Letter from the President: March 2019
Dear M&B Clients & Professional Partners:
One of our joys of serving as attorneys is getting to know our clients. In planning, we have a unique view into the personal, financial, and family lives of our clients. We have a deep care and respect for people and have enjoyed each opportunity to serve through the years. At Myatt & Bell, P.C., we view estate planning as inherently personal. We steward the legacies entrusted to us by clients. From the volume of families that we serve, we find ourselves discussing some reoccurring themes with clients. One theme often starts: In the U.S.A, we don’t seem to talk enough about healthy views of money!
While we do discuss important topics like saving, living on the income and not using principal, gifts to charities, etc., our culture is one in which parents and grandparents don’t often show the children how we’re practicing our own advice. For example, our culture does not overwhelmingly talk with children or grandchildren about how much we make (or made), how much money we do save, give away, or how much money does my child or grandchild need to earn to enjoy the same standard of living in which he or she was raised. Why? The common concern is that the child or grandchild would become entitled or incentivized not to work. Our client experiences have taught us that the main reason we don’t talk about such topics is that our own parents and grandparents never talked about it with us.
By way of some history, I reflect on the ways The Great Depression shaped our cultural view of money, even today. Early in my career, I recall my experiences talking with clients who were at an age during The Great Depression to remember the fear of not having food to eat. The reality caused a generation to save, never use, and all but ignore what was saved, even well into incapacity needs. Such views and lack of initiated discussion about money have been passed down through the generations. At present, however, we have a wonderful opportunity to initiate conversations about money with our children and grandchildren, thereby shaping healthy views of wealth in the generations to come. Especially with increases to our average life expectancy charts, we have more generations alive today than in past years. There is an incredible opportunity to share our experiences with those younger than us, including our children and grandchildren. So, when do we start?
It can start at very early ages by learning the value of a penny, 1¢, 2¢, 3¢, etc. up to a nickel, through a dime, quarter, and eventually to a dollar. With many children today seeing parents using plastic for purchases, actual money can be a novelty. Tooth fairies have been known to drop a $5 bill or more for the first tooth, often resulting in the opening of bank accounts. These conversations eventually graduate to the application of money. What can I buy? After the reality of a child’s or grandchild’s buying power hits him or her squarely where it hurts, we have arrived at savings accounts! Opening a bank account becomes an important step. From a savings account, the world of investments looms, and, before long, we have developed a pattern of stewardship arising from our willingness to engage conversations about money.
Recently, we had a client pass away, well into her 90s, whose estate plan included a small specific gift for each of her grandchildren and great grandchildren, to each be satisfied with a stock. I remember the estate planning appointment years back when she impressed on me the importance of her father who gave her a stock as a young girl. It shaped her view of money and investments at an early age. In fact, it had such an impact on her that she wanted to pass along the experience to her descendants through her estate plan.
Other families introduce children and grandchildren to college savings accounts as a first step. Knowing that such college funds were contributed by parents and grandparents helps create legacy. It also provides a tool to understand investments and taxes. After watching the assets grow for half a decade or more, maybe it means more to the child or grandchild when its actually used on education.
If you have positive examples of generational interactions with money, then we would love to hear. Send me an email at firstname.lastname@example.org. In the coming additions, we’ll be regularly sharing stories.
From our experience, since 1960, let us help you create peace of mind when its needed most. Call Myatt & Bell, P.C., at 503-641-6262, to setup your annual review, gifting meeting, or family meeting appointment.
-Justin R. Martin