A Rudderless Ship — Preparing Your Children for Wealth Transfer

Doesn’t it seem silly in some respect to even contemplate the idea of setting sail without an ability to actually navigate the waterway? And yet, the frequency in which family financial vessels launch into known perils of the economic seas, ending as flotsam, remains alarming.

The National Endowment for Financial Education estimates that up to 70% of financial windfalls are lost within a few years.1 These windfalls could include inheritance, lottery winnings, etc.

Let’s consider the elements of a perfect storm:

1 — Taxes.

2 — Poor investment choices (think of a friend needing capital to mass produce “Jarts”, and really, what could go wrong here?).

3 — Sibling communication breakdown (remarkable how nostalgic a Billy Baroo Putter might be).

4 — Parents failing to prepare their children for receiving monies.

5 — And a lack of the 5 P’s, the personal motto of former Pittsburgh Steeler QB Charlie Batch: “Proper Preparation Prevents Poor Performance”.

Warren Buffett once commented, “I want to give my kids enough so that they would feel that they could do anything, but not so much that they would feel like doing nothing.” Clearly, understandable concerns exist when initiating this financial preparation conversation. Arguably, one of the most prevalent reservations is creating the next generation’s “The Dude” (of The Big Lebowski fame), a fictional character who lives and breathes the latter half of Buffett’s quote above.

Rudderless Ship Family Wealth Trasnfer

Today we can simply begin the journey of preparing a foundation. Our firm spends a great deal of time with each client’s individual history, values, and goals. I always find a client’s personal journey to be a powerful experience, even though children often tire of their parent’s tales of beyond-human traversing of snow-covered fields (naturally remembered to include blizzard conditions) to a first job. By the way, what was your first job? What is your first memory of money? What did it require to begin your journey? Did you receive any participation trophies? Probably not, but the sacrifices required along your journey should be shared with your financial planner and with your children.

What is important to you? It is an easy question to ask, at least for a tip of the iceberg answer; however, diving deeply and genuinely into the question in order to find a meaningful answer may require some work. Neil Postman once wrote, “Children are the living messages we send to a time we will not see.” Let’s take the time to tell them what is important to us. What charitable causes inspire you? What creates apprehension in you (besides having this conversion)? What living message do you want to send?

Taking the time to begin the conversation may very well be the difference in success or shipwreck. Keep in mind: Rough seas never need to be captained alone, and an experienced advisory team will certainly be able to help you navigate.


Wipfli Financial Advisors, LLC (“Wipfli Financial”) is an investment advisor registered with the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC); however, such registration does not imply a certain level of skill or training and no inference to the contrary should be made. Wipfli Financial is a proud affiliate of Wipfli LLP, a national accounting and consulting firm. Information pertaining to Wipfli Financial’s management, operations, services, fees and conflicts of interest is set forth in Wipfli Financial’s current Form ADV Part 2A brochure and Form CRS, copies of which are available from Wipfli Financial upon request at no cost or at www.adviserinfo.sec.gov. Wipfli Financial does not provide tax, accounting or legal services. The views expressed by the author are the author’s alone and do not necessarily represent the views of Wipfli Financial or its affiliates. The information contained in any third-party resource cited herein is not owned or controlled by Wipfli Financial, and Wipfli Financial does not guarantee the accuracy or reliability of any information that may be found in such resources. Links to any third-party resource are provided as a courtesy for reference only and are not intended to be, and do not act as, an endorsement by Wipfli Financial of the third party or any of its content or use of its content. The standard information provided in this blog is for general purposes only and should not be construed as, or used as a substitute for, financial, investment or other professional advice. If you have questions regarding your financial situation, you should consult your financial planner, investment advisor, attorney or other professional.
Scot Roche

J.D., CPA, PFS | Principal, Regional Director

Scot Roche, J.D., CPA, PFS, is a Principal and Regional Director for Wipfli Financial Advisors in Rockford, IL. Scot specializes in financial, tax and estate planning for individuals, families, business owners and healthcare professionals.

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A Rudderless Ship — Preparing Your Children for Wealth Transfer

time to read: 2 min