Teach Your Children Well

Today, I want to try to tie together a couple of themes that occurred to me this week. I began the week in London Ontario, where I attended the Ivey Case Teaching Workshop at my alma mater.

Then after I got back to my office I came across an interesting report about how and when wealthy families handle information about their wealth. I found it alarming and really difficult to comprehend.

Back in the spring, I shared in this space that I had been bitten by the teaching bug. As part of being a student in the Family Enterprise Advisor Program, the return to the classroom had me feeling that I had more in common with the people at the front of the room than the people who were there to learn.

Having done my MBA in a “case school”, where business cases form the vast majority of the learning, I resolved that when I did get into teaching, my preferred instruction method would to use cases for most of the learning.

For the final day of the workshop they asked for a volunteer and I am so glad that I stepped up and lived the experience. It is interactive learning at its finest, where the teacher is more of a discussion facilitator than anything else. It is a really cool feeling to have a bunch of bright students all wanting to contribute, and just trying to coordinate it all in some meaningful way.

I loved it and I want to do more of it. And I will.

Now, on to the wealthy families report I came across. Here is a link:


Let me pull out the two most alarming stats from this survey. Only 42% of the over 700 respondents believe that their children are well prepared to handle their inheritance. About 20% believe their children should wait until they are 40 before the family fortune is disclosed.

Yes, you read that right, DISCLOSED. Not that they should wait until they are 40 to handle the “family fortune”, which would be interesting in its own right. But these people think it is normal and appropriate to keep their children in the dark for 40 years.

Okay, so just how does that work. You live a low-key lifestyle and pretend that you are just another upper-middle class family, I guess. And then one day, once your kids are finally “old enough”, you will let them in on the family secret. “Surprise! You are going to inherit tons of money some day!”

And they wonder why their children are not well prepared to handle the inheritance.

I get the “aversion to discuss wealth”, and I get the “not wanting to negatively impact their work ethic”, believe me I do. But there are other ways to take care of those issues.

It all comes down to open and honest communications. They are your children. You are their parents. You are a family. The parents are supposed to teach their children all the stuff that they don’t learn at school. This includes work ethic and how to handle money.

Back to the teaching workshop, I said it was interactive learning, with the teacher acting as a facilitator. I guess I didn’t realize it until I sat down to write this blog, but that is almost a description of my parenting style.

Thankfully I have a co-teacher called Mom, and the class size is only 2. But if our kids are not prepared to handle information about our family wealth until they are 40, then somebody will have screwed up somewhere, it in won’t be the kids.


Steve Legler “gets” business families.
He understands the issues that families face, as well as how each family member sees things from their own viewpoint.
He specializes in helping business families navigate the difficult areas where the family and the business overlap, by listening to each person’s concerns and ideas.  He then helps the family work together to bridge gaps by building common goals, based on their shared values and vision.
His background in family business, his experience running his own family office, along with his education and training in coaching, facilitation, and mediation, make him uniquely suited to the role of advising business families and families of wealth.
He is the author of Shift your Family Business (2014), he received his MBA from the Richard  Ivey School of Business (UWO, 1991), is a CFA Charterholder (CFA Institute, 2002), a Family Enterprise Advisor (IFEA 2014), and has received the ACFBA and CFWA accreditations (Family Firm Institute 2014-2015).
He prides himself on his ability to help families create the harmony they need to support the legacy they want. To learn how, start by signing up for his monthly newsletter and weekly blogs here.