Stewardship has many definitions:
- The belief that we are responsible for the world, humanity, and gifts and resources.
- The responsibility for the things entrusted to us.
- The balance between personal enjoyment of something and sharing it with future generations.
- Leaving the world better than you found it.
At first blush, these concepts can seem overwhelming and lead to more questions than answers.
A good steward requires guiding principles and a strong sense of family history. The guiding principles are your family values. Utilizing these principles provides a decision-making framework and helps avoid basing these decisions on emotions. Because being a good steward lasts a lifetime, utilizing the family value guideposts will help provide clarity for the many important choices (both small and large) that must be made along the way.
At Sendero®, we strategically use a framework of education, collaboration, and meaningful conversations to help families communicate among generations, define values, and answer the many questions that may arise when understanding and implementing their stewardship role. This exploration should allow a family to apply their values when making decisions around their resources while giving purpose and direction to the next generation’s role in the continuation of the family’s legacy. In other words, “Treat it like you own it”, and “Leave it better than you found it”.
As advisors to families of wealth, we often see families struggle to communicate their expectations to rising generations. For example, a client asked us to help prepare the next generation for leadership roles and explain what it meant to be a “good steward” to their family. Conversations around stewardship had triggered stress and anxiety for the family. Questions such as “Am I prepared?”, and “Do I have the tools to be a good steward?”, and “What does my family expect from me?”, arose frequently during our conversation.
Through our legacy program, we helped create a framework for the family to answer these questions. Our team spent time helping the family discover what stewardship means based on their values, and helped them navigate the complexities that often accompany conversations and decisions focused on wealth. During this process, the family completed a variety of exercises, one of which included articulating the values held both by the family’s ancestors and the current family, and why the family considers those values important. Documenting these ideas helped create a path for both current and future generations to better understand the beliefs and work ethic that created the wealth they have today, and how they can be good stewards of that wealth in the future. When Sendero® facilitates your family meetings, we will focus on defining the family values to use as the compass that guides conversations and decisions.
Stewarding wealth takes intention and focus. Once the framework is built, families should continue to work together, reflect on family values, and exercise the muscles they developed during facilitated family meetings. This approach leads current and future generations down a path of confident, cohesive decision-making.
“Legacy is your gift, and you are the benefactor.” – Unknown
The content in this article is provided for informational purposes only and should not be relied upon as investment recommendations or financial planning advice. We encourage you to seek personalized advice from qualified professionals regarding all personal finance issues.