Jan Blakeley Holman recently appeared on Advisor Perspectives’ podcast and we’re grateful to them for allowing us to share the episode. Jan talks about family wealth planning, the common barriers to those discussions, and what advisors can do to help their clients overcome them. Jan also tells Bob Huebscher about what prompted her to create her podcast, #NowMe.
#NowMe Episode 11: The Keys to Successful Family Wealth Planning
Ms. Holman: This is #NowMe, a podcast for financial advisors and their clients. Hi, it’s Jan Holman, host of #NowMeme. I hope you’re staying well and staying safe. A few weeks ago, I had the opportunity to speak with Bob Huebscher at Advisor Perspectives about the importance and challenges of family wealth planning. I’m thrilled to share that conversation in full with you here. Bob and I covered a lot of ground, and I encourage you to go to thornburg.com/familylegacyletter for a downloadable tool that we discussed and you can use. Meantime, also check out the content on Advisor Perspectives and their podcast, Gaining Perspective. If you’re an advisor, they have wonderful articles that come in handy, and now, enjoy my conversation with Bob.
Mr. Huebscher: Hi, it’s Bob Huebscher, and this is the Gaining Perspective podcast, where we bring you insightful conversations with some of the top thought leaders in the investment advisor profession and investment management industry. I am the founder and the CEO of Advisor Perspectives. Individuals are often reluctant to speak to their heirs about the amount of wealth they will leave behind for a variety of reasons. Jan Blakeley Holman, my guest today, will explain the common barriers to those discussions and how advisors can help their clients overcome them. Jan is director of advisor education at Thornburg Investment Management. She is responsible for identifying and creating advisor education programs that support financial advisors as they work with their clients and prospects. Jan has spent 45 years in the financial services industry, and over the course of her career, she served as a financial advisor and advisor to financial advisors and a financial services corporate executive. So, Jan, you have many years of experience in the industry and numerous designations. You speak at events. I’ve heard you speak. You’ve done webinars, you write columns, and now, you have a podcast series named #NowMe. Tell me why you created your series of podcasts and who is the intended audience.
Ms. Holman: Well, Bob, first of all, thanks for having me. You know, each of us has a preference in how we consume information. Therefore, it makes sense to offer a variety of choices. I remember over the course of my career I’ve created VHS tapes, beta tapes, CDs, cassettes, everything. You name it, and podcasts seems to be now once of the most popular ways to disperse information. We created the #NowMeme podcast because we wanted to talk to advisors, particularly those who advise women about important feeds and what challenging long-term circumstances may impact their clients. As I said, I loved consuming information, and I’m a big fan of podcasts, and, because during normal, and I put that in quotes, normal times, I travel a lot, usually by airplane, I listen to podcasts, and they keep me company, and my colleagues and I wanted to broaden Thornburg’s reach when we decided to create this podcast.
Mr. Huebscher: Well, I am also a consumer of information, and I’ve listened to some of your podcasts. I wanna talk to you about legacy planning. I know that that is a favorite topic of yours and your podcast. I’ve heard you reference a study by the industry group, Cerulli, which estimates that more than $68 trillion will transfer between generations over the next 25 years. What are the implications of that transfer?
Ms. Holman: Well, Bob the implications are significant, and they’re significant for two groups: consumers and financial advisors. First of all, this gives consumers and clients of financial advisors who inherit, a unique opportunity to make decisions that will enable them, depending upon the amount they inherit, to improve their financial situation or in some cases become totally financially independent and secure. In some cases, the amount of money people will inherit is so large that they are gonna be able to influence societal trends and in fact improve the world. But whether or not the inheritor has enough money to improve their personal situation or the world, they still need expert advice and guidance for help, and that guidance comes from financial advisors who will help them make intelligent decisions along the way, and I believe that the financial advisors will be essentially the quarterbacks of that client’s team, helping them coordinate all of their other advisors in helping them make good decisions. If an advisor or a team doesn’t offer this expertise, that’s fine if they in fact differentiate themselves from all the other advisors out there because expertise in this area is something that differentiates an advisor or an advisory team. If they don’t differentiate themselves, and this is one way to differentiate, they will lose clients, and I pretty much can guarantee their business will disappear.
Mr. Huebscher: Well let’s try to help those advisors who are seeking to differentiate themselves by having these kinds of discussions. How willing are you finding that family wealth holders are in discussing their plans for inheritance or even the amount of money that heirs are likely to inherit?
Ms. Holman: Well, interestingly enough Bob, there are more wealth holders who have not prepared for the wealth transfer than ones who have. In many cases, it’s something they totally avoid dealing with.
Mr. Huebscher: What is the source of that reluctance?
Ms. Holman: I think there are a couple of things preventing wealth holders from making plans for wealth transfer and then discussing those plans with their heirs. First, although we know what’s going to happen, it’s human nature not to want to even consider the possibility that we’re gonna die, let alone talk about it. So I think it’s normal to think, either consciously or unconsciously, if we avoid the subject and we don’t talk about it, we won’t die. Second, wealthy individuals who are going to pass money onto their heirs are concerned that the knowledge that the amount of money their heirs will receive is going to affect the inheritors’ motivation before they in fact inherit the money. They think that either they’re gonna stop being productive members of society, or they’re going to plan on what they’re gonna buy when they get the money, and they go on their spending spree. Just as an aside, last fall I was at a conference where wealthy women clients were there. It was for one of the big wire houses, and the clients who were invited had to have accounts of $10 million or more, and when I asked the question how many of you are prepared or have discussed inheritance with your heirs, like one person in a group of 60 or 70 raised her hand, and one woman said, “There’s no way I’m gonna tell my kids how much money they’re gonna make. They’d stop being productive.” But interestingly enough, a younger woman, and the woman who said that was a baby boomer. The younger woman said, “We need to know how much we’re going to get. We need to know what’s going to happen and how to plan for it.” And the bottom line is that the wealth holders don’t, and I put this in quotes, “trust” what their heirs are going to do with the money. That’s what’s happening, and that’s why they’re reluctant.
Mr. Huebscher: That one in 60 is a pretty shocking statistic. But I wanna dig a little deeper into why it’s important for wealth holders to discuss their plans for inheritance. You cited one reason, which is the fear that they will lose motivation. Why not just keep it a secret until they die and be spared the potential feedback from those who are just unhappy with what those plans are?
Ms. Holman: Well when a wealth holder, or wealth creator, plans for this and prepares their heirs, in fact what they’re doing is helping those people understand what kinda assets they have, where the assets are, who they can talk to or should talk to in the event that anything happens, all of those types of things. If, if and when someone dies, just a normal person, not super wealthy person, but just a normal person, if they die in an accident, there’s nothing worse than, as a survivor, having to figure out where that person’s bank accounts are, where they have money, whether or not they have life insurance, I mean it’s just ridiculous. So what happens is, at the same time a person is grieving the loss of a loved one, they can also get pretty resentful because of the fact that they’re having to run around doing all this stuff, and they don’t know what’s going on, and they’re trying to manage their grief while they’re trying to be businesslike and organized, and it’s just insane. If the wealth holder keeps the secret and doesn’t prepare the heir, they wind up creating the situation that they’re trying to avoid, and that is that the person’s gonna be surprised. They’re gonna think they can quit working, in a lotta cases, and maybe they’ll go get that Maserati immediately. Also, the money that’s being transferred represents somebody’s legacy, particularly the person who’s passing it on, and if they actually inherited, they may have money that represents the legacy of a family member many prior generations. A few years ago, a group called Age Wave, which is led by Tan Dyke Wealth, who’s the great American demographer, did a study, and they talked to wealthy people, and they asked these respondents of the study, what do you wanna pass on to heirs. Here’s what those respondents said, 32 percent said financial assets or real estate assets, 43 percent said personal possessions of emotional value, 47 percent said they wanted to pass on instructions and wishes to be fulfilled, and 74 percent said they wanted to pass on values and life lessons. Now, for many of us who have been in this business for a long time, we were focused on believing that everybody was really interested in passing on financial or real estate assets, and that’s actually not true. In fact, what they wanna pass on is something that’s more intangible than the intangibles of financial assets. So, here’s where we get back to the question of trust. I believe that if the wealth holder is able to share their beliefs, their values, their life story with their heirs, and if they believe that those heirs respect what that person went through to either create or grow this money they’re gonna pass on, that will help build trust, and one of the ways to do that is through an ethical will. Finally, all too often, people who are passing on money, if they’re in a wealthy family, assume that the people who will be inherited money are very knowledgeable about investments and finances, and that is absolutely not the case because there is a huge problem in our country with financial illiteracy, so sharing plans ahead of time, having a process for recipients of the wealth to become financially literate is critical and will insure, actually, that the money lasts a long time.
Mr. Huebscher: So I wanna come back to ethical wills, you mentioned that, but I wanna mention one thing that when my dad passed away now a little over 7 years ago you know, we went through the exercise of having him pass along all the information about his assets and all the details that I needed to know and my siblings need to know in order to ensure a smooth transition and, and I remember how uncomfortable it was for me to ask those questions at the time, but how comfortable it was later on to have that information and to have everything flow the way that it should have. So, before I ask you about ethical wills let’s just talk about how should wealth holders begin the discussion with their heirs?
Ms. Holman: Well, give what I just said, I think that they should start to create their story and think about their philosophy, their philosophy of money, not only investing but giving and saving and figure out how they can share that information with their heirs, and again, a place to begin is the ethical will, which we actually call the family legacy letter.
Mr. Huebscher: So how does an ethical will differ from a traditional will, and what are the goals of an ethical will?
Ms. Holman: Well, you know the word will create problems with that expression, ethical will, because unlike a legal will, an ethical will isn’t a legal document at all. It is to values and beliefs and life stories as the legal will is to things. So, the ethical will is a letter essentially that helps this individual communicate who I am and what I believe and what I want you to understand about this money I’m passing on. I mean when you think about it, Bob, how many of us really know or knew our grandparents, their stories, their life stories. How many of us knew why they made the decisions they made or what they had for a philosophy of money, and how many of us know or knew what they had wished for future generations of their family? I mean most of us would say I don’t know that. Well we’re in an, an era now where there are multiple generations of alive, maybe more than there ever have been at the same time, so not only can people talk to their grandparents because they’re alive, but the grandparents and the parents can also prepare to pass on this information. You know, I think I should mention the year 2020 because there’s absolutely no doubt that this year is going to go down as one of the strangest and maybe the worst years on record. Many of us have gone through life-changing experiences. My 97-year-old aunt that I’m exceptionally close to died 2 weeks ago. Millions of people are out of work, 4.5 million people have gotten the coronavirus, over 150,000 people have died, and with all that happening, it’s almost impossible for us not to step back, look at our lives, reassess our lives and think about what am I doing, what’ve I done, where do I wanna go, and creating an ethical will is a great way to begin that process. It will actually help us ground or reground ourselves in a very weird time and have us look at what we believe in and what we want for our lives. If your listeners wanna create an ethical will, they can contact one of our regional or internal consultants or go to Thornburg.com/familylegacyletter.
Mr. Huebscher: Well, let me extend my condolences to you on the passing of your aunt and let, and let me just share the sentiments that you just expressed because that’s very much the way that, that I feel. We’ll include in the notes that accompany this podcast those address, URLs and, and the information about how to contact Thornburg to get that information. I wanna end this podcast with a question that I, I typically end my podcast with, and it’s this, if there’s one thing that you’d like our audience of advisors to take away when it comes to best practices for transferring wealth to the next generation, what would that be?
Ms. Holman: I’d like to make sure that advisors help their clients understand the importance of communicating with their heirs. Clients need to work with their advisor to come up with a plan that helps them begin the process of educating their heirs and preparing them for future inheritances. So the word is communication, and we all do it, but we’re not great at it, and it’s not really easy.
Mr. Huebscher: Well we will pass that message along through the the syndication of this podcast and the many people who will listen to it. We’ll include a link to Jan’s #NowMeme podcast that appear on the Thornburg website. We’ll include that link in the notes that accompany this podcast. Jan, is there anything else you’d like to add?
Ms. Holman: Yeah, I, I’d like to say this for all of us from Thornburg, Bob. I wanna thank you and your colleagues at Advisor Perspectives for creating the resource that you’ve created. It’s fantastic. It’s huge in scope. It’s all types of information, all types of communication from written communication to webinars to podcasts, and it’s just fantastic, so thank you very much. It’s helping us all become smarter and better at what we do. Well, you’re welcome and, and that is a very high compliment coming from, from you in particular, Jan, because I enjoy the information that you’ve been able to provide to the profession and I am a reader of and a listener too of, of your writings and podcasts. Well I wanna thank everyone for listening to the Gaining Perspective podcast with Bob Huebscher today, featuring Jay Blakeley Holman of Thornburg Investment Management. To support our podcast, please share, subscribe or leave a review to help make our podcast more findable for your friends and colleagues. You can subscribe to Gaining Perspective on iTunes, Spotify and Stitcher.
Ms. Holman: I hope you enjoyed that episode of Gaining Perspective hosted by Bob Huebscher at Advisor Perspectives. I encourage you to subscribe to their podcasts and check out their written content too, and as usual, if you like our podcast, please rate us and leave us a review. Until next time, thanks for listening.
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