The Dark Underbelly of Wealth, and How to Save Your Kids from It
The desire to bless our children, is God-given, but without careful thought can sometimes backfire. There’s a point where passing down wealth can cause irreparable damage to your children’s lives. When we speak about estate plans, there’s a lot at stake.
It’s not about money. It’s not prestige. It’s about our children — and our children’s children.
We all want the best for our children, and so we work hard to leave them an inheritance that will help them live the best life possible. It’s natural for a parent to give all they can to their children without a second thought. But there’s a hidden, dark side to wealth.
Most people don’t know how dangerous money is — or worse, they don’t want to think about it.
The truth is wealth has been a menace that has ruined many lives and destroyed many families.
“For the love of money is a root of all kinds of evils. It is through this craving that some have wandered away from the faith and pierced themselves with many pangs.” – 1 Timothy 6:10 (ESV)
The story of King David’s family offers us poignant examples of the potential destruction of vast amounts of unearned wealth.
David was a nobody, a mere shepherd boy walking his herds through the Judean hills. Through God’s grace and an immense amount of hard work and risk, he amassed great wealth as the king of Israel.
His son, Solomon, inherited the lion share of his father’s wealth. He grew that wealth to the point where silver was as common in Jerusalem as stones (1 Kings 10:27).
After Solomon, the Davidic inheritance fell to Rehoboam. Rehoboam not only lost the bulk of the wealth, but he also lost the kingdom.
Shirtsleeves to shirtsleeves in three generations, not to mention the great tragedy and violence that befell the kingdom.
The Burden of Unearned Wealth
A while back, I was sitting down in my office with a lovely, godly couple who had flown in to speak with me about their estate plan.
The husband came from a privileged and blessed family background. The wife had come from poverty.
They met as young adults, fell in love, and raised a beautiful family together. Now, they had begun the serious conversation about what to do about their sizable estate when they passed on. Our conversation that day revealed the enormous disparity between their views of wealth, well-being, and legacy.
Having been raised in the gilded halls of high society, the husband felt all of that privilege had, in reality, stunted his personal growth. He believed that his personal maturity had been hindered by the fact that he did not have to work his way up in life, as his more seasoned peers had to do. He was reluctant to place the same burden of unearned wealth upon his children.Giving our children everything can be dangerous for them. Make a plan. #estateplan #plannedgiving Click To Tweet
To the wife, his reluctance signaled a lack of love and concern for their children. The emotions she carried about her lowly past went deep. She had been brought up in poverty — and she wanted her children to have no part of that upbringing! And so when the husband and I began discussing the idea of placing a cap of $3 million on each of their children’s inheritance, she wouldn’t have it.
You might think her silly. Or you might think her rightfully concerned for her children’s well being. But I’ve watched this scenario play itself out with families of all kinds of economic levels. It’s not the amount of money we’re talking about that makes any difference.
When we speak about stewarding our God-given resources, it’s how you view the role of money in your children’s lives that counts.
There is a point when inheriting greater amounts of wealth will do your children more harm than good. But as parents, it’s difficult to talk about. Our natural instinct to give all that we have to our children is strong (and noble). There are also times when we simply don’t know what questions to ask.
The Unasked Question
I once spoke with a couple who were selling their multi-million dollar business. We were talking through the sales process, and I brought up this simple, yet compelling question… How much is enough for your children?
What percent of your estate or what dollar amount is enough to launch your children into their ideal future?
If you can decide on that, you know how much is enough, and you’ll avoid harming your children with more wealth than they can handle.How much is enough for your children? How much is too much? #estateplan #stewardship #plannedgiving Click To Tweet
The husband said, “No one’s ever asked us that question. But it’s so important!”
Eventually, they came up with a number that was a fraction of the amount they would have placed in their kids’ revocable living trust. They had decided what was truly enough to be helpful to their children’s future, and how much would have been potentially destructive.
Because they capped their children’s inheritances to a level that was truly beneficial, they were able to keep the inheritances within the tax-free range. They cut the capital gains tax on the sale of the business dramatically. But even better, they were able to give those tax savings to the different ministries they cared about.
As for the earlier couple, they’re still working this out. It’s an ongoing conversation, and I’m proud of them for praying, thinking, and talking about it!
Have you started this important conversation with your spouse? Do you know how much is enough to launch your children into their futures — and how much would be harmful to them?
A Helpful Guide
To get the answers to these profound and sometimes troubling questions, you may want a guide to help steer the conversation and bring clarity to the legal or financial details of the conversation.
Someone from the outside with no agenda, no commissions, and nothing to sell. Just a well-informed person helping you ask the right questions. That’s why The Giving Crowd is here.
We’re here to help you work through these critical yet complex conversations so that you can best steward the resources God has given you. The call is free, and there’s no obligation. Let’s talk!