Some years ago I visited a friend, a Chartered Surveyor who, as a land agent, acts for some of the oldest families in Scotland. During my stay he gave an insight into his world, a glimpse into a completely different way of family thinking.

I had been brought up on a British version of the American Dream – my parents worked hard to give me a good start in life and their message was ‘self-reliance, hard work at whatever you do, see how far you can progress and, with luck, you’ll enjoy a comfortable retirement’.

All this was evident in the Scottish families, but there was something more – a sense of ‘family’ that was central to their values. Family members were given a good start in life and expected to make their own way, but at some stage they would inherit the family wealth and then responsibilities changed. Their tenure on ‘the family goodies’ was considered transient with an expectation that in due course they would hand it on to the next generation. Their stewardship was judged on how they used the wealth during their tenure. Adding to the pot was good, investing for the benefit of the wider family, including supporting poorer members, was good but equally important was avoiding significant loss – especially death duties – two untimely deaths could all but wipe out even the largest fortune.

Why is this important? Our current retired generation have enjoyed the cumulative benefits of the WW2 peace dividend, almost full employment during their working lives, increased life expectancy, improving health, generous pensions and unprecedented growth in house values. As they reach their 80s many of this lucky generation face the prospect of paying 40% of their new found wealth to the Government (who, over the next 30 years, anticipate receiving over £200Bn from what is a voluntary extra tax)

What can you do? – start a dynasty – don’t just sit back and count your wealth, use it to make a difference.

Avatar

Written by John Small

John’s business career started in the technology sector working with ICL and Fujitsu before moving to International Finance where organisational change and development has been a constant theme.