In their book, Wealth and the Will of God: Discerning the Use of Riches In The Service Of
Ultimate Purpose, Dr. Paul Schervish and Keith Whitaker recount the following legacy story:
Many generations later, however, one inheritor was in a quandary: he had three virtuous sons whom he loved the same. When it was time to pass on the beautiful ring, he could not choose. So he had a jeweler fabricate two exact copies of the ring. He then took each son aside and secretly gave each of them one of the three rings.
When the father died, each son produced his ring and claimed title as master of the family and its fortune. But no one knew which of the three rings was the authentic one. The sons quarreled and with their own supporters divided into camps. Instead of love of others they found hatred. And none found the door to wealth, for they were too busy arguing about the beauty and authenticity of their rings.
But others recalled the ring’s power and searched for the door of wealth. To their surprise, they found that each of the rings could locate the door. But it could open the door only to him who possessed a certain frame of mind. A seeker of wealth had to view the ring with indifference and refrain from grasping at wealth or quarreling over it. The others found that when they had this attitude, they could find the door merely by tracing the outline of the ring. (pp. ix – x)
While wealth can instruct and inspire union and, in the tale, family happiness, it can also incite discord. Because we are human, ownership of riches can generate claims of privilege, prestige, and power that are at odds with love, as shown by the father with three sons. He wants to take care of his family, but he tries to improvise a solution to his dilemma without making a decision. Chaos ensues. And the sons show that while beauty (here, that of the ring) can elevate us, it can also make us put appearances before reality…
The “other people” found that by adopting a peaceful attitude, they could find the door of wealth by tracing the outline of the ring. True wealth, they learn, depends not on things but on our attitudes toward things, on a stance and not on stuff, inspiration rather than inheritance. (pp. x – xi)
In his book, Beyond Success, Randall Ottinger describes three key junctions in our lives (pp.15-16):
- The success junction is the point at which decisions are made based on what success means for an individual and family. It is also the point at which individuals determine how much is enough for themselves and their heirs.
- The significance junction is the point at which decisions are made concerning one’s purpose in life and how this influences how one spends his or her time.
- The generational junction is the point at which decisions are made with regard to what individuals want to last within their families, including family values, family history, and family businesses.
- Seriously think about what your life would be devoted to if you had to choose only one thing. Would it be making money, building a business, taking care of your family, being a great friend, serving your country, Kingdom Building for God, etc. Once you have successfully completed the previous six steps, you should begin to have a strong sense of what the answer to this question will be for you. In dealing with affluent families who have not been exposed to the previous six steps, I find their answer is typically based on a wish or their aspirations.
- Contemplate the significance of the following statements and decide which ONE statement best describes your current situation and which OTHER statement, if any, would better describe your ideal situation. If you do not happen to have children, simply substitute in whoever your beneficiaries will be:
- My children are aware of my core values and what the common mission is for our family.
- My children are aware of my core values but do not know the common mission for our family.
- My children are aware of my core values PLUS I am leaving them a significant inheritance to empower their unique abilities and carry on our family mission.
- My children are aware of my core values PLUS I am leaving them a significant inheritance to do what they want.
- My children are not aware of my values BUT I am leaving them a significant inheritance to do what they want. f) My children are not aware of my values AND I am not leaving them a significant inheritance.
- Turn money into a meaningful and fulfilling legacy
- Make wealth a positive force in your family
- Avoid the common pitfalls of family wealth transfers
- Prepare children for money
- Achieve social impact through “portfolio” philanthropy practices
- Preserve wealth, values, and enterprises across future generations
Ottinger develops a legacy planning framework to help translate your goals into measurable action steps for achieving the highest levels of personal fulfillment and social impact. He also provides insights into the latest trends in philanthropy, and examines the likely impact on the civil sector of the $100 trillion of wealth that is transferring from today’s baby boomers to future generations.