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Making connections across generations isn’t easy. Many grandparents feel like they live in a different world than their kids and even more disconnected from their grandkids. Priorities, life experiences and values all change over time, so as a parent or grandparent who wants strong bonds across multiple generations of your family, what can you do?

First, I recommend finding something to unify around – generosity! Generational differences will only get more…different. But a compelling vision can bridge even the widest gaps. Generosity – a vision to impact the lives of those in need – can be a common ground to link generations.

Next, develop an intentional plan involving time and money – the combination of the two is important. Financial giving shows that people are more valuable than money and works to unify a family’s wealth around outward impact. Giving time shows that people are worth your family’s time. Physical service with your family is also an invaluable way to build bonds and instill values.

What does an intentional plan look like? Here’s a small, medium, and big idea on how this can work.

  • A small idea: Grandparents can give grandkids money for them to give away with a little help, if needed. Here’s a rewarding way to do this. Give $20 to each grandkid at Thanksgiving with the goal to give it away in the next month. Then at Christmas, have each person tell their generosity story – what they did and how it turned out. I once heard an example of a 5-year-old who bought four $5 gift cards and put them on a “pay it forward” board in a local coffee shop. They were marked for a single mom, a pastor, a firefighter, and a guy with a hat. He and his mom watched for almost 2 hours as almost everyone chose to pay it forward for the next person and the next person. It was an experience combining time and money that 5-year-old will never forget.
  • A medium idea: Open bigger impact opportunities for family members willing to make a “generosity pitch”. A wealthy and generous family I know announced to their kids and grandkids at a reunion that they would fund $5,000 to any family member with a generous idea. The catch? They had to present their idea to the family and show how it would make a difference. It’s more money, but also encourages more responsibility and more impact. It also started a family tradition that will carry on through many generations.
  • A big idea: Plan an overseas trip as a family to a cause you care about and serve together. It could be combined with an extended family vacation but include a physical service component. You’ll find it creates longer lasting and more impactful memories and deeply instills generosity as a value you’ll leave as a part of your legacy.

Establishing a Donor Advised Fund or Family Foundation is also another great way to link generations. Tools like these allow you to set money aside for future charitable gifts but can be given in any amount at any time, so members of your family can experience the joy of giving for many generations. Whether in large or small sums of money or blocks of time, building a family legacy of generosity can bring unity, shared vision, and deep bonds, knowing that being a part of your family means making the world a better place for others.

Alterra Advisors - Josh Whelan

Craig Hamilton

Strategic Advisor

About the Author

With over 30 years of experience as a Certified Financial Planner, Craig Hamilton joins Alterra as a sort of paternal figure and has a position of respected “special counsel” to the firm. This role is likely familiar to Craig as one of his four children is also a financial advisor. Mr. Hamilton is also a Certified Public Accountant with a degree in Business from Pacific Lutheran University in Tacoma, where he graduated magna cum laude.

Craig was born and raised in the Pacific NW and built a family here that now includes seven grandchildren. In Craig’s words, “coaching, counseling, and mentoring are in my DNA.” This approach also characterized Craig’s financial career for 20-plus years as an Investment Officer for Russell Investment Services and their later incarnation as The Threshold Group. Throughout that time, Craig approached financial planning as “a critical tool to manage financial priorities and achieve a client’s dreams,” a philosophy perfectly aligned with the Alterra approach.

Craig took an early interest in all things financial — purchasing his first security while still in elementary school. Given his history, it’s not surprising multi-generation investing and legacy planning are his special interest. Listening to the stories of his clients and then helping them along the path to their goals brings Craig personal joy. So, it will likely come as no surprise that Craig was also a college tennis coach for over 20 years. To repeat Craig’s catchphrase, “coaching, counseling, and mentoring are assets” that he will invest in Alterra Advisors.

The “Alterra” name was coined by joining the Latin roots “alter”, the origin of the word “altruism” with “terra” meaning earth or land. This name reflects the company philosophy of “clients before profits” and providing firmly grounded advice.

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