Observations on life

A Graceful Exit – HumbleDollar

A Graceful Exit Adam M. Grossman  |  November 10, 2019

WHEN STEWART MOTT died in 2008, his obituary in The New York Times described him as offbeat. That’s probably a fair description. Mott’s father, Charles Mott, had been one of the founding shareholders of General Motors.

As a result, the younger Mott didn’t need to work and instead pursued other passions. Among his many activities, Mott enjoyed political activism, but he wasn’t a strict partisan. To underscore this, he once brought both a live elephant and two donkeys to a fundraiser. He was also an environmentalist. At his home in New York City, Mott converted a penthouse apartment into a garden, complete with a chicken coop and a compost pile. He also spent time living on a junk on the Hudson River.

In the Manhattan phone book, he listed his profession simply as “philanthropist.” Mott’s pleasant, charmed life stands in contrast to that of John du Pont. A contemporary from a similarly wealthy family, du Pont’s inheritance led him down a darker path. Like Mott, du Pont was also offbeat. He loved birds, and collected stamps and conch shells. He was a major supporter of amateur wrestling teams.

But unlike Mott, he abused his position of privilege. In business meetings, he would often brandish a gun. In 1997, he ended up shooting someone and spent his last years in jail. While these are both unusual cases, they highlight a challenge many families face: how to use their resources to benefit their children without inadvertently leaving them worse off. In theory, we’d all like to help our children succeed in life. But when there’s wealth involved, it can be hard to get it right.

There’s no simple formula to guarantee success. Warren Buffett probably said it best: You should leave your children “enough money so that they would feel they could do anything, but not so much that they could do nothing.” That sounds ideal—but it’s not necessarily easy. There’s no one “right” way to do this. Still, below I offer some ideas to help you develop a plan for your own family. Many of these ideas apply equally well, whether you’re leaving money to your children or to others. Planning to gift your assets to charity rather than to family? These principles should still work.

Source: A Graceful Exit – HumbleDollar

Read more on Adam’s ideas about leaving wealth at the link above

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