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Think Bigger by Michael W. Sonnenfeldt

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LESSON 35Don’t Give Your Kids Anything—But Be Willing to Invest Everything in Them

I think I have your attention. And that’s good because passing on wealth to your children is an extremely important issue that business founders should start thinking about sooner rather than later. It’s certainly a concern that I’ve been grappling with as my children graduate from college.

And after sitting through 300 meetings over a span of 19 years, I can confidently say that the number one question on the minds of most of our members is: How do I support my children without spoiling them or destroying their ambition?

Many members are willing to admit that they might not have been as present for their children as they would have liked when their children were growing up, but now they’re eager to do the right thing for their kids. What percentage of one’s wealth should they leave them, they ask, and at what age? Should it be left equally to each child? Or is there another more equitable basis on which the wealth might be distributed?

Love comes in many forms, and among a good deal of wealthy people I know, that form of love is tough love. Some people I know will insist on leaving only a small portion of their wealth to their children or delaying the process until after their own deaths, when their children might already be middle-aged or older. The motivation is all too frequently to toughen up the kids by forcing them to be successful on their own because “they’ve already received so many ...

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