A few days ago I had interviewed a remarkable woman, Sharna Goldseker. Rather than posting my thoughts I have been mulling over her remarks. Here is something she wrote at age 26, the beginning of her life story as a wealthy heir within the Jewish tradition of love and justice. Here is a piece about her one year later. Here is where she works now, at age 33. And here. And here is a recent piece she wrote about generations of Jewish giving. What have I learned from Sharna?
- There is hope, if Sharna and friends are any indication.
- A prior generation made much of the dark side of money, and the baleful effect of inheritances. The literature of sorrow on that score is vast, but Sharna seems to bear no such resentment towards her forbears. She speaks for a generation (Gen Y) that is online, connected, alert, and not given to secrets, privacy, and safe places. She is out there.
- When I work around major money I try to ask, thinking of advisors, clients, and nonprofits, "Who leads and who follows in the dance?" Sharna has taught me to ask that question of the heirs as well. In the inter-generational wealth transfer process, thinking now of grandparents, parents, and grown children, who leads in the conversation about giving? About social responsibility? About all the money? (Not just the charitable budget or foundation money.)
- Increasingly, I am hearing that it is the Gen Y heirs who are stepping forward to say, "Mom and Dad, please, why the secrecy? I Googled you when I was 12. I know more about the family finances that you may think. Let's talk about our money, the future of our family, where and how to make a positive difference."
- Along with Sharna's network I would also instance Resource Generation, and I am sure there are others, in which Gen Y heirs connect as peers, raise their own awareness and prepare to enter the family conversation and family traditions of giving.
- Since age-mates have more influence on children than do parents in those critical years from puberty through early adulthood, it makes sense for wealthy parents to find a healthy and engaged peer network for the rising generation. Sharna tells me that this is getting easier, since the up and coming generation is networked online. So, national conferences and local meet ups are good, but less necessary than in the past.
One further line of thought. As an aging Boomer who has been online now for almost 10 years, I find I have two networks of close colleagues and friends. One is work related and my age, more or less. The other is online-related and Sharna's age, more or less. Connecting these generational networks and conversations may be critical for the health of our society. If Sharna's networks are online they have a stake in the all these emerging technology based communities we see springing up from Facebook, dating sites, to Ning, Civicspace, Razoo, and many others. How will the new funders collaborate with their equally talented but resource starved peers to create a better and more just, a more truly "flat" networked world? Who will lead in the generational dance, as Boomers become inheritors, while simultaneously planning their own legacies? Will Gen Y stakeholders insist on entering the space in which all the family money is planned, not just the philanthropic money? Will they be active in helping set the family vision of what a great inheritance and legacy might be? I hope as I age that the Gen Y world-changers, including my own children, will wheel me into their circle and let me listen, babble a little, and dribble on my bib. If they need a token elder to murmur a secular blessing, I volunteer. Would a beard long and white add gravitas?