Getting Ready for the Transition of Wealth

By Michael Lawrence

Nonprofit organizations have been watching and planning toward this steady but seismic change. $30 trillion in wealth is set to be passed to the next generations over the coming years as what many deem the wealthiest generation yet ages and looks to leave things in good hands, ideally setting the stage for the preservation and continuation of the ideals and priorities they have lived by. Of course, they will be hoping the next generations can protect and grow that wealth too.

That being said, I was surprised (perhaps I shouldn’t have been) to read in an RBS Wealth Management piece that while 26% had prepared for this major wealth transfer, a full 32% had not started preparations at all.

On the positive end of this generational game, an RBC study of high-net-worth millennials (a generation often viewed as self-concerned, spoiled and always questioning authority) identifies some appealing and reassuring indicators when it comes to philanthropy and giving among this often-studied generation. And they are taking their wealth management seriously too.

Reports RBC in the same piece:

  • 69% of millennials say they regularly do their own research to learn about wealth and money
  • 41% plan to give money while they’re alive
  • 38% have a full wealth transfer plan in place

Even if we are able to gauge some accountability in terms of wealth and charity within the generation now set to inherit so much responsibility, theres still work to do with this major communal and society transition to ensure the great wealth developed over the last decades and more is harnessed for good continuously.

Comes this week’s Torah portion with smart and sharp tips for both the generation of wealth builders and the generations to come.

Moses, still addressing the Children of Israel as they prepare to farewell him and his brother Aharon as spiritual and political leaders respectively, issues a strong reminder to the current generation. At the start of Chapter 11 in Parashat Ekev, we are told that because the generation of the desert had seen God’s wonders and miracles, major moments of savior and rescue, “His greatness, His strong hand, and His outstretched arm, His signs and His deeds that he performed”, they had an enormous obligation to set an example for their children.

The children and those who had not witnessed the open miracles in Egypt, at the Splitting of the Sea, at Mt Sinai and beyond, would be tasked at some point with leading the nation, building and settling in the Promised Land and setting the moral tone for a people.

Without those personal experiences, those that are not ingrained in future generations, the individual and collective memory is threatened. Thus the stories of our families, of our communities and nations must be etched on the hearts and minds of our children and grandchildren.

Not just by storytelling though but by personal example where we place our efforts, how we utilize and maximize our days, how our actions in our lifetime show that we have a responsibility to use our success always for good and for making the lives of others better, safer, happier.

Still, the responsibility rests too with us and our children who will receive butterflies in our hands (larger and smaller) and be charged with the responsibility to ensure the familial impact is well-looked-after, learned and encouraged.

Yet the generations of today and tomorrow did not rise themselves from the ashes of the 1930s and 40s or the nervous early years of the State of Israel. In most cases, they were not refugees and did not build or rebuild from zero. Those who will hold the reins of wealth and philanthropy tomorrow are enjoying the best decades of their lives with remarkable opportunity to work hard, do well, live long and healthily in a modern, advanced reality.

Warns the Torah this week at Deuteronomy, Chapter 8, do not forget where this all came from so that you don’t say to yourselves “My strength and the might of my hand made me all this wealth!” (Chapter 8:17)

The warning from Moses this week is stark: “(L)est you eat and be satisfied, and you build good houses and settle, and your cattle and sheep and goats increase – and your heart will become haughty and you will forget Hashem, your God, Who took you out of the land of Egypt from the house of slavery.” (Chapter 8:14)

There were once humble beginnings that brought families to the position in which they find themselves able to lift others and impact the world so greatly.

Let us not forget those beginnings and ensure that when it comes to giving and openhandedness, today and tomorrow are only the beginning.

Michael Lawrence has been Financial Resource Development Unit Head and Chief Development Officer at The Jewish Agency for Israel since 2016. He is a qualified lawyer in Israel and in his native New Zealand and has lived in Israel since 2000.

He is the author of “Nonprofit Parasha” a weekly look at Philanthropy, Leadership and Community in the Torah portion.