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Many of us have heard the saying shirtsleeves to shirtsleeves in three generations. This is where the first generation builds wealth, the second generation expands the wealth and the third generation spends the wealth and has to start over again.

For many, unless we do something specific to keep shirtsleeves to shirtsleeves happening we’re doomed to repeat this in our own families. I believe that a culture of entitlement is a problem that not only encourages this phenomenon, but almost guarantees it’ll happen.

There are some families that have managed to miss this event. They have taken specific steps to combat losing family wealth. Some of the activities they’ve done are:

They have a concept of elders in the family. Respect is given to the senior members of the family. The senior members take responsibility to set the tone for what happens in the family. Through stories they help all family members remember what makes their family unique.

There is an expectation of achievement. Younger members of the family have expectations set for behavior and achievement. Sliding by is not an option. A culture of excellence in whatever children choose is expected.

There are intergenerational conversations. Time is set up every year for the family to get together and have conversations that span all generations. Activities are put in place for elders to speak to all and roles are established for mentors and coaches within the family.

There are rules for participating in family economic activities. Joining the family business if there is one is not automatic. There are rules around what activities and behaviors must be exhibited before children are allowed to join the family business. Senior family members are very mindful of not killing the goose.(the family business)

There is a family understanding that wealth is more than money. Family members understand and are taught that wealth means more than money or things. The values of the family are taught through stories and activities to emphasize what makes the family unique.

Families that successfully avoid the shirtsleeves to shirtsleeves in three generations phenomena fascinate me. Has your family thought or done anything to avoid this situation? If so, I would love to hear about it in the comment section below. 

Related Post:

Rising Generations Need to Show Appreciation For What Their Parents Have Done


Topics: mission vision values and goals, business relationship management, business exit planning, family business transition, Mission statement, succession planning

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