There is an old saying that states “teach a man to fish, and you will feed him for a lifetime.”
While there is great wisdom in this adage, I would respectfully submit to the author that perhaps the saying should begin “teach a child to fish…“ Many families of significant wealth struggle with how to provide wealth to their children, while simultaneously empowering them with the skills necessary to steward that wealth. In fact, it is fair to say that this is one of, if not the top concerns, of wealthy families. This is where our proverb, in its new form, becomes very relevant. If you teach your children to handle wealth before they receive it, they will be much better positioned to be a steward of your family’s wealth in the future.
We recently completed a series of interviews with a number of entrepreneurs and executives who have created and built incredibly successful business enterprises over the years. The perspectives and lessons learned from these interviews will be the basis of our upcoming OnePaper series entitled The Road to Success, where we will share the key insights and takeaways from these in-depth discussions. One of the themes that came up again and again during our interviews was that the skills learned early in life, such as resourcefulness and perseverance, were instrumental to the future success of these individuals. And likewise, the same logic can be applied to financial decision making. The skills we help our children develop early in life will be key to their future ability to make prudent financial decisions.
Which brings us back to teaching your child to fish, at an early age. Perhaps the only thing more difficult than deciding If you want to bring your children into the fold of family finances, is deciding how you will do so. From our experience, the best way to do this is to start small and build a good foundation. Engage with them around a topic that is both relevant and timely, and allow that conversation to gradually bleed in to a broader discussion about the family’s wealth. The initial topic might be how create a budget, or the stock of a company that your child is interested in. When imagining how you might teach a child to fish, another old adage may come to mind, “Rome was not built in a day…,” and likewise, raising your children to be stewards of your family’s wealth is a process built over time, with small steps in the right direction.