Money Talk

Family Financial Meetings For The Win-Win-Win

Passing the estate baton

by: Lori Seaton

Lori Seaton cut her teeth in financial services over 17 years ago, working with a fee-only registered investment advisor. Having experienced opposing sides of the annuity argument, she’s since become a passionate advocate for the value annuities can bring to an overall portfolio. She’s currently Director, Strategic Business Development at Sammons Financial Group, focused on uncovering new strategic opportunities, leading a highly talented competitive intelligence team, and sharing the power of storytelling. 

Shortly after my mom’s terminal illness diagnosis, my parents’ financial professional (advisor) made the five-hour trek to share a meal with us. I had not previously met him. We talked family, faith, and finances. I cannot stress enough how much that gesture – the time spent, the meal shared, the conversation – meant to my family.

Whether or not this gathering was strategic on our advisor’s part (and yes, I mean “our” as my sister and I now also utilize his services), it spurred important financial conversations between my family. I now know where the wills are located, how my parents’ assets are invested, and an overview of their estate – all information that I had previously not known and had been hesitant to ask about for fear of sounding greedy or insensitive.

As a true life Exhibit A of how powerful family financial meetings can be, this dinner arranged by our advisor helped us all find the confidence to have those uncomfortable conversations. In doing so, my parents found relief in knowing we were prepared to run with their wishes – passing the “estate baton,” so to speak – and my sister and I gained confidence and clarity knowing where and how to keep that “baton” from hitting the ground.

Advisors can play a significant role in bridging the generations, and if done effectively, can provide greater confidence and peace of mind to baby boomers that their wishes will be known and respected, can educate younger generations on retirement savings options – and given their unique challenges, that financial literacy need is great – and help set the advisor’s business up for future growth through generational wealth transfers. 

Win For Baby Boomers: Securing Legacy And Peace Of Mind

For baby boomers, family financial meetings can ensure their estate vision is clearly communicated and understood. These gatherings offer a chance to discuss their legacy and ensure their financial wishes are respected, providing peace of mind about their family’s future financial security. It can help provide them with a plan for smooth transitions—discussing the logistics of wealth transfer, including wills, trusts, and the roles of various family members—will hopefully minimize future conflicts and avoid familial rifts due to lack of estate clarity. It also allows boomers to educate their loved ones about financial responsibilities and to provide their heirs with the necessary financial knowledge and context about their future roles and responsibilities regarding inherited wealth.

Having these discussions sooner rather than later can offer additional tax advantages. Early planning allows for strategic gifting, such as annual exclusions or trusts, to transfer wealth over time while reducing estate taxes. And it comes with an emotional bonus of the added enjoyment to see loved ones benefit in real time. These early discussions can go a long way towards maximizing tax exemptions, preventing tax liabilities, and enhancing overall family preparedness.

Win For Younger Generations: Empowerment And Preparedness

For the younger generations, including Gen X, millennial, and Gen Z, these meetings are an educational platform and a tool for empowerment. With different career paths and financial challenges than their parents, they benefit from gaining financial literacy, understanding wealth management, and aligning financial goals with their own values and lifestyle aspirations.

Unique struggles of the next generation

For millennials and Gen Z, more than any generation before them, the financial landscape has changed drastically, necessitating early and strategic financial planning – strategies that may prove more successful with the keen eye and oversight that a skilled financial professional could provide. These challenges include increased longevity, higher debt levels, shifts in Social Security expectations, a changing job landscape, inflation, and even their attitudes toward investing.

One significant challenge is the lack of access to guaranteed lifetime income, which previous generations enjoyed. The move from defined benefit plans (pensions) to defined contribution plans (such as 401Ks) has placed the onus of saving and investing entirely on individuals – individuals who may not have the financial knowledge necessary to adequately self-service their retirement savings plan, and in essence create their own “personal pension.” 

Importance of connecting now

Couple the lack of traditional pensions with increased longevity and it can become critical to prepare for retirements that could span 30 years or more, emphasizing the importance of starting these preparations early and adopting strategies that balance growth with asset protection over longer lifespans. 

For millennials and Gen Z, more than any generation before them, the financial landscape has changed drastically, necessitating early and strategic financial planning...

Given that June is Annuity Awareness Month, it would be a miss to ignore the only independently purchased financial vehicle on the market today that can guarantee a steady stream of income for life. In exchange for a premium payment to an insurance company, a consumer can purchase an annuity that can accumulate interest on top of their premium payment over time, stay with them no matter how many job changes they make during their career – an important benefit for younger generations who experience more frequent job changes and engage in gig economy work – and carry the option to convert to guaranteed retirement income “paychecks” when they’re ready (or if not, many offer legacy options to leave to beneficiaries).

Aligning values with wealth management

Millennials and Gen Z have markedly different values, expectations, and attitudes toward wealth compared to previous generations. They are more tech-savvy, value transparency, and are deeply concerned with social and environmental issues. Their approach to investing reflects these values, with a strong inclination towards socially responsible and impact investments.

  • A focus on socially responsible investing: These generations prefer investing with a purpose beyond profit, such as ESG (environmental, social, governance), or causes they care about
  • Tech-savvy financial management: They leverage technology platforms for wealth management (e.g robo advisors), including online tools that provide real-time data and active participation in managing their investments

Win For Financial Advisors: Deepened Relationships And Business Growth

Adding family meetings into advisor practices not only benefits families but also provides significant advantages for financial advisors themselves. This strategy can enhance their business by fostering long-term client relationships, diversifying their client base, and positioning themselves as a trusted guide for the next generation of investors.

Engaging multiple generations through family meetings establishes deep connections that extend beyond a single point of contact within a family. When advisors involve children and grandchildren in the discussions, they are not just advising one client but are setting the stage to become the trusted advisor for the entire family. This creates continuity in client relationships, which is crucial as wealth transitions to younger generations who might otherwise seek new advisors. Long-term relationships lead to sustained revenue streams and can reduce client turnover, a critical advantage in the competitive field of financial planning.

Family meetings allow advisors to engage with a broader range of clients within the same family but from different generations. This diversity can enrich an advisor’s client base, making it more robust and less susceptible to market fluctuations that might affect a single demographic. For example, while baby boomers might be interested in retirement planning, their millennial children may require advice on wealth accumulation strategies or debt management. By meeting the varied needs of a multi-generational family, advisors can enhance their expertise and service offerings, appealing to a wider audience.

Advisors who conduct family meetings demonstrate their commitment to their clients’ long-term financial health, not just the management of assets. They position themselves as essential partners in their clients’ financial journey, capable of providing comprehensive support that addresses both immediate and future needs. This holistic approach is attractive to clients who seek not just a service provider but a true partner in their financial planning.

Implementing Effective Family Meetings

To maximize the benefits, family meetings should be carefully planned and executed.

  • Call the meeting. Pick a date that works for your desired attendees. Perhaps choose a neutral, comfortable location and meeting time. Pro tip: As I experienced, having dinner together can help ease tensions and make way for a more transparent, understanding atmosphere during the meeting.
  • Create an agenda. Ask the family what THEY think would be beneficial to cover. Understanding each family member’s financial situation, expectations, and personal goals can go a long way in having a more impactful conversation.
  • Assign roles. Ensuring all relevant family members are involved creates a comprehensive dialogue about the family’s financial future. Asking them to participate allows them to be more invested in the outcome of the meeting.

Take It From Me, Exhibit A

Family financial meetings are a triple-win scenario (or for fans of The Office’s Michael Scott’s theory of “win-win-win, we all win”) where baby boomers can ensure their legacy is maintained, younger generations can become empowered and better prepared for future financial responsibilities, and financial advisors can secure long-term relationships and business growth. By embracing this strategy, all parties can look forward to a future where financial transparency and mutual understanding are the norms, paving the way for sustained financial success across generations.

 

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