Asena Advisors is launching “The 3 Pillars Podcast”, where our Managing Director and CEO Peter Harper discusses with a special guest the value of a family office. We shine a light on how a well-managed family office can perpetuate wealth creation, preservation, and education; and the value of being purpose-driven.
Today, Peter and special guest Rick Harig, discuss family values and how education and creating a narrative can enhance the longevity of your family office.
To watch or listen to the full podcast, click the link below or just press play:
Peter: [00:00:20] Folks, thanks for dialing in today, I’m here today with Rick Harig, the legacy strategist. I’ve known Rick now for probably close to six years.
Peter: [00:00:38] And when I first met Rick and he started to talk to me about what it was that he did, I don’t think I had a very true appreciation for the depth of experience and knowledge that he needed to do that.
Peter: [00:00:56] He needed to have to really add value in the way that he deals with clients. Until more recently and prior to kicking off, I was just talking to Rick about the journey that I’ve been on with a number of clients where I’ve been. Looking at the value of legacy and how it plays into the way in which families conduct themselves and grow. And the importance of values, so you know, what Rick and I are going to talk today is just that the importance of family values. And why it’s really, really key is that families have a clear understanding of how they want to conduct themselves as early as possible. So, Rick, thanks for joining us today.
Rick: [00:01:52] It’s my pleasure and I’m happy to be with you.
Peter: [00:01:56] Rick, just for the viewers, would you mind just giving us a brief background a bit about yourself and what it is that you do?
Rick: [00:02:03] Happy to. Thank you. I’m a legacy strategist, as you indicated. That’s a trademark I was able to secure when I returned from my third sojourn in Europe. It was during that time that I started thinking critically about legacy. I had the opportunity to hear the last living heir to the Hapsburg Empire speak, and he spoke in grand fashion about his thousand year family line, which is not something I, as a U.S. citizen, ever dreamed of ever hearing about. He was also the president of the Pan European Union and cast a vision for us in nineteen seventy three sorry, seventy five for what would become the European Union. So quite a visionary, quite a moment. And that secured the word legacy in my mind’s eye and in my heart to mean something far more than I ever thought before. So when I returned to the States in ninety four, I decided that I would seek to do something different than the traditional financial adviser. I would create a new category and trade market that became the legacy strategist. So beyond the important work that I do as a financial planner, I seek to help people think about the larger existential questions of wealth. Namely, what do you want it to mean? What do you want your wealth to impact? And if you could leave a legacy of significance, what might that look like for you? So I created a process to take an individual or a couple through this and on a journey really of the heart and with a reflection of the shaping forces of their life.
Peter: [00:04:00] And that’s a really good I mean, it’s a great synopsis. Thanks for sharing that. I mean, the thing that as I tried to add a few words down here to try and summarize what I thought, the legacy the idea of legacy means for me, I mean and to me, I think it’s a common values, bring alignment and create trust.
Peter: [00:04:22] Trust creates engagement and belief. Engagement develops into purpose and common purpose creates a legacy. Legacy does not develop in an environment where a shared purpose does not exist. Without common values, it is likely that your wealth will be destroyed after you die. And legacy can take many forms, but it needs to exist around a common and shared purpose. And I think, you know, it’s that point that, again, as I’ve been on this design journey of myself to try and really understand what you’ve devoted your consulting career to. You know, when a lot of people hear about legacy today, I think there’s there can be a lot of, sometimes, pressure around philanthropy, and I think that legacy can take many forms. Right. Rick, do you what do you think? When you think about legacy in the sense of a family that has significant means and thinking about how to instill common values and ensure that the wealth and use over time. How would you say that you would help your clients kind of guide them across a path to determine what legacy means to them?
Rick: [00:05:58] What I’ve learned and seen that works well is to take them on a journey of the heart and to reflect and have them reflect on the place where they’ve come from, where they want to go and what decisions need to be made. And when I refer to this notion of where you come from, I’m interested in learning about the shaping forces that have made them – have made us the people we are.
Rick: [00:06:34] So this includes the people in our lives, the places, the events, the times we’ve lived through; So my clients who have gone to war, Vietnam veterans, powerful shaping force. While my own son, who served in Afghanistan as an interpreter, has lived through something that will impact – and has already impacted – the rest of his life.
Rick: [00:07:08] So the times we live through are shaping force. Our education is a factor, a shaping force. The media can be a shaping force, certainly that we live in the Internet age. So social media as a shaping force and not always to the positive.
Rick: [00:07:35] These things and the experiences in our lives combine to make us who we are. Hopefully, along the way, those who have influenced us have also extended unconditional love and forgiveness because that can moderate that the tough temper, the tough blows that we’ve taken, and have helped us grow in depth and in meaningful ways that everyone has the benefit of experiencing.
Rick: [00:08:15] So many factors go into it.
Rick: [00:08:17] And what I like to do is to help and facilitate a reflection on these personal narratives and invariably out of one’s personal narrative flows, something that is worth digging deeper on, worth examining at a level that left alone that might not have otherwise done.
Rick: [00:08:47] And this is something that’s really rich. And so what I find is that it’s difficult for each of us as subjective individuals to be objective about our subjective self.
Peter: [00:09:04] I’m sure
Rick: [00:09:04] But in facilitation, with somebody who’s willing to listen in and to ponder with us our personal journey, great things, surface
Peter: [00:09:21] And it’s amazing you say that, because one thing that really stuck out to me is you were talking was the narrative What I wanted to do today is to value systems. And I suspect you cannot define a clear value system unless you understand your own narrative. And you can peel out the things that maybe adversely impacted your narrative and positively impacted your narrative and then mold them into a system that the next generation can actually understand.
Peter: [00:10:01] I mean, How do you work with your families Is that something that evolves through that process? because I imagine that’s a really powerful thing for the individual.
Peter: [00:10:14] But how do you take that and use that as a meaningful structure that can then be impactful for another member of the family that maybe didn’t have the same experiences as a parent?
Rick: [00:10:27] Well, so what I find is it’s not uncommon for the husband to hear from the wife or vice versa as they’re reflecting on their lives this statement: Honey, you’ve never told me that before. And often it’s only in this context that the moments come alive and we reflect on those things that we may have set aside believing the time has passed when we can do anything about this or that issue. We’re resigned to go forward without having really cured something that needed attention or have discovered anew that it’s not only a nice to have, but it’s really a need to have and you become vitally alive to pursue something that absolutely must be redeemed or must be captured. And so I found in this work both things come alive and what the parents seem keen to do is to capture this. And so we work on this together, a written narrative of the shaping forces and then the family financial philosophy about the accumulation, preservation, use, and distribution of their wealth.
Rick: [00:12:22] And these, what I’ll call rational handles, help solidify emotional inclinations for what really matters. And the way I use that think about values since values are our preferences and they can even be goals, but they’re really subjective to who we are. That’s why a reflection upon the arc of our lives can be so valuable. And then once we have what I like to refer to as enhanced clarity about what matters most, we have a new orientation for what needs to happen next. And a narrative, so these stories, become moments that we want to share with our family members. Frequently, someone will share something that is so powerful and I’ll ask, do your children know about this? And they often say no, and I would suggest, do you think that might be a missed opportunity? And they say, yes, absolutely.
Peter: [00:13:43] It’s fascinating you say that. I mean, this is the personal my own experience: I had a father who grew up being with not much and would walk to school each day being barefoot, and in a very rural part of Australia and has been successful financially.
Peter: [00:14:05] And I didn’t hear about these stories, about the challenges that he had a child until he was in his mid to late 60s, through my mother.
Peter: [00:14:17] Right. And they were extremely impactful to me. And it could have been something that could have easily been shared at an earlier point in time. And I’m sure it would’ve had a dramatic impact in the way I would have engaged and understood what he was about. The discussion in the framework, I’ve never actually heard this put like this as far as the values being subjective, and absent stories, really, what are they and I think that’s absolutely right. Because if you don’t have Buy-In from the children, the parents can have these values all day long but if their children don’t believe that these values are the right values or something that they should adhere to, I’m sure, then, that once the parents pass, maybe, there’s not going to be an adherence with value system.
Peter: [00:15:20] So it seems to me that what you’re saying is the narrative of these collective stories that are really the building blocks of your client’s value system really are a very, very powerful tool to get in the next gen engaged in this concept of legacy.
Rick: [00:15:46] I believe soAnd out of these stories often emerge traditions that can beand practiced and relished and repeated that reinforce the lessons learned at a time in the past. And the other aspect that I think is so important, are experiences. And Malcolm Gladwell, who’s just a brilliant author, has put this in words far better than I could so I pulled this out for our discussion today and he believes “You can’t share values with others until you share meaningful experiences with them. It is through these meaningful experiences that you come to know what their values are, those who agree with us and those who don’t. But the relationship, trust and friendship has been forged through experiences first.”
Rick: [00:16:53] Now, I don’t know if he had the family unit in mind when he wrote this, but I really have seen it apply. So one of the things I encourage is the repetition of those experiences that were really marvelous for everybody in the family. And if there are too many of those that come to mind, all families are different; they’re all in a different arc, then I work with them to create moments. And I think life and experiences really boil down to moments, moments when we engage at a very deep level so that we experience one another in ways that talking about our golf game or the last rugby match may get us started, but may not be as consequent to what’s really going on and challenging in life. And to have the kind of interconnectedness where we’re coming together to solve problems is the best of all worlds.
Peter: [00:18:08] Would you mind giving the listeners maybe example of one of the type of experiences that you’ve seen? Clearly it’s very personal to find the arc of a particular client and narrative, but an example of an experience maybe where you’ve seen a family do something that’s been tremendously impactful to them.
Rick: [00:18:34] So a father and son were not speaking really, and this was troubling to dad, and so we discussed it at length and it turned out that son was in his 12th year of graduate school. He was just not able to finish. He was stalled. He was stuck, if you will. And so Dad and I hatched an idea that could get them instead of doing one of these, could get them walking side by side in something.
Rick: [00:19:20] And I said, what is it about which you both have a deep interest and might even be something you cannot not do that you could do together?
Rick: [00:19:35] And he said there is a challenge with our seacoast area here – they lived on the coast in Florida – and my son, frankly, would love to hear that I was as interested in this ecological challenge as he is. And I said, what do you think?
Rick: [00:19:58] Let’s figure this out. You know, and the dad got excited. And just as we were ready to tie a ribbon around it, he was getting on a plane and go see his son and tell him about it. He said to me, Rick, there’s probably something else you need to know.
Rick: [00:20:17] And I said, what’s that? He said. I never finished graduate school either. I said, does your son know that? He said he does. And I paused for a moment and He said, Rick, I’m not going back to graduate school, the man was in his sixties.
Rick: [00:20:40] I said I actually wasn’t going to go there.
Rick: [00:20:43] And I said, but I’m wondering, is there something else that your son may know about that you wanted to do and might get inspired to actually do or complete? And then he started shaking his head and he said, yes, there is. And I said, what’s that? He said, I’ve been writing a book for almost as long as my son’s been in graduate school and I didn’t say a word. He said, Do you think you think maybe I should complete it? And I asked him, what do you think? And he said, pounding his fists on the table, I’m going to do it. He wrote three chapters and then he got on the plane to see his son and it broke everything open. The son got his nose to the grindstone to finish his thesis for his degree. They worked on this ecological project together and they were walking in lockstep with one another for a common cause that gripped them both.
Peter: [00:21:52] That’s really cool.
Rick: [00:21:54] I believe these things are possible in every family.
Peter: [00:21:57] Yeah, that’s fantastic, really, really great story, Rick.
Peter: [00:22:03] Well, I wanted to just switch gears slightly, and I mentioned before this at the start when I was talking about this idea of, you know, of legacy being maybe hinged around the family business and philanthropic means and there’s a book I’ve been reading recently, which has been brilliant. It’s written by a gentleman named James Hughes the book’s called “Family Wealth”. And I don’t know whether you’ve read it, but he’s a very, very experienced estate and legacy attorney in New York.
Peter: [00:22:56] And in that book, he’s talking about the context of making wealth last for a hundred years, this idea of perpetual wealth. And what struck me is interesting about the concept is that in order to have wealth be sustained for such a long period of time, yeah, there needs to be a strong focus around this idea of legacy within the family, right? And it starts with this idea of – someone starts with this idea of values and goes through the process with you.
Peter: [00:23:39] But then there’s got to be a process for that them being pushed down through multiple generations and getting folks to buy in, that may not necessarily be able to be directly delivered from the patriarch to a direct descendant. And what was interesting to me is that as I read more and more about this I think my view of the idea of perpetual wealth, maybe giving money away.Is evolving in the sense that it is very much a personal journey, right.
Peter: [00:24:21] What is it about the original, the entrepreneur or family that is driving the decision making to want to make wealth survive? I just think you’ve started this journey yourself and since you’ve been this consulting this industry for a long time, has your view of the legacy changed overtime? And in your experience, what role does philanthropy have as sort of a bedrock? If you look at the success of where families have been more successful than others, what role do you think philanthropy plays in that?
Rick: [00:25:05] Right, so philanthropy is fundamentally and in my view about being others-centered and seeing in the world things that need change. Philanthropy is about change. Something is going to change, either through our personal agency or through our resources or both.
Rick: [00:25:34] And one of the best things that can happen to an estate owner and something that I look to facilitate is they catch a vision for something that is greater than their capacity to fund it.
Rick: [00:25:55] The problem I’ve seen with the estate owners who built significant wealth, and that means different things to different people, but if it gets to a point that they have more wealth maybe than they ever imagined, gates often go up. There’s concern about people no longer wanting them, but really wanting their stuff or wanting their influence or wanting access to their networks but not wanting them. And this creates a fortress mentality for them. And then they hire people to ensure their safety. And it’s a troubled situation in my experience.
Rick: [00:26:45] But at the moment, you have a vision that exceeds your capacity to fund it and it has a driving purpose in your life, you suddenly need people again, you need others. And so my poster child for this story, if you’ll excuse the expression, is Melinda and Bill Gates.
Rick: [00:27:07] Their vision is so, so expansive, so profound that Warren Buffett comes alongside them and says, here, let me help. You’re better at this than I am. Lend a hand. And frankly, Peter, I believe all of us can have that kind of vision, regardless of what our wealth is. We just need to be caught up in something that’s larger than ourselves and with the enthusiasm and the spirit that if I and we don’t do this together, the pages of history will not be written as they should, which is a kind of immense exaggeration at one level. But with that kind of drive, people come together and important things get done.
Rick: [00:27:58] So I am keen to further this kind of thinking with clients, and that creates a legacy of values that inspires for some legacy is about the money they leave behind. For some, it’s about the legacy of purpose. I live in the land of Lincoln. That’s the model for Illinois. And it’s not because Lincoln left a fortune to the state. It’s because he left a life of inspiration and grit and of perseverance and of coming back from failure after failure. And so there are different kinds of legacies. And I think it’s important to further that understanding and thinking that regardless of where you are, there’s something that is important for you to do. We’re all here for a purpose. And sometimes I work with individuals to help them discover what that next purpose is.
Peter: [00:29:12] It’s actually brilliant. I mean, the point that I love and I think is I think any entrepreneur can actually listen to this is think bigger than you can imagine. Bigger and bigger than your capacity to spend. Right. And I mean, because I think when anyone, if they have an idea where they think they want to go and if they make their objective most entrepreneurs, when I get that, I feel a level of dissatisfaction, right, because a lot of their focus has been around achieving the goal, not necessarily the destination.
Peter: [00:29:54] Right. And so this idea that you’re trying to bite off something bigger than what you have the means to actually physically you spend money on, I think is really, really impactful and critical.
Peter: [00:30:08] It’s also all of the things you’re saying. I mean, I think that does apply across any anyone whether you’re thinking about legacy in the context of an extended family or philanthropy.
Peter: [00:30:24] And one of the things that a gentleman in a concept I got introduced through Rick and I want to get Rick to talk about this briefly, because he’s recently been a prominent president of the organizationthat I find really neatly ties into this whole concept is that, you know, this idea that you can for family members, it may not ever have the ability to reach the goals or the heights that their parents did financially. I think it’s very natural in life that any anyone wants to better their parents or it’s just human nature. It’s it’s the way we were designed.
Peter: [00:31:19] Mr. Freud talked about it regularly and when that feels like an insurmountable, insurmountable odds of achieving that, how do we encourage next generation kids to be motivated to think: hey, listen, I might not be able to match my parents in creating money, in stacking up coins, but maybe through philanthropy or through these other measures, I can find a purpose that in a very different way is maybe bigger than the purpose that my parents set out to achieve.
Peter: [00:31:56] Do you do you mind? Quickly talking about Core, and maybe now you see that the idea, of causes are there in interacting within the construct of what you’ve been talking about.
Rick: [00:32:12] Thank you, I would love to. So Core Venture is a unique program. As far as I know, it’s the only immersive program there is. It extends over four and a half months and with three residential in three countries.
Rick: [00:32:30] And what we are keen to do is to help young inheritors think about their identity apart from their parents balance sheet, apart from the parents name, apart from the parents companies, and because they have, in our estimation, infinite value. Without any connection to those three items I just named, and to come alive with the knowledge and with the belief that they’re here for a purpose and that because they have infinite value, they have something to contribute to their families and their lives. They find their own voice in engaging with their parents and their siblings. And in the best of all worlds, they become interdependent.
Rick: [00:33:30] As parents, we want our children to grow and be independent of us. But with wealthy families, that independence can mean isolation. And what is of great concern to families of significant wealth and frankly, to their children is what they’re experiencing in terms of isolation. Do my friends want to be with me because of who I am or because of what I can do for them?
Peter: [00:34:01] Well, and that point’s really fascinating because you talked before about the fortress mentality of an entrepreneur. I think the challenging thing for a child is a place for an entrepreneur, for if they’ve made the money first-gen they’ve had that time when they didn’t have it. So they still know how to properly manage the leeches that live off us, as I like to call them, whereas I find if the next-gen they don’t have any of the core tools necessarily equipped to manage that.
Peter: [00:34:34] And if you’ve only ever experienced one factor where it’s people wanting you just for your money or for who you are and you’ve never had the experience of someone wanting you, just wanting you for you, it’s a very, very it’s an extremely challenging issue for kids to deal with.
Rick: [00:34:53] In my experience, it’s in mine, too, and we see this in our young adults who are part of our Core family, if you will. And so what we want to do is to create peer communities, and we do, we create peer communities where they can explore these very personal issues, very sensitive, very tender issues with each other. Other young adults who have come from families – who are from families of significant wealth – they may not be facing that issue, per say, but it may be one of resilience. How do you bounce back when you take a blow in life?
Rick: [00:35:40] What about the expectations of parents in terms of their children following in their footsteps in the family business? What if you weren’t made to follow in the footsteps – your father’s footsteps in the family business? Because you see your calling your purpose as being something very different from that. Your inclinations may take you left alone in a different direction.
Rick: [00:36:10] We want to serve this audience in core and we bring the best of the best academics from Stanford, academics from Oxford, and we help in the creative imagining of designing the life and its powerful.
Peter: [00:36:31] I can imagine that, that it would be I mean, it’s you know, when I first heard about the program and it’s great to see you involved. I’ve been watching it very closely because I think it’s something that’s sorely needed.
Peter: [00:36:49] And I think for people that aren’t necessarily familiar and have familiarity with the issues, it’s very easy to say, oh, well, you know, listen, these children are being born into extreme wealth: They’ve got a lot and what a lot of these challenges are very real challenges.
Peter: [00:37:09] And it’s great to see that these programs like this that are that are being put forward to try and deal with them.
Rick: [00:37:21] And the community that they form once they go through our our curriculum is powerful. I attended a celebratory dinner last November when all of the members of the cohort from the previous summer gathered after a three month hiatus. And I was talking to a couple of them and then a couple of their peers entered the room. And you might as well I might as well have just disappeared because I didn’t exist as far as the rest of them were concerned. They were hugging and high five-ing and enjoying the moment when they could see each other again because of what they had been through. And so by building close knit communities where you don’t have to fear judgment, where you don’t have to fear being who you are and having experienced what you did. Safe communities, really, this is what we all need. It’s just hard to find when you are coming from significant wealth. None of those in our cohort.
Peter: [00:38:36] There’s not a phone book or secret line that you can call to draw and join the club. I think the big thing is that
Peter: [00:38:47] I hope everyone’s taking is is the overarching sort of way of thinking. As we’ve been talking, is that values start with this narrative or this arc from the parents. But as far as engagement with latter generations and buy into that, it’s really critical that the stories that have been that have impact parents are communicated to the next generation.
Peter: [00:39:21] And then secondly, that the appropriate tools to properly educate these kids about the challenges they’re going to have are given, because I think the single most important factor that I’ve sort of through my experience I’ve learned, is that the education piece of it. If you have an idea around legacy, that you think you want to want to commit to and you want your family to engage in, it really starts with educating the next generation and being as a family, committing to that and saying now this is all about education. It’s the most critical factor.Is that something that you agree with?
Rick: [00:40:03] Well, of course, education is is a big item. And along with that are the moments when we have the opportunity to solve problems together, whether the subject is about education or whether it’s about the mechanics of the estate or whether it’s about, you know, coming home with a with a black eye because somebody threw a fist while you were at school that day: inculcating wisdom to make wise choices where the war rules just don’t address these issues.
Rick: [00:40:52] The day will come when somebody is going to lose something that means a great deal to them. How do we respond? What does resilience look like in that context? And these are things that grow out the insights and the fortitude that difficult times require grow out of small experiences that serve to anchor us when the winds really blow. So it’s critical that there’s intentionality at a level maybe that most parents can’t imagine.
Rick: [00:41:27] So let me give you an example of the so I attended a fraternity in the here in the States where Prince Albert, soon to be the reigning monarch of Monaco, was a member of the fraternity. Now, he was in a different year than I was. But when he would talk about the way he was trained, the intentionality of having his own headmaster says he grew up handlers, if you will, to make sure that he was wired to what was coming was profound. Now, most of us don’t grow up in families with that level of intentionality, but who among us would say that our children are not worthy of it?
Peter: [00:42:18] You’re in the middle of a tough place. I mean, I think the thing is that, you know, in those families that have been around for extraordinary lengths of time and they have seen real trauma that’s been distributed through different minds that they recognize if this is about survival and ensuring that future generations can possibly avoid some of the challenges we’ve had in the past, we need to be intentional. I mean, that’s a great story.
Peter: [00:42:50] Well Rick, we might leave it there. It’s been an absolute pleasure to have you with this. Thoroughly enjoyed it. And it’s always great, great to talk about this stuff with you, with your depth of knowledge and again, I’m really grateful that you joined us today.
Rick: [00:43:13] It’s been my pleasure. I wish you all the best in your work. And we’ll do it again sometime if you like.
Peter: [00:43:21] Thanks, Rick. Bye.
Rick: [00:43:23] Bye.