Can you write down five heroes that are still alive? Not so easy! What has happened in our society that we have so few heroes to follow? Better yet, who possesses the virtues to even be a hero?
“What makes a hero so much better than simply a ‘role model’?” asks George Will in his now famous speech on the difference between values and virtues. Does prosperity in America constitute progress if the character of the nation suffers?
George Will aptly points out that the de-moralization of society is advanced when the word “values” supplants “virtues” in political and ethical discourse.
Pertaining to wealth and estate planning, it is the principle reason that I recommend a virtues-based approach over values. Let me explain…
Value is defined as: What we believe to be important or what has worth to us, something that has utility. It is valuable to us. Money is valuable because of what we can buy with it. Cars, homes, jewelry and real estate are all valuable.
Virtue is defined as: What we believe to be right, good and proper. With virtue, there is a critical component of “rightness” or “goodness” that does not exist in value.
The following comparison chart will help you distinguish between values and virtues.
All parents want virtues to be present in the lives of their children. We all want our children to have high levels of character, honesty, and integrity. It is never too late to instill these virtues into our children.
In the absence of virtues in our children, something else moves to fill the void – vices. It is not fair to say that it is limited only to the wealthy. Unfortunately, wealth increases the ability to indulge in many vices. If your child wants to pursue vices versus virtues what is an appropriate inheritance and what is not?
One father said to me, using the analogy of a family tree: “I don’t care what my children’s tree grows to look like or even what kind of fruit it produces—as long as it is growing within the same root system (virtues) as mine.”
If you want a multi-generational wealth transfer plan that will work effectively to bless your heirs and enable them to grow with a clear and honorable purpose in life—you need to have numerous discussions related to virtues versus values. Try it at the dinner table for those that are younger. For your older children, make this discussion a part of the next family meeting. Whatever the venue, start the discussion with a question about heroes and what makes a good hero.
Have you had this discussion with your kids?
What worked and what didn’t? Please post your comments below.
By Joe Sturniolo
Christian Family Legacy and Wealth Planning