Our Children Are Our Future

This Holy Week in the Christian world is an excellent time to put last Saturday’s “March for Our Lives” in perspective. While millions of Americans found the marches for gun control inspiring, many others were skeptical wondering “What do these kids know?” Older people have been groaning about the young in politics for centuries. Yet, in the late 19th century, during a very dark political time for the U.S., the young people helped save democracy. Can they do it again?

Young people have always been involved in American politics, primarily as unpaid labor doing work behind the scenes; making posters, handing out campaign information, running errands and other unglamorous jobs. The young were never allowed to champion themselves or their opinions, being told by established politicians to simply follow the party’s platform.

At the end of the 19th century, according to John Grinspan, Smithsonian historian and author, young people cried out to be heard on their issues. A new generation of young people denounced current leaders and partisanship. They demanded reforms. In 1898, one New Yorker summarized their movement as “the younger generation hates both parties equally.”

At the start of the 20th century, the youth movement put an end to extreme polarization; forcing both parties to pursue its issues and concerns. Independent young voters became a decisive third force, with enough clout to swing close elections. Politicians supported them and their agenda, creating the Progressive Era, which included cleaning up cities and passing laws protecting workers. Though unable to personally vote, women played a key role. Women worked to refocus American life toward social issues, built schools and fought child labor.

Mr. Grinspan argues that the key to understanding youth politics is that young people can’t “focus simply on benefits for the young.” Youth is temporary and gains are passed on. The high school seniors who marched Saturday across the country will hopefully make their schools safer well after they have graduated. Mr. Grinspan concludes that the young should set the nation’s political agenda as they will be here much longer than the rest of us.

Today’s young have much work to do. The solutions the marchers want certainly depend on winning elections. Ultimately, it’s not about standing up to be heard, but about accomplishing political change. These kids didn’t spontaneously emerge from Florida a month ago. They and millions like them were born after 9/11. They have grown up with the worry of guns in their classrooms and the threat of terrorism for their entire lifetime. Many have perceived that our grown-up generations have been stripping our nation’s resources, allowed or assisted in the destruction of the middle class, added trillions of dollars of debt to our nation’s finances and have allowed politics to sink into tribalism. They’ve been watching us and our mistakes and they’ve decided it’s not for them. We all have much to learn from these children and their perspective and they deserve our support.

In honor of Holy Week, it seems a very appropriate time to read Matthew 19:13-14 (from the new living translation): “Then the little children were brought to Jesus for Him to place His hands on them and pray for them; and the disciples rebuked those who brought them. But Jesus said, ‘Let the children come to me. Don’t stop them! For the Kingdom of Heaven belongs to those who are like these children.’”

DWM wishes you and your family a wonderful Easter weekend!!

What Will Be Your Legacy?

Family fourth of JulyMoney or family values? Hopefully, both.

A 2012 study by Allianz found that 86% of baby boomers and their parents agreed that family stories and values were more important life legacies than financial assets. This echoed findings in 2005 when a similar study was conducted and 77% felt that memories, stories, life lessons, family traditions and values were 10 times more important than money.

We’re seeing more multi-generational planning in our business these days. Our clients are families and in some cases include three generations; grandparents, parents and children. Multi-generational planning has become an extremely important and growing part of our business.

There are a number of reasons:

  1. People are living longer. The older generations are more actively involved with the younger generations and the younger generations may become caregivers for the older generation for a longer time.
  2. There is more communication in the family. We’re not seeing the traditional patriarchal model as often these days. Males and females of all generations have a voice in family matters and with the internet and social media there’s lots of communication.
  3. Families seem to have more assets than the past. The Great Generation and Silent Generation have made a substantial amount of money and not spent it. Despite the Financial Crisis of 2008 and the current slow economic recovery, America has been a wonderful place to live and make money for decades.
  4. Minimizing estate taxes is no longer the primary objective of family wealth management. Back in 2001, the lifetime exemption for federal estate tax purposes was only $675,000 per person. Today it is $5,250,000. Hence, if planned properly, a couple could transfer $10,500,000 or more to beneficiaries without estate taxes. Furthermore, many states no longer have estate or inheritances taxes or have high thresholds before such taxes start. Hence, taxes still need consideration, but they are not necessarily the focal point of planning.

Today, some families create 100 year family plans. They believe that the assets of the family are the human capital of its individual members. They communicate their family history and culture and pass it down through generations. They discuss shared values and develop family mission statements. They focus on each family member’s individual pursuit of happiness. Some families hold regular meetings and make a major commitment toward financial education. Many share philanthropic initiatives. Alan Alda said it well, “I’ve come to believe that giving feels good, but I think giving strategically feels terrific.”

Of course, successful families also consider their wealth objectives and dealing with strategic issues or risks that may stand in the way. They discuss preparation for major life events such as birth, death, divorce, marriage, illness, sale of a business, etc. Communication of intentions is critical in these areas. Research shows that wealth transfer is best accomplished when heirs are aware, informed and prepared. Lack of information can lead to misunderstandings about intentions and values. Some of our families are mentoring beneficiaries, and, of course, paying special attention to the long-term selection of trustees and advisors.

We now see three steps of planning: 1) Financial planning is often described as preparing, planning, protecting and growing your assets during your lifetime. 2) Estate planning prepares your assets for your family. 3) Multi-generational planning prepares your family to receive their inheritance in both money and family values.

Regardless of your age, if you would like to talk about multi-generational planning, please give us a call. We’d like to talk with you and we’re passionate about helping families to create and pass along legacies- of all types.