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Family movie night offers a lesson in managing wealth across generations

What an 8-year-old left to fend for himself can teach us about the successful transfer of wealth.

June 12, 2019 | Heather Winslow-Walker

Over the past weekend, I had a chance to watch the movie Home Alone, a family favorite. If you've seen it, you probably remember that the family is preparing for the trip of a lifetime to France. The night before they leave, Kevin, the 8-year-old mischievous son and main character, is sent to an attic bedroom for a time-out due to poor behavior. The next morning, the family oversleeps and races to the airport to catch their flight. In their hurry, the family remembers travel essentials such as their tickets, passports, and luggage. But the parents forget one critical element: Kevin, one of their children. The trip of a lifetime goes awry as they realize their oversight and desperately try to get back home to reunite the family.

Often, wealth management planning across generations can be like the Home Alone experience. We have the essential elements, such as our investments, estate plan, and trust documents. But we leave out a critical piece that mitigates the overall experience and long-term success of a holistic plan: family legacy planning.

As a family legacy specialist for Vanguard Family Legacy Services, I help families design plans to successfully transfer their wealth and legacy to future generations. I help them identify and understand their collective vision. I help them navigate unique family dynamics so they can effectively communicate and develop a long-term plan to preserve wealth. And I help them think through how to provide preinheritance experiences to the heirs so they're ready to receive the inheritance when the time comes.

Planning my family's legacy

I've worked at Vanguard for 18 years. My background in psychology, business, and education qualifies me to work with families, but what makes me truly excel at my job is my family. I married my husband, Chris, the same year I started at Vanguard. We have 2 boys, Ryan, 12, and Justin, 8 (who coincidentally resembles Kevin from Home Alone). They're my greatest contribution to this world.

Chris and I want to create a family dynamic that encourages our boys to feel confident about who they are. We want Ryan and Justin to always feel welcome in our home and have it be a safe space for them to enjoy being around each other and us. We want our legacy to be the values by which we live—a strong work ethic, authenticity, creativity, and spirituality. As Chris and I create our estate plan, we hope any wealth we transfer will perpetuate our values in Ryan's and Justin's lives (and in generations to come).

I came to know my vision and values by applying what I teach others about creating and sustaining their legacy to my life. I brought my family together to create a common vision and improve our communication skills. I worked with a fellow legacy specialist to capture my family story and my values. We have regular family meetings during which we revisit our vision, make decisions together, and mentor our sons, the next generation. It hasn't always been a smooth journey, but it's been one of the most rewarding experiences in my life. And I know what we accomplish today has the power to improve the lives of future generations.

When it comes to family legacy planning, you're not (home) alone

At Vanguard, we know successful wealth transfer across generations involves 2 interconnected components: preparing to pass on (1) what you own through investment and estate planning and (2) who you are through legacy planning. You're a valued Vanguard client, and we're committed to supporting and guiding you with our holistic perspective on wealth to make sure your legacy endures across generations.

Your experience may be like Home Alone. You may have the essential elements in place to ensure successful wealth transfer across generations, but you may be missing one critical piece: the family legacy plan. We're here to help you every step of the way in creating a holistic wealth management plan. Contact your Vanguard representative to get started on your family journey. I promise it will be the trip of a lifetime.

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