I know it might sound strange for me to say that you shouldn’t focus on money.  Of course, I’m not saying that you should ignore your finances and hope for the best.  That would not be wise.  But through my experiences with serving families, something has become very clear to me.  Wealth is a means to an end – living a great life. 

Families work hard to build wealth, not for the sake of achieving some number on a balance sheet.  They want the wealth to support their family life.  As a family’s wealth grows, it is easy to get consumed by the numbers from taxes to balance sheets to interest income, etc.  There comes a point where it may be a good time to take a step back and reflect on the why – your family purpose – to assess whether your wealth and hard work is helping you to achieve a greater purpose.



I view a family purpose as a framework to help guide family decisions.  Developing a family purpose can help ensure that your family’s hard work and wealth helps you live your best life, however you envision it.

A family purpose is comprised of:

  • Family mission: who we are and what we’re about.
  • Family vision: where we want to go and how we’ll get there.
  • Family values: the values that have guided us in the past and that will shape our future.
profile picture for Robert Legan
"I enjoy serving multi-generational families because I value trust and discretion. They often have very complex financial lives and multi-generational stakeholders who see things in different ways. I find satisfaction in leading a team of advisors in a united effort to serve these families exceptionally well."


Developing your family purpose is a process that requires time, reflection, dialogue between family members, the sharing of family stories and a willingness to listen.  But the benefits that I see are well worth the effort.  When families develop their family purpose:

  • They create unity and cohesion among family members, especially among the generations.
  • They develop clarity about who they are, what they value and where they’re going.
  • They gain greater peace of mind because they focus on the big picture.

Families who develop their purpose just seem to enjoy life.  It allows them to focus on the things that are most important to them and confidently utilize their resources to help achieve their purpose.



If you want wealth to be a blessing and not a burden to your family, if you want wealth to create family unity, if you want wealth to help you live life on your own terms, I recommend that you focus on your family purpose.  Here are ten suggestions to help you do so:

  1. Spend quality time with your family.
  2. Pass on the family legacy to future generations.
  3. Make an impact.
  4. Pursue your passions.
  5. Travel and explore new places.
  6. Build new friendships.
  7. Get the best healthcare to live a long and healthy life.
  8. Plan to retire early.
  9. Give kids and grandkids a head start, the opportunity to take risks.
  10. Provide for the best education for heirs.



Most busy families today don’t spend enough quality time together.   Between running businesses, careers, school and kids’ activities, it is challenging to spend quality family time together.  Quality family time is about sharing stories and enjoying each other’s company.  It’s about listening and remembering the good old days while also talking about the future.  Or sometimes it’s simply taking time out of the normal day-to-day routine to enjoy each other’s company.

Many families have actually developed or purchased a family property or have a special family get away destination just for this purpose.  They build a special place for the family to get away together, as a family tradition.  This is a way of reflecting on family memories, celebrating family milestones, making new memories and building stronger family bonds.

How much quality time do you spend with your family?  How have you made this a priority?  How could emphasizing quality family time help you define your family purpose



Legacy is very important to most families.  Successful families usually accumulate their wealth through hard work, risk-taking, discipline and never giving up even when things get tough.    But the challenge that many families face is that as the generations continue, the values and character that gave rise to the wealth, the experiences of the wealth creator, seem like a distant memory.  This is why I believe it is wise to become intentional in passing on the family legacy.

It’s very challenging for the great-grandchild of a first-generation wealth creator to understand what it took to provide the comfortable lifestyle the great-grandchild enjoys today.  For future generations to appreciate the sacrifices of their forebears, they need stories.  They need to hear about risk and sacrifice and the obstacles their forebears overcame.  This creates legacy and a sense of purpose. 

How intentional have you been in articulating and sharing your family legacy?  How might this help you define your family purpose



I have found that successful families are very generous and want to give back to society.  But no two families do this the same way.  I often find a deep connection between a life-changing family event and the desire to be charitable in a specific way.  For some families, that life-changing event was painful or even tragic.  For other families, their life-changing event was positive, like winning a scholarship or taking a big risk that paid off. 

Many families choose to give back, to make an impact on their world, based on their values and experiences.  But it can be challenging, especially in multi-generational families, to develop unity about how to give back and what causes to support.  

How important is it to your family to be charitable?  How might you integrate giving back into your family purpose



Most successful families have bright, creative and high-spirited family members who enjoy many activities and pursuits outside of their work.  These can include world travel, the culinary arts, photography, music, theater, outdoor sports, to name a few.  I believe that wealth should support the opportunity to do those things that bring you joy and that stimulate your mind. 

Which passions outside of work help you feel truly alive and vibrant?  How might you include these in your family purpose



Travel is fun and often exciting.  But it can also be a great way to help define your family purpose.  Traveling and exploring helps to open our minds to new cultures, people and adventures.  It often creates lifelong memories.  It also helps you clarify what is unique to your life experience.  After you’ve returned from a trip and had time to think about what you’ve seen and experienced – this can be a great time to reflect on your own life.

How much do you travel and explore?  How might this help you develop your family purpose?    



Meeting new people and building relationships adds to our sense of well-being.  But it’s not just new friendships that enrich us.  It’s also older friends and long-term family-friends.  Spending time with good friends and watching their children grow up can be a true source of joy in life.  I believe a quote by Charles Darwin best sums up building friendships:

“A man’s friendships are one of the best measures of his worth.”

How important is it to you to build new friendships?  How much time do you carve out to sustain existing friendships?  How does this factor in to your family purpose



All the money in the world can’t buy health and longevity.  We have all heard stories of people who have worked extremely hard for their families but have not taken care of own their own health.  Lately, I’ve seen an encouraging trend: families prioritizing health over other material possessions and leading more active and fulfilled lives.

These families are focused on healthy eating, exercise routines and lifestyle changes that support long-term health.  They are spending money on programs and healthcare providers who help them feel vibrant and youthful.  They truly understand that the ROI on investing in your own health can be immeasurable.

How have you prioritized health, wellness and disease prevention?  How can this become a more important part of your family purpose



Some family members make early retirement a driver in their family purpose.  It’s not so much that they mind working.  It’s more about getting on to the next phase in their life and enjoying all that they’ve worked so hard to accomplish.  Or, in some cases, it’s about providing an opportunity for the next generation to lead the family business.

If you’ve not yet retired, how important is early retirement to you, your spouse and your loved ones?  Have you considered what your next phase in life might be?  How might you factor this in to your family purpose



Many people who have accumulated wealth did so by taking risks and being very disciplined.  For some people, this has meant that they did not get a chance to explore options and try things that might have led to a different outcome in life.

This is why some families have made it a priority to support their children and grandchildren in ventures that were not possible for them.  For some young people, this might mean joining or even starting a venture capital firm.  For others this might mean going to a tech start-up. 

When young people don’t have to get a corporate job to support themselves and they don’t have to fear failure, they are emboldened to take on bigger risks.  For many families, this hearkens back to a spirit of entrepreneurship and risk-taking that gave rise to their wealth in the first place.

How important is it to you to support the young people in your life as they strike out on new ventures?  How does this shape your family purpose



For many families, providing the best possible education for their children and grandchildren is a top priority.  This seems to be one area where most families agree – the better the education, the better equipped a young person is to go out and face whatever comes in life. 

How important is it to your family to provide for the best education for your children and grandchildren?  How does this factor in to your family purpose



I encourage you to look beyond the numbers to help you define your family purpose.  What are the things most important to you and your family?  How can you use your wealth to provide the flexibility to pursue these?  If you’d like to learn more about how to develop your family purpose, let’s have a conversation. 


© 2018 Whitnell & Co.  The information contained in this article is provided for informational purposes only.