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Next Generation Engagement: Steward or Consumer?


I once worked with a family whose net worth was just under a billion dollars. The patriarch was married with three adult children in their 20s and 30s. He arrived as an immigrant to the United States when he was 18 years old and immediately started his first job as a taxicab driver. He grew up in poverty on a farm in a country near eastern Europe. He showed me a black and white photo of when he was a toddler holding what he played with as his toy back then – a farm chicken. Basically, he was raised with nothing but yet developed the mental fortitude, initiative, smarts, and wherewithal to conquer life’s hurdles and successfully achieved the American dream beyond what most people ever attain. Now almost 40 something years later as we sat for a meeting in his conference room, he asked me “How do I teach my children to work hard and to not solely rely on their trust funds? It’s not as if I can just drop them down in my home country and tell them to make their own way.” He was right, he couldn’t do that because his children had never known anything but extreme wealth and had never held a paying job in their lives yet enjoyed all the riches their parents had worked so hard for and provided them – the mansion, the yacht, the cars, vacations, you name it. They were now young adults who grew up in one of the wealthiest zip codes in America and dropping them into an underdeveloped country would have been too traumatic for their psyche, never having encountered any hardship of that nature yet which might have given them an experience to build resilience. If you are reading this, I am certain you have a similar story of your own whether you are the trusted advisor or the wealth creator. The theme of the story is ubiquitous among families of significant wealth.

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