By Robin C. Catlin, CFP ®, MBA
Managing Director, Matter Family Office
If we’ve learned anything over the past several months, it’s to expect the unexpected. The global pandemic has challenged us all to learn new ways of communicating and collaborating effectively, and it has highlighted the need for businesses, organizations, and individuals to lean into their creativity, flexibility, and resilience in the face of change.
The same is true for families. At Matter, we help build “learning families” because we believe they exhibit the behaviors and characteristics that help them remain successful in the long term—even when times are tough.
What is a Learning Family?
As the name would suggest, learning families are very intentional about learning and growing together. They value and actively foster curiosity, creativity, and innovation, and they endeavor to learn from their failures as well as their accomplishments.
For these families, wealth is a tool and a resource that supports individual and collective development by helping everyone in the family find and pursue their passion. Learning families invest in building and sustaining their social, human, and intellectual capital as well as their financial capital, and they are thoughtful about preparing family members for wealth transitions and educating the rising generation about living and thriving with wealth.
Perhaps most importantly, these families create a culture of open communication and mutual respect that enables them to remain resilient when faced with challenges. This commitment to culture, and to each other, helps families navigate the unknowable and sets them up for success for generations to come.
Why is it important to be a Learning Family?
Unfortunately, most families are unable to grow or even maintain their wealth over multiple generations. Globally, family wealth doesn’t tend to survive more than three generations, and nearly 70% of wealth transfers fail from the first generation to the next (Williams and Preisser).
For the most part, this failure isn’t due to poor investment practices or money management—the culprit is culture. When families aren’t thoughtful about building their culture, and about learning and growing together, it can be difficult, if not impossible, to foster multi-generational collaboration, alignment, and trust—especially in the face of unexpected change.
Because the learning family approaches change from a place of resilience, and with a greater capacity to adapt and evolve together, they continue to flourish when others fail.
How do we get started?
At Matter, we work with families in many ways to support culture-building. We help them identify a wealth purpose, shared values, and a long-term vision. We facilitate conversations and family meetings that foster continued communication and alignment. And we work with family members across generations to build collaboration skills, develop human capital, and maintain ambition and purpose. We also encourage Matter families to experiment and to explore the use of financial capital to support the growth and development of each family member. Used this way, wealth is a tool that helps everyone reach their individual goals and full potential, so the family continues to thrive.
The first step in becoming a learning family is to benchmark where you are now. Here is a list of questions to help you begin this learning journey:
- Are we committed to our growth as a family together and individually?
- Do we see that our potential and strength derives in meeting and learning from our obstacles and challenges directly?
- Do we look at success through a lens beyond financial and economic?
- Are we innovative and willing to try new things and learn from those experiments?
- How does our family wealth support the development of the purpose and capabilities of every person as well as the connection to one another?
Once you know where you are, you can begin to develop a plan to deepen your intention to become a learning family. We believe it’s helpful to work with someone outside of your family who can help facilitate this process and provide accountability.
If you are interested in learning more about becoming a learning family, please reach out to us to start a conversation. We are here to help!
The Learning Family: An Approach to Family Development (Matthew Wesley, 2018 Purposeful Planning Institute Rendezvous conference handout)
This report is the confidential work product of Matter Family Office. Unauthorized distribution of this material is strictly prohibited. The information in this report is deemed to be reliable but has not been independently verified. Some of the conclusions in this report are intended to be generalizations. The specific circumstances of an individual’s situation may require advice that is different from that reflected in this report. Furthermore, the advice reflected in this report is based on our opinion, and our opinion may change as new information becomes available. Nothing in this presentation should be construed as an offer to sell or a solicitation of an offer to buy any securities. You should read the prospectus or offering memo before making any investment. You are solely responsible for any decision to invest in a private offering. The investment recommendations contained in this document may not prove to be profitable, and the actual performance of any investment may not be as favorable as the expectations that are expressed in this document. There is no guarantee that the past performance of any investment will continue in the future.