Charity begins at home. Giving back with your family goes beyond a tax write-off or cutting a check. Giving back helps keep everyone in the family grateful and grounded. Growing up in an environment where giving back is the norm will make a difference in your children’s lives. Most young people say they learned about the importance of being generous from parents or grandparents. Families that give and work together for a common purpose, teach financial skills, family values, and the importance of making a difference. The holiday season — with its giving spirit — is an ideal time to teach the next generation about the importance of giving back.
1. Start talking about money and giving when your children are young.
Financial education falls squarely on the shoulders of family members, because there’s really no other formal way in our society that those skills are taught. Schools aren’t equipped to do it. We have to find the time and make the effort to teach our kids about the importance of charitable giving. Start as early as you can and talk to your children about their allowances and how their money can be spent, saved and donated. You can even have your kids keep three separate piggy banks for each area — donate, save, and spend. Depending on the age of your kids, have a conversation about how you create a budget to allocate for charities and and why helping others is important to your family.
2. Teach your kids to invest in the family.
Ask yourselves: Fundamentally, what does the family stand for? What is our purpose? What are the non-negotiables? One family I know wanted to express the belief that everyone is expected to make the family a priority. The phrase they came up with? “No empty chairs.” For them, it means: “We are loyal to each other. We support each other. When someone in the family needs help, we show up.” Teaching your kids to invest in your family will show them that giving back truly does begin at home — by caring for and investing in each other. When family standards are clear, kids will learn to invest in the family, and families will grow stronger.
3. Set goals based on values.
Just like businesses, families need laser-sharp focus on goals that are based on values. Talk to your kids about what’s important to you — donating to your alma mater or to a youth organization. Show your kids how they can give back based on their own interests. If your child loves animals, have them donate some of their pennies to a local animal shelter. If your child loves baseball or another sport, have them allocate some of their allowance to a youth organization that helps underprivileged kids play sports. Once your kids are a little older, ask what they’d like to change about the world, and choose an appropriate charity you can work on together.
4. Tell your story to those you love.
You’re so much more than what you own. Don’t you want to pass that wealth on as well? Write a letter. Make a video. Whatever method you choose, take the time to tell others in your own words what’s been important to you. Telling your story is as good for you as it will be for them. Mentoring is what we can do best for the next generation and it can set our kids up for future success. Remember, this doesn’t mean having one conversation and then you’re done. Revisit these conversations over time and focus on teaching strategies. Let your kids discover the wealth that’s found in sharing family stories and passing on knowledge. Our experience and knowledge are valuable ways to give back.
5. Give back with your time to a good cause.
Volunteer. Try a project you can work on together at home whether that’s gathering goods to send to a solider overseas or making presents for sick children who will be in the hospital during the holidays. Encourage your kids to sort through their toys and decide what they are ready to donate. Do a coat drive for a homeless shelter or have your kids pick up some canned goods at the grocery store and drop off at a food bank together.
If you are leading a family, you are not going to have the job forever, so part of your responsibility is to make sure those who follow you learn the true value of giving back. Training doesn’t happen by chance. Giving back is defined by much more than money. Wealth isn’t just about assets. What most of us want to pass on are our values, because those principles are what keep families going through thick and thin.© 2015 Linda Davis Taylor, author of The Business of Family: How to Stay Rich for Generations
Linda Davis Taylor, author of The Business of Family: How to Stay Rich for Generations, is the CEO and Chairman of Clifford Swan Investment Counsel in Pasadena, California. A participant in a fourth generation family business, Linda is a frequent speaker on wealth transition, family governance, and philanthropy. In addition to her investment counsel career, she has had over twenty-five years experience in senior leadership positions at Emory University, Claremont McKenna College, Amherst College, and Scripps College. Linda has served as a trustee for numerous educational and non-profit organizations and is a co-founder of a private foundation. She and her husband are the parents of two adult daughters. For more information please visit http://www.
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