The Complexities of Life

For more than 20 years I have participated in training sessions, retreats and conferences led by well meaning financial advisors and family coaches focused on working with ‘affluent clients’.  The hot subjects for the past decade appear to be focused on the ‘soft side’ of planning with titles such as “How to Direct a Family Retreat” or “Raising Charitable Kids”.  These are good things and very important yet my experience has taught me that, in order for these scripted events to be fruitful, due primarily to the complexities and difficulties of life and relationships (especially intra-family), there may be larger and more fundamental issues that need to be addressed before planning a ‘retreat’.  Quite simply, mom and dad or grandma and grandpa need to find creative ways to be ‘in relationship’ with their children and grandchildren. Today’s Gen X or Y are extremely perceptive and are skeptical of working with someone they do not know on a very emotional and private issues.  A “family retreat” to discuss philanthropy or what will happen when grandma passes as a required and preliminary step to receiving an inheritance are good things – BUT ONLY in the context of mutually trusting relationship.  There are exceptions, as always, and some families need help beyond what I, or any other family advisor can offer, yet I know that, as patriarch or matriarch, a good, and might I add ‘the best’ first step in making a “retreat” successful is working on being in relationship with family and that means time spent – without an agenda – and the willingness to be vulnerable and admit that if there is strain or ‘complexity’ in a relationship, or relationships, you as a flawed human being might be at least a small part of the problem. Admitting this before the family in a safe setting at the end of a day of fun and relaxation may feel, for the patriarch or matriarch, like a climb to the summit of Everest, but honesty and humility works…almost every time.  In an ideal situation the ‘carrot’ or why the family meets should be  a potentially more meaningful relationship and the ‘stick’ should never (with a few rare exceptions) be money or a description of conditions required to receive it.  I told you ‘the complexities of life make   things difficult”.

Before hiring someone to lead a “family retreat” or “talk” on your behalf, ask yourself how you would feel if you were invited to a similar event.  How would it make you feel if you knew that receiving the “family wealth” was contingent on meeting with someone you don’t know to discuss deeply personal and complex things?  There is a better way.  That’s what the Catalyst Group does and we can help.  We help you find a better and more relationally rewarding way that considers the motivation and response of all parties – the families and the advisor.

In this area I suggest much prayer and care.  Call or email me if you would like an experienced coach to walk you through the complexities of wealth and relationship.

Tom Grimm, email:, phone 615-310-0637