How Current Generations Impact Family Wealth, Business, and Philanthropy

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“You can know a thing to death and be for all purposes completely ignorant of it. A man can know his father or his son and there might still be nothing between them but loyalty and love and mutual incomprehension.”

– Marliynne Robinson, from her book “Gilead,” the 2005 Pulitzer Prize winner for Fiction

Lisa Niemeier, founder of Graymatter Strategies, shared this quote as she began hosting the Purposeful Planning Institute’s (PPI) panel discussion on how the current generations impact family wealth, business and philanthropy.


I was honored to speak on this panel with Alison Comstock Moss, chief strategy officer at Paul Comstock Partners and Sharna Goldseker, Executive Director, 21/64, to offer real-world advice on working between generations in wealth management. Valuable tips were shared, and I’m happy to provide a recording of the panel discussion for you to listen to below. I’ll also provide a time stamp guide of the discussion so you can skip to portions you’d benefit from the most.

The discussion covered five main questions, followed by a rapid-fire question session, and then a Q&A from the audience. Here is a general timeline of the recording.

1. What caused you to make generational perspectives a focus of your business? Why are they important?

I discuss how my background is a little different, since my path to generational perspectives started when I operated hotels and safaris in East Africa. I explain how working with 42 different tribes, each with its own language, ways of seeing the world, and ways of doing business, translated into my interest in generations after returning to the United States.

2. How do you think generational perspectives and bias directly impact family wealth and money?

How do you define generation Y?


I add that the concept of “generations” makes it easier to lump people into groups. Each generation has a culture that we can come to expect. But does everyone fit into that particular culture? Absolutely not. I talk about the real question, which is—how do we bridge the generational gap?

3. Why do you think generational biases are not given a greater status as a factor in wealth management?
4. How can understanding generational biases help a financial advisor work with clients and grow their business?

At this point in the discussion, I pull things back to basics and give a refresher on what exactly diversity, inclusion, and bias mean. For example, bias is simply a preference. So when we are talking about generational biases, we are just talking about preferences. And these preferences are based on many things that influenced us throughout our lives. They are not rigid, hard lines. Listen here to learn my tactic of asking, “What does that look like?” or as I call it, WDTTL?

5. How do you use generational tools in your own personal lives?

Empathy and curiosity are the tools I use the most. For example, when I find myself up against a generational bias, I get angry and think, “What is wrong with that person?”, because if they are thinking and approaching things differently than me, they must be wrong—right? In these moments I take a deep breath, and focus on being curious. I ask questions such as, “What makes you say that?” or “What is it that helps you think that way?”

Welcome to the Rapid-Fire Session:
  • What are two tools participants can use immediately?
  • What are some successful ideas you’ve seen in other industries that advisors could adopt to grow their businesses?
We Conclude the Panel With a Quick Q&A

Techniques to get senior generations to understand why it’s important to involve the rising generations.


How do I introduce the importance of generational conversations about wealth management to a client family? Some advisors are worried about negative reactions. Any advice or suggested icebreakers to help these conversations get started?


When do you begin to invite Generation Z (the demographic cohort after the Millennials) into family activities about family wealth and business? Any age that you recommend?
I hope you found value in our discussion. If you are a financial advisor and believe there is a better way, a better process, or a better practice that can be developed, check out PPI, which offers easily accessible educational and training programs for advisors.

Do you have any generational questions for me? Feel free to leave them in the comment section below, send me an email, or give me a shout on Twitter. Also, if you’re interested in leveraging each generation to grow your business, take a look at my generational keynote: Engage Every Age.


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1 Comment

  1. Anne Loehr
    February 13, 2017

    Thanks so much for your comment. You’re right, learning styles are so important. The way you’d approach a room of people without knowing their preferred learning styles is similar to how you’d approach a mixed-generational audience. With generations, you’d include some things that appeal to each generation, so you can keep everyone engaged. Basically, you would sprinkle each generation into the presentation, like you would with learning styles.


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