By Kip Kolson, Special for USADT
“I undertook great projects: I built houses for myself and planted vineyards. I made gardens and parks and planted all kinds of fruit trees in them. I made reservoirs to water groves of flourishing trees. — I also owned more herds and flocks than anyone — before me. I amassed silver and gold for myself, and the treasure of kings and provinces — as well (as) the delights of a man’s heart. I became greater by far than anyone — before me. In all this my wisdom stayed with me. I denied myself nothing my eyes desired; I refused my heart no pleasure. My heart took delight in all my labor, and this was the reward for all my toil. Yet when I surveyed all that my hands had done and what I had toiled to achieve, everything was meaningless, a chasing after the wind; nothing was gained under the sun.”[i]
“Whoever loves money never has enough; whoever loves wealth is never satisfied with their income. This too is meaningless. As goods increase, so do those who consume them. And what benefit are they to the owners except to feast their eyes on them?[ii] Wealth hoarded to the harm of its owners, or wealth lost through some misfortune, so that when they have children there is nothing left for them to inherit. Everyone comes naked from their mother’s womb, and as everyone comes, so they depart. They take nothing from their toil that they can carry in their hands.”[iii]
I have seen another evil under the sun, and it weighs heavily on mankind: God gives some people wealth, possessions and honor, so that they lack nothing their hearts desire, but God does not grant them the ability to enjoy them, and strangers enjoy them instead.[iv]
Which is greater, having wisdom or having wealth? I realize this is somewhat a trick question because you can have both. I also think of wisdom as a form of wealth. Approximately 3000 years ago a man asked himself that question and went on a journey to uncover the answer. King Solomon is credited with being the wealthiest and wisest man who ever lived. While that may be debatable, it is certainly true he left us with valuable wisdom we can apply to our lives today.
Here is what Solomon discovered, “I also saw under the sun this example of wisdom that greatly impressed me: There was once a small city with only a few people in it. And a powerful king came against it, surrounded it, and built huge siege works against it. Now, there lived in that city a man poor but wise, and he saved the city by his wisdom. – So, I said “Wisdom is better than strength.” –”[v] And wealth!
That leaves us with these possibilities; one can be poor and wise, poor and foolish, wealthy and wise, or wealthy and foolish. Falling back to the proverb, “Shirtsleeves to shirtsleeves in three generations” (70% of family wealth will be lost each time it passes to the next generation, and completely gone in three generations) it seems many wealthy families are in the “wealthy but foolish” category; hence, You Never See a Hearse Pulling a U-Haul Trailer.
A few more questions. Does wealth bring happiness? What is the purpose of wealth? How does one acquire wisdom? What will be the result if wisdom is not acquired? I answer these questions in my book, “You Can Have It All; Wealth, Wisdom, and Purpose” but let us briefly explore them now.
Does wealth bring happiness? It is obvious from the tenor of Solomon’s message, he found wealth did not bring him happiness or contentment. From my article, When the Newsman is The News about the Rupert Murdoch family I offer this quote: “Lachlan and James (brothers) have been the primary contenders for the Murdoch throne. The article says: “It had made for fraught family dynamics, with competing ambitions and ever-shifting alliances. Murdoch was largely responsible for this state of affairs; He had long avoided naming one of his children as his successor, deferring an announcement that might create still more friction within his family, not to mention bringing into focus his own mortality. Instead, Murdoch tried to manage the tensions, arranging for group therapy with his children and their spouses with a counselor in London who specialized in working with dynastic families. There was even a therapeutic retreat to the Murdoch ranch in Australia. But these sessions provided just another forum for power games and manipulation.”
From my article Kobe Bryant; Leader on And Off The Court; These quotes are from an article at heavy.com written by Emily Bicks. “While Kobe, unfortunately, was not on speaking terms with his parents, Joe Bryant and Pam Bryant, since 2013, he remained close with his two older sisters, Sharia Bryant and Shaya Bryant.” “While the family was close growing up and through most of Kobe’s career, they had a huge falling out in 2013 after Pamela and Joe tried selling his memorabilia behind his back.” “Kobe wrote in “Letter to My Younger Self” for The Player’s Tribune in July 2016, “Purely giving material things to your siblings and friends may appear to be the right decision. But the day will come when you realize that as much as you believed you were doing the right thing, you were actually holding them back… Understand that you are about to be the leader of the family, and this involves making tough choices, even if your siblings and friends do not understand them at the time. Invest in their future, don’t just give.”
It seems wealth not only does not provide happiness, it does just the opposite, creating conflicts and destruction.
What is the purpose of wealth? We must provide the basic NEEDS of life for our families, but once that has been achieved and we have enough to last a lifetime, what do we do with the excess? There are only three choices; acquire more things and more expensive things we do not really NEED, pay more taxes, or use it to fulfill each person’s real purpose in life. I believe every human is created with special, and different, talents and abilities that equip them to help others and make the world a better place. Your mission, should you decide to accept it, is to discover what that purpose is for you and each of your children and use your wealth to accomplish these purposes.
Let me refer to my wisdom source. “For we brought nothing into the world, and we can take nothing out of it. But if we have food and clothing, we will be content with that. Those who want to get rich fall into temptation and a trap and into many foolish and harmful desires that plunge people into ruin and destruction. For the love of money is a root of all kinds of evil. Some people, eager for money, have wandered from the faith and pierced themselves with many griefs.”[vi]
How does one acquire wisdom? Unfortunately, in today’s world it will not be found in education, the media, movies, or politics. I have been quoting one of the best sources I know for wisdom in this article and it is literally at our fingertips to access whenever we need it. Two other sources are mentoring, I include parenting in that category, and experience. A primary reason that Shirtsleeves to shirtsleeves dynamic affects so many families is the children are not equipped with sufficient wisdom and experience in managing wealth. Wisdom starts at home and can be supplemented with mentors who have hands-on experience in managing wealth and the trials and tribulations of life. Family Wealth Leadership is such a mentor. But be careful about the mentors you use. Rupert Murdoch would not have been a good mentor. Kobe would be. Hands-on experience (think work and having a job) offers real-time trials and tribulations. It allows children to try and fail or succeed and learn from those experiences. We learn more from our failures than our successes.
Lloyd Reeb, author of Success to Significance and primary spokesperson for the Halftime Institute, says, “Every time you give something to your child, you take something else away. What is your giving depriving your child of?” If you are not encouraging your children to work and gain experience in life, they will surely be deprived of wisdom.
What will be the result if wisdom is not acquired? “They are conceited and understand nothing. They have an unhealthy interest in controversies and quarrels about words that result in envy, strife, malicious talk, evil suspicions and constant friction between people of corrupt mind, who have been robbed of the truth and who think that godliness is a means to financial gain.”[vii]
It is our purpose, our mission, at Family Wealth Leadership to provide families with wisdom that will help them preserve and protect their wealth and their family relationships as their wealth passes through multiple generations. “Command those who are rich in this present world not to be arrogant nor to put their hope in wealth, which is so uncertain, but to put their hope in God, who richly provides us with everything for our enjoyment. Command them to do good, to be rich in good deeds, and to be generous and willing to share. In this way they will lay up treasure for themselves as a firm foundation for the coming age, so that they may take hold of the life that is truly life.”[viii]
My purpose in this article has not been theological, but practical. To provide the reader with wisdom that works for achieving a strong and healthy family that will leave a legacy of joy for the next one hundred years. What is the purpose of wealth? To do good, to be generous, to share, to discover and fulfill your personal purpose, to help your children do the same and then expand that attribute beyond your family to make the world a better place.
The result for people who apply this wisdom. They will lay up treasures for themselves as a firm foundation for the coming age, so that they may take hold of the life that is truly life. When wealth is used to help people, family and non-family, discover who they are and help them live a purposeful life; the true benefactor will always be the giver. You will always receive more than you give.
You will never see a hearse pulling a U-Haul trailer because no one gets to take it with them. In the game of Monopoly, the board, the money, and the pieces all go back in the box. As one wise person so eloquently put it, “Wealth is like manure, it does the most good when it is spread around.” Your four “Ts” of True Wealth are your Time, Talent, Training, and Treasures. Spread them liberally and see how much joy it will bring to you and your family.
[i] Ecclesiastes 2:4-11, New International Version Bible
[ii] Ecclesiastes 5:10-11, New International Version Bible
[iii] Ecclesiastes 5:14-15, New International Version Bible
[iv] Ecclesiastes 6:1-2, New International Version Bible
[v] Ecclesiastes 9:13-16, New International Version Bible
[vi] 1 Timothy 6:7-10, New International Version Bible
[vii] 1 Timothy 6:4-5, New International Version Bible
[viii] 1 Timothy 6:1-19, New International Version Bible
Kip Kolson is the president of Family Wealth Leadership, a multi-family office and family coaching firm, and author of You Can Have It All; Wealth, Wisdom, and Purpose—Strategies for Creating a Lasting Legacy and Strong Family. You can order your copy at Amazon, the FWL website below, or email firstname.lastname@example.org