You’ve worked hard and created a nice life for yourself. You made your kids’ lives easier, so they didn’t have to go through the same struggles that you did. You also wanted to make up for working as many hours as you did when your kids were growing up. So, maybe you gave them nice things to show your love. And now somehow, your kids have too much emphasis on material things.
What will happen when your kids inherit from you? Will they squander their inheritance on more material things? Of course, you don’t want that. You’ve tried talking to them about it, and it just ends up in an argument.
So, what can you do? This blog will give you three suggestions.
First, we suggest having a conversation with your kids. This will probably be a different type of conversation than you’ve had before. We suggest using active listening (which we will discuss below).
Don’t have time to read this blog? You can get a script for having a conversation with your kids here …
Second, we suggest updating your estate plan so that when you die, your kids won’t be able to simply spend their inheritance on material things. Even if they didn’t learn self-restraint growing up, you can have a trust that distributes money as your kids are ready (rather than just handing them one big check).
Finally, it helps to have an experienced third-party consultant facilitate the conversation with your family. It is inherently difficult for you to oversee the conversation. You are a key player in the relationship. It’s hard for you to be both a participant in the conversation and the person trying to resolve conflict.
Keep reading to learn more.
Have a Conversation with Your Kids
If you are like a lot of our clients, you have already tried talking to your kids. Maybe you’ve tried to convince them that they should have different values. You tried telling your kids that they should stop focusing on material things … and instead focus on serving others, or giving, or being thankful.
And that hasn’t worked.
The reality is that trying to convince your kids to stop focusing on material things doesn’t work. However, there are two ‘magic words’ that work wonders in engaging in a difficult conversation like this. Learn those two ‘magic words’ in our Free Script …
Also, there is an approach that is proven to work when trying to bring about change in another person. It is called active listening.
Use Active Listening
The best approach to starting a conversation about how your kids have too much emphasis on material things is called active listening. ‘Active listening’ is the term given by psychologists Carl Rogers and Richard Farson in 1957 in a paper of the same title.
Passive Listening Doesn’t Work
Active listening is the opposite of passive listening. Passive listening is how we normally communicate in everyday conversation. It is little more than hearing. Passive listening is listening without reacting. It is allowing someone to speak, without interrupting. Not doing anything else at the same time, and yet not paying attention to the other person is saying. Passive listening is one-way communication. You are listening, but you don’t provide feedback or ask questions. As a result, you may or may not understand what the other person is trying to communicate.
Passive listening does not build relationships. And it doesn’t bring about changes in the person speaking.
Use Active Listening Instead
In contrast, active listening is an important way to bring about changes in people. It is one of the most effective agents for change in both an individual and a group (such as a family). Active listening brings changes in peoples’ attitudes toward themselves and others. It shapes their basic values and personal philosophy.
Active listening shows that you understand what the other person is experiencing.
When you reflect back to a person what the other person said, you show that you’ve been listening. You show that you not only heard what the person said. Instead, you genuinely understand the feelings or messages the other person is trying to convey.
This creates an environment that allows the speaker (in this case, your child) to go deeper. Sometimes the speaker can even come to new realizations. It’s the basis for trust and respect. It’s also the foundation you need to be a more effective leader within your family.
Learning practical listening skills takes practice. If you really want to learn to become a good listener, you can get a book on the subject. Or even better yet, hire a trained consultant to help guide the conversation. (The third suggestion below.)
However, if you want to get started right away, we have provided a quick script with instructions. Even if you’re not yet a master at active listening, you can simply use this script. You will have better results than without it.
How to Use the “Kids Have Too Much Emphasis on Material Things” Script
Everything goes better with a plan. This free script will help prevent you from freezing during the conversation. It will also help keep you from getting into the same old argument you had in the past.
Here’s what you get:
- The two magic words to use when engaging in active listening.
- You get guidelines for how to go about the conversation.
- An actual script that you can use when talking to your kids about their emphasis on material things.
To download a sample script for talking to your kids about this topic, click the link below.
This is not meant to sound like a play or movie script. You need to talk naturally.
However, don’t throw the whole thing out either. Some of these phrases will sound unnatural because you aren’t used to communicating this way. That’s part of the problem.
As Albert Einstein said, “Insanity is doing the same thing over and over and expecting different results.” If you want a different result, you need to do something different.
So, here is how you go about getting prepped for the conversation with your kids:
First, Read the Script Out Loud
I suggest reading the script out loud in front of mirror. You want to be confident and relaxed when you start the conversation. And without some prior practice, the script may feel unnatural and uncomfortable to you. Don’t start the conversation with your kids feeling uncomfortable. Practice beforehand, so you can be relaxed and help guide the process.
If you want to go a step further, find someone who is familiar with how your child talks and acts. Have your spouse or a close friend pretend to be that child. Then role play with the script. Again, the purpose of doing this is to get comfortable talking to another person.
Second, Be Alert and Relaxed When You Have the Conversation
Don’t prepare for the conversation with alcohol or drugs.
Also don’t be overly tired when you try to have the conversation.
Active listening requires that you be alert.
Finally, Schedule the Conversation
A good time to have this conversation is over a meal. Everything goes better over food.
I probably wouldn’t warn your kids that “There’s something super important we need to talk about.” That will create an unnecessary stress. Just schedule a time together, and then bring up the conversation.
Are you ready to get started, get your Free Script for talking with your kids here …
Update Your Estate Plan So Your Kids Can’t Blow Their Inheritance
If you’re concerned that your kids have too much emphasis on material things, then definitely don’t enable them to spend their inheritance on material things when you die.
Most professional advisors don’t know how to prevent your kids from blowing their inheritance. It’s easier to get you focused on other things, and then sell you a solution for those issues.
We do things differently than most professional advisors. We want the inheritance to “stick” when it gets handed down to the next generation. Most other estate planning lawyers are merely focused on getting the money to the next generation … without any concern for what happens with the money later.
For example, here is how common professional advisors approach the topic.
- Life Insurance Agents. Life insurance agents get paid a commission for selling life insurance. There is no incentive for them to prevent your kids from quickly spending the insurance money after you die.
As a result, most life insurance agents write up the policies and have the insurance proceeds payable outright to the surviving spouse or kids. So, if your kids have too much emphasis on material things, they will use the big life insurance check to buy a bunch of material things.
- The Solution: Don’t have the life insurance paid outright. Avoid your kids squandering the life insurance by having the life insurance proceeds payable to a trust. That trust should have a trustee who is not the kids. A trust company is an excellent option here. You could also use a trusted family member who has the “spine” to stand up to your kids’ pressure to keep doling out more money. Distributions from the trust should be discretionary. Don’t use outright distributions because that defeats the whole purpose here. And probably don’t allow for distributions for “maintenance and support.” That would set your kids up on a monthly allowance, that would also defeat the purpose.
- Estate Planning Attorneys. Estate planning attorneys tend to use two options when drafting wills or trusts. The first option is to simply give the money outright to your heirs. As discussed in the previous paragraph about life insurance, if your kids have too much emphasis on material things, then an outright distribution could result in them blowing the money on … well … material things. Not the result you want.
The second option that estate planning attorneys tend to use is to allow for distributions for “health, education, maintenance or support.” This sets up your heirs to be beggars. They must keep coming to the trustee and asking for money. If the trustee gets tired of the constant phone calls, they may set your kids up on a monthly allowance.
Of course, this monthly allowance stifles your kids’ incentive to work and be productive.
And there are three even worse problems here …
Problem #1: Your kids’ monthly allowances may result in the trust running out of money before they die. In a worst case scenario, your kids will live comfortable lives (without having to work hard) up until they reach retirement age. Then the trust may run out. At that point, your kids will have to consider getting jobs (at retirement age) or start cutting back on their lifestyle at the time when most people want to start relaxing and enjoying life.
Problem #2: Your kids’ monthly allowances last throughout their lifetimes. However, their kids (your grandkids) have only experienced having a comfortable life without their parents (your kids) needing to work hard. Your grandkids now have a sense of entitlement … without a work ethic. That’s a recipe for disaster. They will have expensive tastes without any training about how to work and achieve the things they want.
With Problem #2, you put your grandkids in a worse situation than if your family never had money. With expensive tastes and no work ethic, your grandkids will be angry, miserable, and disappointed.
Problem #3: Your values don’t get passed down. You probably value a willingness to work hard, being personally responsible, and using your talents to make the world a better place. None of those values get passed down to your next generations if your estate plan has any of the typical language in it that most estate planning attorneys use.
- The Solution: Use a Dynasty Trust. This type of trust is designed to pass on wealth from generation to generation in a tax-advantaged environment. Families can avoid being subject to gift tax, estate tax, and generation-skipping transfer tax as long as the assets remain in the trust.
The key difference between a dynasty trust and a traditional trust is time. With a dynasty trust, you can in theory pass down wealth for an unlimited amount of time.
There are no outright distributions. Instead, the trust can require that your kids only get money when they are financially responsible.
Hire a Family Relationship Consultant
If your kids have too much emphasis on material things, it’s hard to be an effective agent of change when you are one of the key participants. Put another way, you can’t be both the patriarch or matriarch AND at the same time be a neutral person who is trying to resolve conflict in the family.
That’s why our law firm is affiliated with How To Create A Legacy, LLC. The consultants at How To Create A Legacy work in the best interest of your family (as opposed to trying to sell you life insurance or getting money to invest your money with them). A consultant has no ulterior motives other than to resolve conflicts and help your family communicate better.
Quick Summary (What To Do If Your Kids Have Too Much Emphasis on Material Things)
If you are ready to get started, simply download the free sample script below.
Then make sure your estate plan is appropriate for your goals. If your kids have too much emphasis on material thing, then you don’t want your kids to get a lump sum payment when you die. You also don’t want them to be on a monthly allowance. Instead, you want your kids to receive money when they have shown they are financially responsible.
Third, get a consultant involved. A consultant is a neutral third party who is trained to work on relationship and communication issues.
Together these three keys will help your kids become more financially responsible.