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Talking to your children about family wealth


Sean Cortis explores the conundrum that while the value of a good education is widely appreciated, it always seems difficult to talk about wealth and to extend the education to the subject of family wealth itself.


Sean Cortis


A


ny wealthy family is likely to confess that wealth provides a unique opportunity for a child to receive the ‘best education that money can buy’, and most families I speak to prioritise the


education of their children above all else. Asian families are clearly wrestling with the issue.


I was presenting at a Family Office conference in Hangzhou, China last year with a friend and client who happens to be a third generation member of an ultra- high net-wealth family. During the Q&A session, my friend was ambushed with the following questions from the audience (largely comprising family wealth holders): z When did you first learn you were rich? z When did you first let your children know they were rich?


z What advice do you have? The whole audience leaned forward with


concentrated stares, listening and anticipating the responses. Clearly they were wrestling with something taboo.


Formal and informal research strongly suggests talking about wealth is taboo 1. Only a third of parents worth more than $20 million discussed wealth with their kids before they turned 211


2. Very few believe children should know about family wealth before the age of 252


Only a third of parents worth more than $20 million discussed wealth with their kids before they turned 21


80 FAMILY OFFICE: THE FUTURE


3. Half believe children should be told between the age of 25 and 343


4. One-fifth believe they should wait until they are at least 404


5. 77% confess to being dishonest about money related matters5


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