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on May 3, 2007
I had been wanting to read this book for a while. So I was very happy to see it back in print. This book focuses on intergenerational wealth management. A good deal of the focus is on people who have large amounts of wealth, something that would exclude me. But many of the lessons apply to regular people with modest savings. One of the best things it does is to debunk the myth that people should not discuss money with their family. It makes it clear how absolutely essential it is to teach the next generation about wealth, and its meaning. It also helps people understand that the real meaning of wealth goes beyond money and is really one's family and its values. I think anyone with children will benefit from reading this book.
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on August 30, 2009
The author's primary focus is on philanthropy, which is not surprising given his job as senior philanthropic advisor to Harvard University which has the largest endowment of any university. Much of the book is concerned with how to manage trust funds within families, in particular, intergenerational transfer of leadership and training the next generation. So, unless you have a few million in a trust fund, there are other books much better at teaching your children about financial matters.

If you want some benchmarks, the lowest net worth he deals with at one point is $15-30 million where he advocates giving your children $1-2 million (although also suggesting that some families lean towards $3-5 million) If you have greater net worth, he advocates a higher number ($10-15 million per child if your net worth is over $100 million) - but there is no real justification for any of the numbers - nor any suggestions for people with lower net worth.

However, even if you do have significant wealth to pass on to your heirs (and society), this book is probably not the right starting point. Mr. Collier does not have much of his own thought to share as much of the book consists of long quotes from others and interviews with a variety of other authors and experts. It all comes off a bit disjointed, with many ideas not fully developed.

An example: midway through the second chapter, Mr. Collier redefines wealth into four different categories: human, intellectual, social, and financial (the latter is what people typically think of when the word "wealth" is used. Expanding on these could be a major theme of the book but instead, after this brief mention, Mr. Collier drops the topic until chapter 5 (where he erroneously references chapter 1 as the place where he introduced the topic). In chapter 5 his expanded definitions he seems to conflate the definitions of human capital and intellectual capital.

While throughout the remainder of the book he touches on the themes raised by these four different "wealths," there is no organizing principle behind the structure. The reader must provide the links so that when the author is discussing family meetings, you know he's referring to "intellectual capital." Why, you ask? Because the definition of intellectual capital includes communication and conflict resolution - not an obvious connection with that term.

For all families, his suggestions about the importance of telling and re-telling "family stories" resonated with me. This is an important way to pass on shared values to the next generation, It helps define what is important to your family. I will be looking for more stories to share with my family at our next reunion.
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on February 3, 2010
In Wealth in Families, Charlie Collier- head of planned giving at Harvard University- raises poignant questions facing families of wealth. The applications of Collier's approach, however, span well beyond wealthy families.

Collier's Socratic, humanistic, and therapeutic approach to consulting, could help any family unit- whether of significant means or not- by helping them to structure a discussion around those issues impeding their healthy growth.

Charlie Collier is a brave pioneer in the world of family wealth planning. Collier takes an indirect, non-judgmental approach to helping families have break-through conversations. Collier's hope is that his approach will unlock answers- by helping his clients to look within their own hearts. Collier makes it clear that he has no 12-step program or silver bullet. He avoids the sophistry of so many consultants and gurus, who falsely claim they have the hidden key.

Collier doesn't hide from the truth that problems confronting every family are a complex and messy layered onion. And that it is only through raising poignant questions, listening, and resisting the urge to cast judgment or explain using neat theories that advisors can help bring about beneficial change for their clients.

Collier's main theory is that family issues, which stand in the way of financial decisions, are always far deeper than money. Barriers to change are the product of complex family dynamics that require time and ardent communication to unlock. Collier believes that as a development officer, wealth manager, advisor, or whatever, the only way to help a family work with what they are up against is to listen, be non-judgmental, and ask the right questions.
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on February 20, 2012
Collier ably defines wealth beyond the usual moneyed clichés. Working as a senior philanthropy advisor at Harvard he is well versed in the financial side of giving, but his Masters degree from Harvard Divinity permeates every page. "While the book has been written for people with substantial financial wealth its principles are universal and can be applied by almost anyone" he notes. With or without financial largesse, families can impart a message to future generations through volunteerism, education, career choices, and how they choose to live their lives. Yes, human capital, intellectual capital and social capital are all facets of wealth. A chance meeting with the author substantiated that definition as I noted his personal drive to volunteer and remain engaged. Regardless of whatever circumstances we/he encounters he gives meaning to life for all times. The book's last quote "philanthropy is a way for mortals to pursue immortality" attributed to Rev. Peter J. Gomes from Memorial Church at Harvard could not be more apt.
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VINE VOICEon March 5, 2006
My purpose in writing Wealth in Families is to encourage you to think deeply about the fundamental questions surrounding wealth and its effect on your family. If I am successful, you may find yourself choosing to alter the ways in which you plan and act with regard both to your wealth and to your family.

After 25 years working with individuals and families of wealth, I have discovered that the hardest, yet most rewarding, part of the planning process is asking essential questions about what people want to preserve - besides financial wealth - and how they can enhance each family member's growth.

These "why" questions surrounding family wealth are the most important ones, and yet they are rarely asked. The questions about the meaning and purpose of wealth should drive the thinking of individuals and families, and the resulting estate planning decisions and outcomes. Thinking about values first, products second. This book explores the meaning of wealth (Chapter 2), the amount of an appropriate inheritance (Chapter 3), family communication (Chapter 4), the development of a balanced approach to money (Chapter 5), financial education (Chapter 6), and the philanthropic impulse (Chapter 7). Several chapters include interviews with leading experts in the field of family wealth management.
--- from book's introduction
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on June 22, 2013
Planned gift professionals in the upper echelons of educational philanthropy are apt to know of Charlie Collier's innovative work advising wealthy families as part of Harvard University's fundraising activities. This book was written for major gift fundraisers and donor prospects alike. Originally thought to be of interest mainly to Harvard people within Charlie's institutional orbit, the book surprised its author by gaining a wide currency well beyond Cambridge.

I'm glad I read this book. I keep it on my shelf ready to serve as a refresher for the rest of my career as a major gifts officer, whenever I'm fortunate enough to be in meaningful conversations with the types of families Charlie has served for decades.

In terms of style and narrative, however, is not what I would call a joyous read. It you're reading it with a practical desire to learn, it's worth it.
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on November 7, 2011
This interesting paperback discusses families and their wealth in a decidedly American context. Financial wealth is derived from entrepreneurial success or prior generation's trust funds. No landed gentry; no vast estates producing wealth for the absentee owners.

Of particular interest is the fact that the author deals directly with the responsibilities of controlling a lot of money. Responsibility to oneself, family and society as a whole. The author discusses situations involving assets of around 12 million or greater but the concepts and lessons embedded in this book apply to any family that is financially comfortable, even those rather modestly so.

There are values, morals and ethics embedded in this book that make us think about money in different ways and, as such, the book is a great success.
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on October 29, 2013
Very practical advice dealing with the challenges of wealth and it's impact on family relationships. The author has experience and wisdom that comes from many years of seeing what works and what doesn't. Many examples and stories to illustrate his points. Practical without preaching. This is a classic and must have for wealthy families and their advisors.
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on June 23, 2015
It was an interesting read but not what I was hoping for as far as a balanced view of philanthropy. The writers do a good job of conveying the facts but I'm not sure it is a broad enough view of the sector.
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on November 13, 2013
Not just for the rich. Highly relevant to our upper middle class family that wants to conserve as much our assets as possible.
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