Serving professionals- that is what we are, as planners in our various roles to America's wealthiest families. In the last few days, I have been back and forth and on conference calls, with the finest flower of serving professionals whose target market is $10,000,000 net worth families and up.
Emerging "common sense" of the serving professionals to wealthy families:
- In the founding generation 100% of the family assets are owned by those who created the wealth; in the second 40-60% is in trust; by the third generation, 95% is is in trust.
- The heirs are less and less owners, instead they are beneficiaries of trusts controlled by trustees who may be family members or corporate trustees.
- The key issue for heirs is "how to be a great beneficiary."
- As serving professionals we don't just set up financial, estate, and legacy plans using these trusts, we also mentor heirs to be great beneficiaries.
- An heir along with a trust remittance should be allowed a small pot of money he or she can call her his or her own. This is good for the heir in building a sense of autonomy, though, strictly speaking it is poor planning since it exposes assets to various risks (tax, law suit, divorce).
- Heirs are often poorly "differentiated," that is, they are infantilized, cowed and subordinated to the founding generation's dream.
- Heirs are often "bored," which militates against their making a civic contribution.
- Over three generations heirs run through the family fortune.
Implicit in this worldview is the horror of common life and common people. We are the ruck from which great families arise, and to which they tend, as life tends towards entropy and death, or as food passes through the body to emerge as manure, to be flushed away in disgust. We are "the old country," from which the wealthy have emigrated to a civilized world. For them to revert to the old country (of life as the rest of us know it) would be like going back to Italy or Russia as a peasant. We the ordinary people are contemptible, and to revert to our status would be servile. We are townies, they are the preps!
The rich have no obligations except to their family. (This is not stated, but no statement is made among the wealth planners of any obligation by the rich to anyone but their own clan.) Philanthropy, civic engagement, leadership are seen through the prism of "the family's dream" and its many "capitals."
Narcissism and admiration for those with money and power, is the trait drawing the wealth planner and the family together in common purpose. Fawning is practiced as an art. Pomposity is a virtue. While courage is mentioned as necessary it is hard to why it is needed since the serving professional is so fully identified with the interests of the class he or she serves.
As a door opener to the wealthy and their advisors, I am thinking of writing a book about it. May reread Montaigne, Poe, Baudelaire, Mallarme, Henry James. Perhaps, I can move among the wealthy with an elixir or other remedy to cure their lassitude.
Tracy Gary (Ms. Gary to me) grew up in the hothouse world above, got good parenting about philanthropy and civic engagement. ("You have more than others, and you will do more for others," is what she was taught from childhood up, so she told me.) What she has taught me is that philanthropy is about community, about the needs of community, about being in service to others in the community who have less, or nothing at all. That is noblesse oblige, yes, and by God, it is better than the emerging worldview above, which retains all the noblesse of unearned wealth while remaining silent about its oblige. So, I will be hanging out with her and her miscellaneous crew soon as my professional network of affinity. You are welcome to join us.