial matters close to the vest. They don’t want their children to become spoiled or unmotivated. These parents value hard work, long-term goals, and charitable giving; they worry that informing their kids of a large inheritance heading their way will lessen the value of these.
What many heirs (and financial advisors) are now telling us is that talking to your kids about wealth and values early on can be an educational experience. “Parents [do] not necessarily need to talk about numbers but should ask their children for their thoughts about the family’s money.” Talk to your kids about what is important to your family, and how financial wealth fits into that world view.
Just as important as talking about wealth and values is showing your beliefs and values through action. One entrepreneur stated that he felt it was important that his children “had seen him go to work every day and knew the sacrifices he had made in building his business.”