The importance of a family mission statement

Minneapolis / St. Paul Business Journal Leadership Trust
By Sharon Olson, President, CFP and Nicole Scanlon, J.D., Managing Director, Family Wealth. Olson Wealth Group brings wise counsel and clear strategies to deliver real-life returns for generational wealth.

My company helps families build wealth and pass it down through generations. But of course, it’s more than just wealth that people want to transfer to their children. Parents want to ensure that their children are successful overall, which brings into play the question of how to pass down personal values. That has become just as important as teaching them how to maintain wealth that cascades through generations.

In a broader context, the family mission statement is intended to articulate the values, philosophy, vision and goals of the family. Contained within the mission statement is often a model that the family chooses to operate and a summary of important and distinguishing characteristics of the family. These words become somewhat like a family motto that summarizes the essence of your family identity.

A family mission statement may address some foundational questions, such as who you are as a family, how you’d like to be perceived, what you value, how you’d like to operate and how you’d like to make a positive contribution to society.

While the family mission statement communicates a broad consensus of shared values and purpose, it also identifies that within each family member there is an independent voice that reflects self-sufficiency and individuality.

Seen as a summary of the bedrock on which the family operates, the family mission statement provides a clear set of ideals and serves as guidance for current and future generations. This guidance often comes to life when families are faced with decisions around wealth creation and legacy planning. A family mission statement is particularly helpful when dealing with questions around philanthropic giving and wealth planning. Without a family mission statement, the family ideals around philanthropy and legacy can seem disjointed.

For example, one of my clients inherited a large sum of money from her mother. She and her husband decided to include their two children in creating a family mission statement. By including your children in the process, you can help them feel as though it’s not a top-down directive and they have some say in the various organizations you choose to support.

While all families can benefit from creating a family mission statement that reiterates the family’s sense of purpose, this is especially true for wealthy families who are particularly concerned with how to communicate shared values around their wealth. Family legacies, economic and otherwise, often create entitlements and dependencies across subsequent generations. For that reason, some families wish to establish a statement in which their beliefs around money are consistent with their shared values. In this case, the family mission statement should address ideals such as self-sufficiency, leading a life of true meaning and making a positive contribution to society.

Families often find the assistance of a third party helpful in engaging the entire family. In many cases, the family’s financial advisor or team of advisors is called to help facilitate this meeting. Families particularly interested in creating familial cohesiveness may even employ the help of a family office that serves as a trusted advisor for current and future generations. In this role, the family office helps weave together priorities that are important to all with the family’s overall financial objectives. The result is a mission statement that is reflected throughout the family’s wealth planning and investment objectives.

In the end, cultivating strong family roots begins with establishing a proper foundation. This foundation is created when family members have a shared sense of values and purpose around their goals. Families can establish unity and cohesion in their financial lives when their shared vision is expressed in a family mission statement.

The information provided here is not investment, tax or financial advice. You should consult with a licensed professional for advice concerning your specific situation.

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