family and money

the other day, nancy asked an interesting question in her saturday case study:

jeff and his two siblings, a brother and sister, each inherited a sizeable legacy when their parents died. jeff was conservative, and grew his legacy into an even more significant nest egg and is now independently wealthy.

he came to me because there was an unintended consequence to his wisdom: his siblings have very little left to show for their inheritance. he is too uncomfortable to let them know of his secret small fortune in comparison. as you can imagine he then has to hide his lifestyle which has resulted in increasing distance between him and his brother and sister.

what approaches might you suggest to jeff for bridging the gap, while protecting his own inner boundaries about his wealth?

this is an age-old question and i can think of a number of fairy tales with similar dynamics!

if i were to see jeff as a therapist, i might use “miracle questions”:

  • imagine you wake up one morning next year and a miracle has happened: you know that you now have a comfortable relationship with your siblings around money.
  • what would you tell others about your siblings?
  • what kinds of things would you be looking forward to do with your siblings? conversations? family gatherings? little joint projects?
  • how would you be displaying your lifestyle?
  • and what did you do to be so much more comfortable with your siblings?

it’s possible that just having a conversation with these questions as guidelines might bring about a change. for example, maybe talking about family gatherings might help jeff become aware how important they are for him – even more important than the money.

it’s also possible that this whole scenario is only the tip of the iceberg. maybe his relationship with his siblings would be difficult even without the money problem.

another possibility is that the discomfort around the difference in wealth is mostly on jeff’s side. as we all know, a great many problems in relationships stem from lack of communication. unfortunately, we often tend to make up for this insufficient and incomplete communication with imagined scenarios – but most of us are pretty bad mind readers and what we imagine is not quite the case.

but all of these (and more) are just possibilities.

if jeff came to see me, though, i’d do my best to keep these ideas far in the corner of my mind; i want to be as open, curious and receptive as possible when i see a new client. after all, my clients live with themselves 24/7 and are, therefore, much better experts at themselves than i can ever be.

my job is simply to be a midwife – to ask questions they may not have thought of before, to point out a perspective they might have forgotten, to support them in becoming even better experts of their lives.

to paraphrase henley: you are the master of your fate, you are the captain of your soul.

and that includes steering the ship of your financial life. you don’t want that to be captained by fear and discomfort; you want it to be captained by purpose.

now it’s your turn: how would you help jeff?

(if you look closely, you’ll see that this post is included in tony’s crazy surfer’s hullaballo carnival

4 thoughts on “family and money

  1. Rudolf

    This is very cool. What would you say to…. How long have you been doing this? that is, showing examples of a therapy sessions. I think it is an excellent idea.

  2. Rudolf

    This is very cool. What would you say to…. How long have you been doing this? that is, showing examples of a therapy sessions. I think it is an excellent idea.

  3. Rudolf

    I am not a pro-fessional counsellor. But if buddy boy had come to me I would tell him that his money was his. He had used it the best way he knew how, and his siblings had used their inheritance the way they wanted to, and that this is great! It doesn’t matter if they went on a holiday with it, bought new clothes, cars, or just ate out a lot.

    Jeff shouldn’t have to hide his legacy, nor should he feel ashamed that he made an investment of it and that it grew into something larger. Furthermore, he doesn’t have to go into detail about how sizable his investment has become. If he can learn to feel comfortable with his own success, and this is his own work, which he has to engage himself in, he may feel comfortable inviting sibs over for dinner now and again. It doesn’t have to be every month, maybe every 2 months. See what happens at these gettogethers, and if all goes fairly well, keep them up. If not, he could invite them only 3 times a year.

    I would tend to agree that the problems he may feel are under the iceberg are deeper than those associated with having money.

    I don’t, but if I did feel comfortable displaying my wealth or possessions, I would aim for displaying whatever wealth I wanted to. That is the right of the one who has attained or earned it. If he wanted to go further in making his siblings comfortable he should engage them in a conversation regarding what they did with theirs. Acknowledge that they did things that were important to them, and that is great!

    Jeff should let go of any results that occur because of this interchange, particularly if as he surmises, they will be jealous of his achievements. If there are black or gray sheep in the family that is OK. No need for him to judge them for what he may perceive as them having wasted their inheritance. I don’t think that he should make himself feel responsible for the life experience that may have resulted in their so-called “squandering” of Papa’s money.

    If he still feels he wants to help out, he can, in limited ways. Perhaps he wants to help them in some way that requires his money or expertise. However, he should probably not help them start businesses. Then he would be wasting his Papa’s money.

    He may want to keep familial relations going and therefore he should just keep the topic of conversation of subjects that are non-triggering. They may bring up the fact that he has more than they, but he can acknowledge that he feels good about it and them direct the conversation to their other interests, their own children, holidays, activities, and so forth. At times he may find himself saying, “No, that is not something I talk about.”

    If they won’t listen he can kick them out of the house. Bar them, so-to-speak, for a few weeks until they shape up, come to see things his way.

  4. Rudolf

    I am not a pro-fessional counsellor. But if buddy boy had come to me I would tell him that his money was his. He had used it the best way he knew how, and his siblings had used their inheritance the way they wanted to, and that this is great! It doesn’t matter if they went on a holiday with it, bought new clothes, cars, or just ate out a lot.

    Jeff shouldn’t have to hide his legacy, nor should he feel ashamed that he made an investment of it and that it grew into something larger. Furthermore, he doesn’t have to go into detail about how sizable his investment has become. If he can learn to feel comfortable with his own success, and this is his own work, which he has to engage himself in, he may feel comfortable inviting sibs over for dinner now and again. It doesn’t have to be every month, maybe every 2 months. See what happens at these gettogethers, and if all goes fairly well, keep them up. If not, he could invite them only 3 times a year.

    I would tend to agree that the problems he may feel are under the iceberg are deeper than those associated with having money.

    I don’t, but if I did feel comfortable displaying my wealth or possessions, I would aim for displaying whatever wealth I wanted to. That is the right of the one who has attained or earned it. If he wanted to go further in making his siblings comfortable he should engage them in a conversation regarding what they did with theirs. Acknowledge that they did things that were important to them, and that is great!

    Jeff should let go of any results that occur because of this interchange, particularly if as he surmises, they will be jealous of his achievements. If there are black or gray sheep in the family that is OK. No need for him to judge them for what he may perceive as them having wasted their inheritance. I don’t think that he should make himself feel responsible for the life experience that may have resulted in their so-called “squandering” of Papa’s money.

    If he still feels he wants to help out, he can, in limited ways. Perhaps he wants to help them in some way that requires his money or expertise. However, he should probably not help them start businesses. Then he would be wasting his Papa’s money.

    He may want to keep familial relations going and therefore he should just keep the topic of conversation of subjects that are non-triggering. They may bring up the fact that he has more than they, but he can acknowledge that he feels good about it and them direct the conversation to their other interests, their own children, holidays, activities, and so forth. At times he may find himself saying, “No, that is not something I talk about.”

    If they won’t listen he can kick them out of the house. Bar them, so-to-speak, for a few weeks until they shape up, come to see things his way.

  5. isabella mori

    a very interesting response, rudolf! i’m impressed (bowled over?) by how much thought you’ve put into this. i will let nancy know of it, see what she thinks.

  6. isabella mori

    a very interesting response, rudolf! i’m impressed (bowled over?) by how much thought you’ve put into this. i will let nancy know of it, see what she thinks.

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