Let's assume you run a business. If not, at least, you plan to start one.

It's likely that as a result that someday, many years from now, you'll leave some substantial things behind when you die.

Hopefully that will include a great company, but it also might include a significant amount of money. So, you'll want to decide ahead of time how much of that fortune to leave your loved ones.

If you have children, and especially if you didn't grow up with money, you might struggle with this question. Thus, you might turn to see what some of the wealthiest self-made people have to say about it.

To be honest, you're going to run into some conflicting advice.

On the one hand, we give you Warren Buffett, who first advised almost 40 years ago that wealthy parents should "leave your children enough so they can do anything, but not enough so they can do nothing."

(Actually, he's been saying it so long that we can look at how his grown children have turned out as a result. All three of the Buffett kids seem to have had success in their fields, and have managed philanthropic gifts exceeding $1 billion each.)

On the other hand: we have the late Sam Walton, who left massive amounts of money to his children, and whose heirs have just been named the wealthiest family in the world again, by Bloomberg.

The Walton fortune, and the degree to which their fortune keeps increasing, is mind-blowing. 

They're at $190.5 billion right now, according to the report, and they add to their fortune at a rate of $100 million a day.

To put it differently, in the time it's taken you to read this far in this article, they've likely increased their collective net worth by about $350,000, ironically thanks largely to something else Buffett talks about all the time: "compound interest."

The Walton Foundation declined to comment when I asked them about the report. But Bloomberg actually ranks the top 25 wealthiest families, starting with the Waltons and then proceeding down through:

  • the Mars family (best known for the candy company that gave us M&Ms and other treats: $126.5 billion);
  • the Koch family (Koch Industries, $124.5 billion); 
  • the Al Saud family (as in, the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia; $100 billion).

And so on and so on, throughout the ranks of the Luckily Born.

Of course, this ranking comes up during a time when income and wealth inequality are political issues to an extent they haven't been in decades. In fact, even some wealthy heirs have been openly calling for greater taxation on large estates.

And while choosing how many of your millions (or billions) to leave to your kids is a good problem to have, so to speak, we live in a time in which some Americans are drowning in educational debt and bemoaning their inability to buy a home, while others are struggling with basic necessities -- and at the same time, the Rich Kids of Instagram are a thing.

My sense, for whatever small amount it's worth: Go the Buffett route. 

Let your children enough money, if you have it, so that they don't have to struggle unnecessarily, but not so much that they never have to struggle (and grow) at all.

Beyond that, there are things far more important than money that you can leave behind.

Published on: Aug 13, 2019
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