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Lose Your Money In Three Easy Generations

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Here’s an interesting statistic: Nine out of 10 affluent families will lose their wealth within three generations. The article describes some steps you can take if you happen to be in one of those wealthy families to help your money last for centuries.

It seems to come down to passing along values in addition to passing along dollars. One of these values is hard work. First-generation wealthy parents want life to be easier for their children than it was for them when they were building their fortune, so sometimes (according to the article), children will receive the money without understanding how to work hard for it.

Another value that should be passed down is financial education. Many parents don’t discuss money-related concepts and schools don’t teach personal finance in general.

The value of “fairness” is stressed in the article, but “fair” doesn’t always mean equal.

If parents decide to create different arrangements for loved ones, Arnold continues, they need a video or written document — some kind of lasting explanation, so siblings do not take it out on each other. It tells them they’re loved and explains why the situation is the way it is.

If you’re concerned about passing your estate to your children and ensuring they take care of it will enough it will be around for generations to come, here are a few books that might help:

* Beating the Midas Curse
* Creating the Good Will : The Most Comprehensive Guide to Both the Financial and Emotional Sides of Passing on Your Legacy
* Wealth: Grow It, Protect It, Spend It, and Share It

Published or updated March 24, 2006. If you enjoyed this article, subscribe to the RSS feed or receive daily emails. Follow @ConsumerismComm on Twitter and visit our Facebook page for more updates.

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About the author

Luke Landes is the founder of Consumerism Commentary. He has been blogging and writing for the internet since 1995 and has been building online communities since 1991. Find out more about Luke Landes and follow him on Twitter. View all articles by .

{ 3 comments… read them below or add one }

avatar Miserly Bastard

I totally agree with your statement that it comes down to making values heritable.

I remember watching a documentary a few years ago called Born Rich, which interviewed a number of children of filthy rich families. (The documentary was shot by an heir to the Johnson & Johnson fortune.)

I particularly remember one scene where the director (Jamie Johnson) is interviewing his father and asking what he (himself) should do with his life. His dad, who has never worked a day in his life, says that maybe he should join some charitable organizations. The director/heir pushes further, and says, what if he wants to do more, to have a career. The dad is visibly puzzled, and he suggests that his son take up a hobby “like collecting old maps.”


The truth is, if you have the Midas Fortune “problem” the way to lead is by example. Don’t live extravagantly. Work at a job. Save. Defer gratification. In short, don’t live the life of a rich man. (Some might argue this defeats the purpose of being rich.)

On a personal note, my father got a decent (but not sickeningly large) inheritance, and throughout his life, he invested the money wisely, buying real estate and other assets, and growing the size of the inheritance. A few years ago, I asked him why he and my mom didn’t live it up a bit more since they could clearly afford to–you know, stuff like flying business class on long trips, buying a new car every 5 years instead of every 15 years, etc.

My dad’s answer was telling. He said he wanted to leave some of the money to me and my sister, because he didn’t feel like the money belonged to him. Instead, he said he felt that it was his father’s money, and his job was just to take care of it and pass it along to the next generation. (In the same vein, he paid for most of our educations–private high school, private college, 50% of law school for me, and 100% of physical therapy grad school for my sister. He said that his father had paid for his education, and it was his obligation to pay for ours.)

Fortunately, my wife and I are doing just fine without any inheritance. However, I have no doubt that when we receive our respective inheritances, we will take the same “custodial responsibility” with the money for our own child, and I hope our child will do the same.

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avatar Anonymous

Trump has 5 kids. How many grandkids is he likely to have? I think the national average is 2.3 kids, so I’d guess that he’ll have 11or 12 grandkids someday, each inheriting an average of 1/11th or 1/12 of his fortune. That isn’t very much considering the empire he has today.

I wonder how many other billioniares have this large family problem.

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avatar Inchoate Random Abstractions

The Millionaire Next Door addresses this issue as well, although the authors seemed to imply that it often times only takes 2 generations to lose their wealth. As you mentioned, many millionaires want to protect their children from hardship. And they tend to give economic aid to their children well into the children’s adult years. I found it to be a fascinating read because one of my relative’s has the adult child of a millionaire syndrome, even though his parents aren’t technically millionaires. It’ll be interesting to see what happens when he figures out that he can’t continue to rely on his parents for economic aid.

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