Broker Check


| April 01, 2024

For the last several years I have been writing newsletters about families and money. Some have addressed the mechanics of money, while others focused on character and values. For the most part, I have received positive feedback on these ideas.

What has surprised me, however, is the most common follow-up response. Something along the lines of, "I just wish I had access to this when my kids were younger. It's too late to implement this advice now." At first, I accepted these comments at face value and went on. But as time goes by and similar responses pile up, I am starting to realize something much bigger is at play. 

I have many clients in the later stages of parenting who seem to have resigned themselves to the idea that continuing to influence, mentor or lead their kids beyond high school graduation is a lost cause. This phenomenon doesn't just happen to parents, either. In fact, where it seems to be most noticeable is in my discussions with grandparents. Many of my more senior clients have been very successful leaders of companies, managers of many and organizers of grand efforts. They have managed multi-million-dollar budgets and shaped their company's culture to achieve amazing results. But when it comes to intentionally influencing their families – to passing on the character, virtues and work ethic that underpinned that success – many have expressed they don't feel they have been given permission to get involved.

Oddly enough, in conversations with other men around my age, I keep hearing the opposite. Many express a strong yearning for a mentor – someone who's been there and done that. Life has become very complicated, and even mature, successful adults want to know they are doing it right and are open to ideas of how to do it better. Certainly, there must be a way for us to bring these parties together.

To be fair, many grandparents look at the environment kids are raised in today and feel things have changed so drastically from when they raised their own children that any input would be "out-of-date" and not of much use. Let me take a moment to figuratively stand up and shout, "No! That couldn't be less true!"

Today’s kids need help as much as the last generation (maybe even more!) when it comes to understanding how to live richer, more connected lives. They need help discovering the importance of developing a virtuous character over their lifetime. They need you to help them discover who they can become and the work it will take to get there. They need your guidance. They need your leadership.

I will offer one word of caution – most parents are not looking for the grandparents to show up with a list of how they’re doing it wrong. Uncovering a new realm in any relationship can be challenging. My best advice is to ask good, thoughtful, caring questions and then focus on being a very good listener. Listen for fears and listen for strengths. Try telling some stories from times when you remember being in their shoes. You might be surprised how interested they are in what you did, why you did it and what you learned.

Maybe you are like me. I'm in my mid-fifties and I still feel I have a lot to learn. I still need people in my life who can help me process what I'm seeing and doing. I still need help focusing on what is important in my family and how to pass those values that matter most on to my kids. Maybe your kids feel the same way. Maybe you’re waiting for someone to give you permission to get in there and start. For what it's worth, you have mine.