Wealth education: one pretention too much?

October 5, 2009

The ultra wealthy have finally found something that is too pretentious.


English-style horseback riding lessons? Fine. Summers split between five different country houses? Also fine. 


But, how about enforced wealth education for the next generation? As in, teaching the kids how different types of investments actually work and how to enjoy the family fortune without instantly frittering it away? Now that smacks of pretension, especially for the kids, who are used to spending the ‘rents riches without having to think too hard about the dirty green stuff itself.


“Wealth education for my kids? Well that seems pretty pretentious,” said Wells Fargo Family Wealth managing director of family dynamics Keith Whitaker, describing the feelings of some of his ultra-rich clients at the Reuters Global Wealth Management Summit in Boston.


“There’s still that inner feeling ‘Am I doing something that’s pretentious? Is this somehow elitist of me?’”


“People will spend money on wonderful, elite things . . . but the focus on making your children into better wealth holders? It frankly feels undemocratic,” he said.


But several wealth managers said such an education is increasingly a priority for wealthy families – and at least one advisor is test-driving some of the concepts on his own kids.


“My two sons are both from Massachusetts but my two daughters are from Moscow, from the same orphanage in Moscow,” said BNY Mellon Family Wealth Services managing director Thomas Rogerson.


“Our kids manage a vacation and our kids manage some of the philanthropy. They’re combining the two together this year. We’re going to Moscow to show our daughters the orphanage they came from and we’re incorporating their philanthropy,” he said.


“If you have a chance to see the rock stars you can get a little bit deluded, but when you have a chance to see the people at the other end of the spectrum it can kind of give you a sense of, ‘You know? Things are okay,’” said Rogerson, who advises clients to kick off wealth education by having the kids help manage small philanthropy projects. 

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