Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Harvard's Charles Collier on "The Practices of Flourishing Families"

 "The critical challenge you face is not financial," said Charles Collier, senior philanthropic adviser at Harvard University in his presentation on "The Practices of Flourishing Families" to an audience composed mostly of wealth managers at the Boston Security Analysts Society on December 15, 2009. He believes "The most critical challenges are relationship-based and family-based."

Of course, money plays a role in these challenges, so this is a topic that should concern all wealth managers. Whether it's scarce or abundant, money is a challenge in every family, said Collier.

Three questions are critical to addressing family challenges, said Collier.
  1. What topics are easy or difficult for your family to discuss?
  2. How do you manage yourself in life's transitions?
  3. Is family harmony an important principle for you, and, if so, why? 
Collier's interactive presentation focused on Question 1 and raised the following difficult questions around finances:
  1. What is an appropriate inheritance for your child?
  2. Who gets the money, and when? Do they get equal shares?
  3. Who gets information about the money and when?
  4. How much will go to philanthropy?
  5. What do you think will be the impact of unearned money on your child's life?
  6. How can you encourage your children to find their life calling?
Collier did not suggest how financial advisors should raise these questions with their clients. So, I'm asking you, how do YOU address these questions with clients? Do you address them at all?
Susan B. Weiner, CFA
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Copyright 2009 by Susan B. Weiner All rights reserved


  1. I guest posted on the topic of trusts,
    and talked a bit about how they can be used to dish out money to a child that may not be ready for a lump sum for whatever reason.

    The approaches are as different as the people giving. I've seen trusts used to control a child's life, who they marry where they live, etc, and I've seen more money left than the child knows how to manage and they blow it like a lottery winner.

    Good questions to ponder.

  2. Thanks, JoeTaxpayer! It sounds as if you should ask Collier's questions first. Then a trust may help you implement the resulting decisions.


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