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    Does wealth breed selfishness?

    A guest blog by Dr. Julie A. Morton.

    Provocative new research at the University of California, Berkley, suggests that those of means ARE different from their more humble brethren, and NOT in ways that would make one proud.  According to studies conducted by social psychologist Paul Piff and his university colleagues, wealthy individuals are more likely to LIE, to CHEAT and to STEAL then their less fortunate counterparts. They are even more likely to do things as mundane as cutting off other drivers and refusing to wait for pedestrians at crosswalks.

    The research points to a number of reasons, but three stand out: [read more >>]

    Is the next generation ready to fund retirement?

    Last week’s federal budget included the much anticipated changes to the Old Age Security (OAS) pension. But not nearly as soon as some thought.

    With changes being phased in over six years beginning in 2023, the reality is that the majority of Canada’s baby boomer population will be unaffected by the changes. Currently, at over $6,000 per year with a claw back feature reducing the amount received based on income, the reality is that for most of our clients OAS is an afterthought in their retirement planning.

    But what this change does signify is a continuation of two societal trends that have been going on for decades. [read more >>]

    A night at the Oscars

    i-120e2dc27470ed5f49b7e424b7250243-Oscar-Award.jpgOn vacation with my family last week in Los Angeles, we couldn’t help but get caught up in the Oscar mania that surrounded us. As we drove through the streets of Beverley Hills, and walked the famed Rodeo Drive, we were struck by the irony and the contrasts: California, the near bankrupt state, bloated with debt, yet opulence everywhere you turn. Every car seems new and everyone is in a hurry to get to where they can be seen wearing the latest fashions.

    As a parent, it was refreshing to hear my 25 year-old daughter say, “this all seems so pretentious.” I couldn’t help but smile and feel relieved that ‘she gets it.’ See my blog – We’ve failed our kids, shame on us.

    On our flight home, we all watched The Descendants; the George Clooney flick that garnered so much attention at the Oscars. Clooney plays the role of Matt King, a wealthy lawyer who is the sole trustee and one of many beneficiaries of a $100 million+ family property that is to be sold.

    The parallel story line deals with Matt’s new found responsibility for his two daughters as a result of his wife’s comatose condition after an accident. Matt and his family have lived quite modestly and he shielded his daughters from their massive wealth.

    My favourite line in the movie: Matt says, “I don’t want my daughters growing up entitled and spoiled. And I agree with my father: you give your children enough money to do something but not enough to do nothing.”

    This is actually a paraphrase from one of the world’s wealthiest and best investors, Warren Buffett (maybe why the line resonated with me). When asked how much money he would bequeath to his children, Buffett replied, “I want to give my kids just enough so that they would feel that they could do anything, but not so much that they would feel like doing nothing.”

    Regardless of source, this is a great summation of the balancing act parents face in providing for the needs and wants of their children. How ironic given the opulence in the city the movie was featured.

    5 Things To Know When Developing Your Estate Plan

    i-4d71ca3cf9c9755b9d871474fd598f4d-estate_planning_tab_DB_Feb2012.jpgMy partner, Kelly Willis, wrote a poignant post last week about the loss of her husband and the estate challenges she found in her path, all during a time she struggled with her bereavement. As a private client lawyer with many years of estate planning under my belt, I wanted to share some of the more frequent issues and misconceptions I have witnessed in dealing with families who  were unprepared or had inadequate estate plans.

    [read more >>]

    Bereavement is bad enough

    i-5cba52b5a1f520ae0e81e2f9512dcc98-estate-planning_KW_Feb2012.jpgMy husband passed away a year ago last month.  We ought to have been prepared.  Two years earlier he had been diagnosed with a rare form of cancer for which there was “little predictive data”. We chose to be optimistic. When he died due to complications from surgery I was shocked and devastated.

    Shock was the protection I needed to get through those first few weeks, but as reality set in grief took its place. It was in this condition that I was catapulted, like so many others in my position, into the surreal state of dealing with my husband’s estate.  If there is any benefit in my experience it is to help others become better prepared.

    I have to confess I was ‘fortunate’ under the circumstances. My husband had a valid and current will; our affairs were reasonably straightforward; I had been the ‘chief financial officer’ during our marriage so I was used to managing our finances; and I had the support of the professionals here at my firm whom I trusted as advisors and friends. In theory, I was well equipped to handle my responsibilities as executor.

    [read more >>]

    Surviving spouse, it’s okay to spend the money

    i-4f279cd55166c4a25cf589da81b705e5-shutterstock_67336159_Adjust.jpgI recently had the experience of counselling a long-time client who, despite a very secure financial position, was overcome with anxiety about money. What became clear to both of us after a lengthy and at times emotional discussion was that her anxiety was not about money at all. Rather it was about her obligations to her children, as the sole beneficiary of her late husband’s estate.

    It’s a scenario we see frequently: a surviving spouse, usually the wife (life expectancies between men and women being what they are) of a sole or principal income provider, with more than sufficient capital to sustain her lifestyle is anxious and unsettled. Through discussion, we come to understand that the uneasiness is related to guilt over spending money that is perceived to be earmarked for heirs.

    [read more >>]

    What value will you pass on?

    i-723bb811f5e412b13cc466ce1e4d0c4e-passing-the-torch_54296.jpgLast week, our team met with Julie A. Morton, PHD, a certified mediator, family business coach and change management specialist for high net worth families. Julie is one of only a handful of individuals in North America holding a PHD in Communications with a sub-speciality in Creative Problem Resolution – which is to say she knows a lot about how families can function and communicate more effectively.

    We discussed the challenges affluent families face in raising children and influencing grandchildren in an environment of luxury and plenty. Many of our clients share with us their disquiet about the impact of wealth on future generations. We asked Julie to share her perspective on the subject through this guest blog.

    [read more >>]