Family Money


A consistent request from almost all families Manchester has served over the last thirty years is for guidance on how to talk about money. Both senior and junior generations can be reluctant to start the conversation. They are wary of offending loved ones, injuring egos, revealing details, appearing greedy, exposing ignorance, or feeling neglected.

Family money is much more than investments and bank accounts; the emotional importance of this topic is vital to family cohesion.

At Manchester we have worked with families large and small that have both great success and enduring struggles.  Interestingly, the amount of money involved doesn’t seem to matter. Wealthy families can have challenges identical to families with more modest assets. These can include disagreements between siblings, parents, and children alike. The number of family members also appears irrelevant. Money can connect (or disconnect) family members across cultural differences that arise between different generations.

One element of success is parents who lead by example. They consistently demonstrate the importance of living within their means, the satisfaction of saving for a goal, and the wisdom of making prudent spending choices.  

In these families, conversations about money are not triggers. Children are invited to learn about the basics of bank accounts, budgeting, and even the powerful draw of investing from an early age. As children grow, the dialogues evolve and become more complex while maintaining an atmosphere of openness and curiosity.

At the same time, it is hard to expect children to be frugal with their allowance if their vacations, automobiles, and holidays have always been extravagant.  

Common issues when considering preserving intergenerational wealth can include how much to give, when to give, and how to make sure fiduciary responsibility is maintained without the next generation feeling either entitled or deprived.

Family meetings can be a safe venue when the conversations change from the how to the why. Younger generations often care deeply about the impact money has on the world. Creating a structured dialog with questions such as the following can forge solutions:   

  • What are the values and purposes of the family assets?
  • Why was the family wealth created?
  • What is the vision for the future?
  • What is the legacy to leave behind?

When combined with discipline, love and mutual respect can help foster responsible stewardship.  For example, one family trustee resolved a young beneficiary’s excess spending with a declaration of what would lie ahead for the beneficiary if they continued.  They went on to express an intent to resign if the beneficiary did not cease invading assets meant for future generations.

In the middle of all these cross currents remain the concerns about entitlement and privilege. With these conversations, a vault is unlocked that explores the sensitive waters of inheritance and generational wealth transfer.

The best conversations are transparent and explain the rationale for existing familial financial structures. Families often benefit from including professionals who can easily explain the chosen mechanism for a smooth transition of wealth that honors the family’s goals while minimizing tax burdens and legal complications. Even the most complex structures can be described in plain and unpretentious terms that meet the need of every family member.

On a parallel track is the potential creation of a Family Mission Statement. This notion can be as modest as a letter from the senior generation recording how family wealth was created, the guidelines important to their success, and the aspirations they have for use by the younger generation.

A Family Mission Statement can also be more expansive, inviting input from all family members and serving as the declaration of purpose that directs decisions around a shared set of values.

Developing financial literacy across generations is a continuous work in progress. There are no set rules that ensure economic stability for all while respecting the needs and desires of everyone and each generation. Failing to attend to the role money has within a family can destroy relationships and cause harm. Conversely, money can foster connections, achieve dreams, and leave a legacy that binds across the generations.


This material is solely for informational purposes and shall not constitute a recommendation or offer to sell or a solicitation to buy securities. The opinions expressed herein represent the current, good faith views of the author at the time of publication and are provided for limited purposes, are not definitive investment advice, and should not be relied on as such. The information presented herein has been developed internally and/or obtained from sources believed to be reliable; however, neither the author nor Manchester Capital Management guarantee the accuracy, adequacy or completeness of such information. Predictions, opinions, and other information contained in this article are subject to change continually and without notice of any kind and may no longer be true after any date indicated. Any forward-looking predictions or statements speak only as of the date they are made, and the author and Manchester Capital assume no duty to and do not undertake to update forward-looking predictions or statements. Forward-looking predictions or statements are subject to numerous assumptions, risks and uncertainties, which change over time. Actual results could differ materially from those anticipated in forward-looking predictions or statements. As with any investment, there is the risk of loss.


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