How to Write a Multi-generational Family Values Statement – Step Three

Our family (my spouse and I, our two sons and their wives) have been working on a values statement for quite some time. I have written about our past steps in:

How to Write A Multi-generational Family Values Statement – Step One
How to Write a Multi-generational Family Values Statement – Step Two.

In this years family meeting, we once again kicked the topic to the curb to work on outside the meeting.

Since my last post on the subject, I took all of the answers everyone supplied to several questions (which I hoped would elicit thoughts on what values we hold dear) and combined them into one statement which ended up being rather long.

It had a section explaining why we are trying to come up with common values; sections listing things we want our future generation family members to be and to have; a section for the values themselves and a final section (to bring things home and make them more real), naming each of our grandchildren and step-grandchildren and what we as a family hope that they will be able to do using our values.

The statement was over 600 words long, coming in at 2 pages.

We decided it was too long. At the meeting we (the working committee) promised to each work on this draft to shorten it up. We let the boys decide how long we had to get the job done (since we are retired and have more time, I didn’t want to impose deadlines that might be unrealistic for them).

Surprisingly, both boys were swift to complete the task. I finished my shortened version today.

Help us out by picking your favorite from our three versions!!!

Version One:

As a family, we value

  • Strong personal character
  • Physical, mental, spiritual health
  • Sense of humor
  • Smart lifestyle choices
  • Positive relations with family and others

In more depth:

Strong personal character

There are many components/meanings to having a strong personal character.

Here are some of the many traits we want to encourage.

  • Perseverance
  • Self-sufficiency
  • Accountability
  • Healthy Skepticism
  • Conscious awareness

Perseverance

Be able to keep progressing towards your goals, accomplish something every day.

Self-sufficiency

Do not expect others to take care of you, be able to take care of yourself and your family.

Do not let others impose their agenda on you.

Accountability

Take responsibility for your own destiny and actions.

You make your own future, do not accept what others impose on you.

Be trustworthy, be honest.

Healthy Skepticism

Don’t everything at face value and be skeptical about the underlying motivations of those who want to lead us, advise us or profit from us.

Skepticism will bring out the best in upstanding people and institutions and will bring out the worst in those that are dishonest and corrupt.

By asking questions and observing the reactions and responses of those we’re questioning, we’re able to discover who we’re really dealing with and make informed choices with respect to them.

To question things is to take back control of our lives, because knowledge and understanding bring us power and choice and enable us to act on our own behalf in the best, most informed manner.

Conscious awareness

Do not be willfully ignorant, avoid knowledge or be trapped in denial.

The only way to be in charge of our own existence is to see the truth for what it is. This enables us to access our true feelings, clarify our wants and needs and make fully informed choices.

Physical, mental, spiritual health

Maintain all aspects of your health, do not let one get out of balance.

Strive for wisdom, intelligence, ingenuity, knowledge

Sense of humor

Be able to laugh at—or at least see the humor in—life’s absurdities – including your own..

Smart lifestyle choices

  • Plan for the future, but live in the present.
  • Be open to experiencing new things and places
  • Value simplicity – Avoid unnecessary complexity without sufficient reward
  • Never stop learning.

Positive relations with family and others

  • Be empathetic and respectful of others and have confidence and respect for yourself
  • Stay involved with family
  • Avoid negativity; knowingly causing others pain
  • Strive to be a leader – taking action when something needs doing so that you are a productive and caring member of society

Version Two

Whereas we wish our future family members to be:

  • healthy, happy, knowledgeable, hardworking, ingenious, humorous and active

and to have:

  • knowledge of family, a foundation of resources and an entrepreneurial attitude and aptitude

We now set forth the following shared value messages to help guide our family towards the above:

  • Pursue independence and self-sufficiency – so that you can take care of yourself and your family
  • Take care of your body, mind and spirit – to maintain your health and remain active
  • Be accountable – taking responsibility for your own destiny and your own actions
  • Don’t postpone life, plan for the future, but live in the present

Using the values messages above, we hope that all current and future descendants of our family will be able to:

  • Become independent, self-supporting adults.
  • Make small changes everyday to the world and their own life to effect personal and social change.
  • Understand that knowledge can be found – they can seek answers and gain knowledge.

Version Three

Our family members value the following traits, and pledge to teach these values to their next generations:

Strength of character.

Pursue ethical behavior even when others aren’t and no one is watching. Develop the ability to persist in meeting your goals, persistence is largely responsible for success. Respect yourself, and respect others. Practice empathy. Be accountable for your actions and for making positive changes in your world as a leader and a follower, take the initiative. Don’t mindlessly accept limitations imposed by others. Recognize and tolerate that divergent political, religious and cultural differences exist.

Independence.

Work hard to acquire the financial, physical and mental resources to be self-sufficient and decide your own fates. Seek knowledge, wisdom and common sense. Utilize tools and technology appropriately, but be able to stand without them. Maintain all aspects of physical, mental and spiritual heath – in balance. Don’t always take everything at face value and be skeptical about the underlying motivations of those who want to lead us, advise us or profit from us.

Love of life.

Laugh – at life and yourself. Plan for the future but live in the present. Be open to new experiences and places. Keep things simple when possible. Keep learning. Life is a journey, make it fun.

Family unity.

Understand and preserve your families histories to know what makes us unique as a family. Maintain beneficial relationships with family members and build/use a foundation of resources (a base set of examples, assets, knowledge, contacts, etc) together. Become a family which marches through generations with intention.

Please vote for one version only, in the comments below.

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Asset Allocation – Make It Your Own

Investments do better if you spread out your risks over various asset types. The goal of allocating to different classes is to have some that do well in good times and have others that do well in bad times. Having the best allocation can trump having the best specific investments in investment return over time.

According to the Securities and Exchange Commission Beginners’ Guide to Asset Allocation, Diversification, and Rebalancing:

“Asset allocation involves dividing an investment portfolio among different asset categories, such as stocks, bonds, and cash. The process of determining which mix of assets to hold in your portfolio is a very personal one. The asset allocation that works best for you at any given point in your life will depend largely on your time horizon and your ability to tolerate risk.”

Over the years, I’ve had a couple of investment ‘professionals’ attempt to guide me on what my asset allocation should be. I’ve also read a lot of books and articles that try to give advice. There are even online calculators that try to guide me on how to allocate my assets, such as this one from Iowa’s government site or this one from Bank Rate.

What none of these people or things know, however, is my total asset and income base (because I don’t share it) or my financial goals for the assets being allocated.

Most advice and many of the calculators are geared to weigh your age very heavily. For instance, with the bank rate calculator, entering age 21 vs age 66 with all other factors being equal (including the need for zero income) indicates that the 21 year old should have 96% of her assets in stocks while the 66 year old should only have 52%.

In addition, most advice and most calculators only include the mix of stocks vs bonds vs cash. We have (and you probably do as well) other types of assets as well.

Because we are over 60 and retired, most advice we get says to put lots of our assets in nice safe secure things like cash and bonds.  What they don’t know is that we live off current income and don’t need the principal from our investments and soon won’t need the dividends or capital gains either.  We are building long term family wealth to pass along to our next generations.  There is no way we want or need to be invested so conservatively!

How do you make an asset allocation model your own?

An asset allocation model merely shows you what percent of your assets to put into which asset categories. You set the percents and the categories based on your own goals.  Your goals may change from year to year and from life event to life event.

General economic conditions may affect your allocation. Your health may affect it. If you get married, have a child, move or get a different job, your allocation might be affected.

You can’t rely on professionals to do this for you, even if you are part of the uber rich. In Strategy for the Wealthy Family, author Mark Haynes Daniell says:

“In an attempt to repackage their in-house products in a more “custom tailored” fashion, and in part to justify larger management fees, many brokers and bankers send out youg and inexperienced staff members to develop an asset allocation model for their customers.” p 246

If you have a moderate degree of wealth – enough say to qualify to be a Vanguard Flagship client, you may be advised by one of Vanguard’s representatives on what your asset allocation should be. They are pretty upfront with the fact that their representative is going to compose your allocation using all Vanguard funds!

You might be tempted to use what Daniell calls “cookie cutter portfolios” which are really very basic variations of high risk, moderate and low risk allocations.

Any financial adviser is probably going to go on the safe side in his or her advice to you. They don’t want to be responsible for losing your money, they don’t want to be sued. Consequently they are going to recommend a more conservative approach.

So how do you build your own asset allocation model?

Everyone has their own method. Here is what I did.

Step one: List long and short term goals.

Step two: Make sure you have enough cash and cash equivalents to handle your short term goals and your ongoing living expenses plus any emergency expenditures.  You don’t want to have to cash out of stocks or bonds in an economic downturn just to meet short term goals and living expenses.

Step three: Think about how much risk you and your partner(s) can handle. Will you be tempted to sell in a downturn if you have too much invested in a certain way? Will you be able to sleep at night if things go haywire? and etc.  If you can’t sleep at night, it won’t pay to take on a lot of risk.

Step four: Determine the length of time until your long term goals become reality.

Are you saving for retirement, kid’s college, a down payment on a house, etc. When will those things happen? How many years are left to meet the goals?  You want to plan to have those assets in liquid form at the time those things will happen.

Step five: Become familiar with various types of assets – beyond the basic stocks, bonds and cash. You might be in a position to invest in real estate or REITs. You might be comfortable keeping part of your stash in collectibles (like artwork or antique cars) or in gold or silver. Perhpas you want to get into private equity or personal lending (as in the Lending Tree site).

Step six: Learn about ways to diversify. Even within a specific asset class, such as stocks, you can allocate different amounts to different geographic regions, different industries, different size companies and etc. The same holds true with bonds and cash.

Step seven: Look at what you already have and decide what asset type and what diversification type within asset class those are.

Step eight: Write down the asset classes in which you want to invest. For example, you might have a list that looks like the below:

  • Real Estate – rental property
  • Real Estate – REIT
  • Real Estate – personal home
  • Real Estate – undeveloped land
  • Stocks – International emerging
  • Stocks – Global large cap
  • Stocks – Domestic pharmaceutical
  • Stocks – Domestic energy
  • Stocks – Domestic commodity
  • Bonds – Long term tax free muni’s
  • Bonds – Corporate high yield
  • Cash – emergency currency and coin
  • Cash – Bank accounts for savings
  • Cash – T-Bills or CDs
  • Cash – gold and/or silver coins
  • and etc

Step nine: Based on all of the above, denote percentages for each asset class and each diversification area within class.

Step ten: Figure out where current assets fit, how much money you need to put into each class and start putting assets into each asset allocation category you built.

Step eleven: Review at least annually and revise/reallocate as needed.

Do you have a method to figure out your own custom asset allocation?  If so, what do you do?

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Holiday Gift Suggestions

Christmas is a wonderful time of the year, but every year my spouse and I end up scratching our heads over what to get those on our list. If you are in that boat too, here are a few suggestions I’ve put together.

To teach the kids about money in a fun way, why not get them a game?
A few years back, I collected what I saw as the best money games for kids. Best Holiday Buys to Teach Kids about Money.

I also put together a post on Best Holiday Buys to Learn About Money & Investing.
 

If you are having a hard time figuring out what to give the parents, why not consider a trip, or even a family reunion. We own a vacation condo and enjoy it most when our kids are there with us. Checkout Homeaway – which lets you: Rent the perfect vacation home.

Maybe you know someone who is using the free (and sometimes not very effective security software. You might get them a subscription to Webroot. It has kept the cyber bugs at bay for us so far! Here is a link for a deal:   SAVE 50% on Webroot SecureAnywhere Internet Security Plus 2015. Only $29.99 (Reg.Price $59.99) Perfect Protection for online. Limited Time Only!

Treat your whole family to a new TV. Walmart is having some great sales, like this one:
Samsung 55″ 1080p 240Hz Class LED Smart HDTV, UN55H7150 – Was $1,899.99, Now Only $997.99 at Walmart.com!

For those who have everything, what about an experience vacation? Expedia has deals to beaches:  Expedia.ca: Have Some Sun and Visit Sunny Florida! Save Up to 30% on Your Vacation at Expedia!

The very best you can give anyone is the gift of your time and attention. Visit that great-Aunt in the nursing home for a few hours. Go see those adorable grandchildren. Invite the parents over for dinner. Get together with your siblings and catch up on what’s new and reminisce about the good old days.

Disclaimer:  I am part of affiliate advertising programs.  Some of the above links will, if a purchase is made, compensate me with a very small percentage of your sale.  Help support this website!  Thanks.

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Financial Lessons for Your Horse Lover

Teaching children about money and the values that surround it is an important, but often neglected parental duty.  I’ve written several stories aimed at children that attempt to convey the money messages I’ve learned and want my grandchildren to assimilate.

I’ve labelled them Financial Fables.  My Granddaughter’s favorites are the ones about horses.  She is 7 and has been nuts for horses for 2 years already!

At her request, I’ve started writing the Whinny series stories (there are currently 3 and more in the works) to PDF style books and am offering all of them to you for a small charge.

The PDF versions of the stories are an easy gift idea for your little horse lover.  I’ve recently discovered that (if downloaded to your PC), the PDF software can read the story aloud for you!  I haven’t, however, found a way for that to happen when viewing a PDF online, so if you know a way to make that happen, please drop me a note!

Here are the Whinny stories now available – for only $1.79 each!  They are only available here.  Join me in helping the next generation learn great money values.

Just email using our contact form if you would like to purchase them and I will send you a printable pdf.  I will invoice you from Paypal for the payment.  You can pay with credit card or Paypal balance. Continue reading

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Six Easy Estate Plan Checkup Tasks

No one likes to think about death and no one likes to spend precious time dealing with something that will happen after they die. You are doing this only for those who come after, to make things easier for them to handle your affairs they way you specified. Even if you have already done the exercise of setting up an estate plan, you do have to keep it up to date. Here are six checkup tasks to do once a decade or when you know something has changed. Continue reading

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