This year saw Threshold Group launch its Community Square forum, a peer-to-peer network which includes specialists on “wealth education issues,” with an event in Chicago.
The couple are “empty nesters” – their daughter is away studying and they are watching her grow up and learn about money and finances. One of the things they were keen to do is “share some of the things we went through with our daughter.”
For example, Wendy says that one of the challenges is teaching her daughter the difference of spending sensibly on everyday items such as groceries, while also understanding that certain investments and large expenses – like college, trips abroad – still make sense. The difference between being careful in everyday spending, so as not to be frivolous, while knowing you can afford certain big-ticket items is an important balance to strike.
She said they felt their experiences were very much echoed around the room. It really taught them that they were not alone in some of the challenges they had faced, such as dealing with first generation family members who “just wouldn’t let go” and still went into the office every day well into their eighties.
Thomas says that from his experience of talking to other wealth holders there are “two different family philosophies”: one that is essentially closed and where the money is hidden, perhaps because “they are afraid the kids might run wild”, and one where the family is completely open. Thomas and Wendy chose to err on the side of openness and feel that it has worked with their daughter. But one of the great things about peer networking, says Thomas, is that you connect across “family types” and this allows for a much richer understanding of how different approaches work, and gives ideas for new strategies on areas where a family might feel a bit “stuck”. “That was a big theme for us,” says Thomas. He found it interesting to see how scenarios around wealth and inheritance were being played out in other families. “I found a lot of comfort,” says Wendy.
On this note, through the family’s work with Threshold Group, Wendy and Thomas have come to a decision regarding philanthropy and their daughter. Thomas experienced some tension from his parents’ inability to let go of control, which means he and his siblings have not got involved with the family foundation. Instead of fighting this, they have come up with the positive idea of taking a portion of their own money and setting up a donor advised fund through which they will work with their daughter, a young adult, to start giving her a sense of involvement and ownership early on. For her part, she has shown an active interest in philanthropy and volunteering, which means the initiative isn’t being forced upon her as such.
The challenges of parenting
Many of the issues where the couple connected with others was over children. What they saw in similar couples was the desire to create experiences for their children that they might not otherwise have to go through. While wealth takes away the necessity for children to grow up through processes like internships and summer jobs, these parents were fairly united in wanting their children to experience these challenges in early life. However, they were simultaneously aware of the wonderful opportunities wealth provided and wanted their children to benefit from these too. What emerged then was the idea of a peer network through which parents could “exchange” children to do summer intern programs, as between them they had connections to a wide range of opportunities.