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Best Practices for Talking to Your Kids about Your Wealth

Are you a Middle Class Millionaire in the Washington, D.C. area? If you have children, at some point they may discern how wealthy you are – and in turn, learn how “rich” their parents are. How will you handle that moment? How will they handle that knowledge?

We all know (or have heard) about children from wealthy families who grew up to become opportunistic, materialistic, and unmotivated young adults living off their parents’ largess. Other children learn to treat family money with respect and admiration, recognizing the role it plays for the family, while glimpsing its potential to help charities and the community. 

What accounts for the difference? It may boil down to values. When the right values are handed down, a young adult is poised to hold wealth in high regard and receive it with maturity. The key issue here is to talk with your children about how you amassed your wealth and how they may be able to create their own success and in turn also create wealth.

It is not uncommon for Middle Class Millionaires to never tell their children how wealthy they really are, and this withholding of information can be risky. In hiding the details and avoiding the talk, parents may see a child grow into a young adult who is ill-prepared to understand and manage wealth.

A good first step is to set financial expectations for your children. After your kids learn how wealthy you are, they may expect your money to play a financial part in their personal lives, especially in adolescence. Tell them, frankly, what you are willing or not willing to do and why. Where will the family wealth come into their lives? Will you want to fund their college educations, or help them with car payments? You may or may not want to do that. 

You can help them see that wealth has meaning. We sometimes like to ask their clients the question, “what does having money mean to you?” In other words, what should that money accomplish? What dreams should it help you pursue, and what fears or worries could it be used to address? How does having money fit into your vision of success – is it integral to it or inessential to it?

It has been said that money never transforms character; it simply reveals it. The responsibility of handling wealth amounts to a test of character. Thoughtful conversations with your children about the meaning of wealth may help them pass that important test when the time comes.

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