Yesterday, 29 years ago, my mother passed away. Cancer took her at the same age I am today.
Mum was a child of the Great Depression. She grew up in an era when a ‘penny saved was a penny earned’.
Mum’s Irish roots blessed her with a cheeky sense of humour, down-to-earth character and strong Catholic faith.
I learnt a lot from observing and talking to my mother. There was rarely any waste. She was into recycling long before it became fashionable. Clothes were patched up. Socks darned. Shoes re-soled. Meat off-cuts used in stews and pot roasts.
Her careful stewardship of a family budget (to feed, clothe and house seven people) is something I will remember to my dying day.
The other characteristic that stays with me to this day was her repurposing of homespun wisdom.
‘Beware your sins will always find you out’…and this was long before everyone had a camera on their phone or CCTV.
‘A fool and their money will soon be parted’…do you really need to buy that?
‘I used to complain about not having any shoes, until I saw a man without any feet’…stop your moaning, there are others in far worse situations than you.
And there are many more.
I wish mum had put pen to paper so her common sense insights could have been a source of reference for generations to come.
Sadly, it did not happen.
However, her legacy will live on through the family book I’ve written for our daughters.
My life’s work has been about creating (and now, retaining) wealth. The lessons learned from my Mum have been instrumental in this personal quest. Wealth creation is not about garnering money for money’s sake.
As my mother would say, ‘what good does it do for a man to gain the world, but forfeit their soul?’
Wealth creation has to have a far deeper purpose.
For us, it was about having the means to provide our children with access to opportunities to lay the foundations for worthwhile, fulfilling and productive lives.
To assist you, here’s how I went about…
Creating a family book
First and foremost, your family book doesn’t need to be a Harry Potter-type tome. Better to write a few pages, than none at all.
Start with gaining clarity over our motives for wealth creation.
That process begins with a few questions…
- Why did we work so hard?
- Why did we take those risks?
- What sacrifices did we make and why?
- How did we add value to the lives of others?
- What were the dreams we had when we started a family?
- What was the motivation for creating wealth?
- Have the dreams been realised, or did they change along the way?
- And, if they did change, why?
The answers to those questions, could well lead to other questions.
The better the questions, the deeper the soul searching…and the better the introduction to your family book.
Why? Is the most powerful question you can ask. Why is that? Because it helps ‘peel back the layers’. ‘Why?’ digs deeper into the levels of knowledge and emotions.
Being able to answer the ‘why’ of your wealth creation, empowers you with the ability to write the introduction from the heart.
Telling your story, in your words — with passion, honesty, humour, real-life examples and reflection — guarantees you a page turner.
And the real benefit in committing your story to paper, is that it’s there for your family to read over and over again at their leisure.
And every time they do, a couple of things happen…it reinforces your family values and they pick up a subtle piece of information that — due to their stage in life — has greater meaning to them.
I say this with the confidence that comes from personal experience.
The introduction sets the tone of your family book.
It lets your family know why family wealth is important to you and the vision you have for future generations.
The other chapters
The Introduction is a great start, but the family book needs to add some meat to those bones.
Other chapters can be…
- The Family Mission Statement — the mission statement sets out what your family is seeking to accomplish, why this is important and how wealth (if need be) can be used to live by these values on a daily basis. For some guidance on a Family Mission Statement, this is from Stephen Covey (author of 7 Habits of Highly Effective Families).
‘A family mission statement is a combined, unified expression from all family members of what your family is all about — what it is you really want to do and be — and the principles you choose to govern your family life.’
- How our wealth was created — the Introduction primarily deals with the ‘why’ of wealth creation, this chapter covers the ‘how’. The humble beginnings. The successes. The failures. The lessons learned. The people you learned from. Anyone who has made and lost money has a story. Share the knowledge gained with your loved ones.
- Your principles and beliefs — what are the guiding values that have determined your success in life? Values that apply equally to your family, social, business and community life. Honesty. Fairness. Compassion. Commitment. Cooperation. Appreciation. Elaborate on how these values have paid long-term dividends and enhanced the lives of others. And you may also like to share how staying true to yourself does come with a personal cost…not everyone stands tall in the face of peer pressure.
- The balance sheet — depending on the age of the next generation, you may or may not want to include this chapter just yet. Also, you may only wish to give a generalised account using generic headings like — investment property/s, shares held, bank accounts, superannuation fund, business assets, bank loan/s etc. The reason for committing the family balance sheet to paper, is that in the event something unexpected happens to you, the family has a starting point of where the family wealth is…you’d be surprised at how many people do not share with their spouses and children (by design or by default) where the money is.
- Insurances — detail the insurances in place in the event of death, total permanent disability, temporary disability and/or keyperson insurance/s with your business. Also, the insurances for home, contents, motor vehicles, boats, investment properties etc. This will save your family a lot of time fossicking through filing cabinets.
The other benefit in doing this, is it demonstrates to your family how seriously you take the responsibility of risk management and risk mitigation.
- Entities — most families with a degree of wealth to protect have trust structures. Let your family know the details of these structures and why they’re in place…asset protection, tax planning etc. Knowing ‘why’ these structures exist helps in their financial education.
- Estate planning — these are the details of your wills and enduring powers of attorney. If there’s anything contentious in your will or in the appointment of your enduring power of attorney…address it up front in this chapter. Get it out in the open. Otherwise, it risks becoming a lawyer’s picnic.
- Advisors — list the contact details of all the advisors you use. Accountant. Solicitor. Stockbroker. Financial planner. Real estate agent. Mortgage broker. You can even add in here the external resources you access and/or subscribe to that help keep you informed…I did this in A Parent’s Gift of Knowledge.
- Philanthropy — list the charities and community cause/s you support and why it’s important for you to give back to society.
- The conclusion — why it was important to write this book and what you hope to achieve by investing the time to share with your family the details in each chapter.
Your book can be as simple as one page per chapter…depending upon the amount of information that needs to be shared.
It’s about quality, not quantity.
A gift of knowledge that comes from the heart is the best present you can give your family.
My mother’s love, guidance and wisdom is a legacy I not only cherish but do my best to pass onto our family every day.
Editor, The Rum Rebellion
Vern is also the Editor of The Gowdie Letter and The Gowdie Advisory — investment services designed to help everyday Australians avoid the financial pitfalls of a volatile economy and make informed decisions to grow their wealth for generations to come.