Last week I discussed the opportunity to pass on to our families our bedrock principles. Some refer to this as our social capital. Our inheritance may be large or small, but the beliefs and wisdom we have gained over decades should be far more valuable than cash 100 years from now, assuming the globe is still spinning then.
Consider what you know about your great-grandparents or their parents. According to a survey by Ancestry.com in February 2007, half of Americans know either none or only one of their eight great grandparents’ names. Even though I know their names, I have no clear grasp of their values. They might have been wonderful or as easily been horrible people! So, how might I try to overcome that lack of knowledge for my great-grandchildren?
We must be intentional and make concerted efforts to communicate. Does anything special happen in this life without intentionality? Since I am not a great planner/plodder, I admire those who are. I can provide a dozen great ideas, but following all the way through to implementation is difficult. Let me share some strategies, and I will appreciate hearing from you about your own experiences and ideas.
For matters of the heart, the simplest solution may be for us to write letters to our future descendants explaining life’s lessons we have learned. We can update them as we age further and make more mistakes along the way, thereby gaining more wisdom. With self-publishing now being possible at moderate cost, we can write lengthier accounts in book form of the lives of our grandparents, our parents and ourselves. What were our motivations in life? How did we fail and succeed in our various efforts?
Wealthy people are paying thousands of dollars to produce professional videos of themselves explaining these matters for posterity. I have a friend in a nearby state who performs this function in connection with family intergenerational meetings.
With as quickly as technology has been changing, I have no idea how such communications will be produced and saved over the next few decades, much less for a hundred years or more. (What if your grandparents did this for you in Betamax and are long since passed? Hopefully their old equipment will still play the videocassettes.) Will today’s formatted materials still be retrievable from the cloud? I’m not going to worry too much about it. Whatever happens, our writings should be easier to understand decades from now than Egyptian hieroglyphics were in the 19th century.
What else can be passed down? Experiences together. Almost any experience can be an opportunity for learning. Recently at the University of Wisconsin, it became clear that many young people do not know details of our national history, since they labeled Abraham Lincoln a slave owner whose statue must come down.
Since I believe our American history is incredibly important, as our children were in the fifth grade studying it for the first time, I arranged for a special separate trip for each of them. We visited places like Plymouth Rock, the Mayflower II, the Revolutionary War sites in Boston, Concord and Lexington, Mystic Seaport, and other eventful places in New England. (The Mayflower II is being restored at Mystic Seaport in Connecticut in preparation for the 400th anniversary of its arrival in Massachusetts in 2020.)
Today as we give thanks to God for our incredible blessings, let’s talk with our families about those things that matter most to us. That will be a good start. And we will still be stuffed with good food and get enough football watched.
Ron Finke is president of Stewardship Capital in Independence. He is a registered investment adviser. Reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org.