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Families of Affluence

Families of affluence - attained through inheritance, earnings or special circumstances such as receiving sudden wealth.

Individuals attain affluence through inheritance, earnings, or special circumstances - such as receiving ‘sudden wealth’ (e.g., winning the lottery). Individuals who have significant assets have more choices and opportunities than others. Yet having affluence can also present unique issues to individuals and families as they raise their children or consider transferring their wealth to future generations.

There is no cookie-cutter strategy that is effective for every family to manage these issues. Multiple factors influence each of us and our families and the decisions we make. Each of these factors change over time and dynamically interact with one another. Every family needs to consider the impact of their unique values, history, and traditions, as well as the separate strengths, capabilities, age, personality, and desires of each individual family member. Additional factors such as the beliefs, traditions, and experiences of prior generations, cultural characteristics, social or religious customs, political and economic forces, expectations of the family members and others, and communication patterns influence individuals and families as they manage and/or react to wealth. For all of us, our personal sense of self-worth and capability to engage with others are developed in our families, also affected by the above factors.

Each of us and our families change throughout our lives. Family relationships and the expectations of one another develop from each person’s perceptions of themselves and the interactions among family members (as well as the multiple influences and experiences outside the family). For each of us, our feelings about our family connections develop and reflect our sense of closeness and distance; acceptance and rejection; and trust and distrust. The processes by which people accomplish and maintain closeness and/or distance are characterized by communication quantity and quality; physical distance; presence/absence of emotion; positive/negative effect of emotions; desire to be part of the family; reciprocal caring; and legal action.

Social connections and support affect our sense of well-being and health. The impact of the births and interactions of siblings are significant. Studies show that people who have close relationships and support from family, friends and their community are happier, have fewer health problems, and live longer.

Trust and mutual consideration are processes built over years initially in family relationships. Hurts, anger, disappointments, and betrayals, as well as acceptance and understanding of one another, are also built over years. Though these emotional dimensions may change and adapt, they tend to build up over time. When families function well, trust and communication promote the development of positive self-esteem and reciprocal relationships. When families are in a state of dysfunction, distrust and negative interactions have an adverse impact on an individual’s sense of self and interpersonal relations. Emotionally divisive behaviors may occur at any time, especially when the family’s core values are ignored or when the distribution of assets occurs – often between generations, siblings, in-laws, spouses and children from prior marriages, or other relatives. Respect, constructive communication, and commitment can be developed and thus strengthen relationship bonds and understanding.


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