Bag Lady Syndrome
All too often, family wealth fails to last. One generation builds a business – or even a fortune – and it is lost in ensuing decades. Why does it happen, again and again?
It is because families fall prey to serious money blunders – old and new. Classic mistakes are made, and changing times aren’t recognized.
Procrastination. This isn’t simply a matter of failing to plan, but also of failing to respond to acknowledged financial weaknesses.
For example, let’s say we have a multimillionaire named Alan. The named beneficiary of Alan’s six-figure savings account is no longer alive. While Alan knows about this financial flaw, knowledge is one thing and action is another. He realizes he should name another beneficiary, but he never gets around to it. His schedule is busy, and it is an inconvenience.
Many are the stories of family wealth lost. In the late 19th century, industrial tycoon Cornelius Vanderbilt amassed the equivalent of $100 billion in today’s dollars – but when 120 of his descendants met at a family gathering in 1973, there were no millionaires among them. His fortune eroded within two generations of his passing.1,2
Barbara Woolworth Hutton – daughter of the founder of E.F. Hutton & Company, heiress to the Woolworth’s five-and-dime empire – inherited $900 million in inflation-adjusted dollars but passed away nearly penniless (her reputed net worth at death was $3,500).2,3