The Rockefeller Rules

By |2024-05-16T11:06:23-04:00May 16th, 2024|Blog, Valuables|

In my last blog, we discussed an important challenge successful families face. Many have a persistent fear that their success and the affluence and wealth that come along with it may hinder their children and grandchildren. They fear that growing up affluent can become a major handicap to their kids’ successful development and happiness.

Although we may be proud to provide a comfortable life for our kids and grandkids, the flip side is that it can be a great disservice, robbing them of the self-confidence and satisfaction of earning and saving their own money and enjoying the fruits of their own labor. Ironically, in our desire to provide them with all the material blessings of the world, we may be stealing from them one of the most important emotional and spiritual blessings: pride in their own personal accomplishments.

As I’ve discussed previously, I believe that it is very important that “legacy planning” should include a transition of your values to future generations, not just your money. It is equally important to bequeath your human, intellectual, and social capital to your family as it is to divide up your financial capital.

But how can you do that? It is easier said than done, and this process is much more difficult than just writing up an estate plan to divide your financial wealth. It requires a constant process of reminding kids of the important values and habits that will equip them to be successful in life. In future blogs, we will write about the tactics you might employ with your family, beginning here with a discussion of the key habits that must be introduced at an early age and then reinforced consistently as kids grow older.

Why the Rockefellers STILL Rule

The Rockefeller family is a role model for many families who hope to nurture high-impact family members over several generations. While your family probably isn’t Rockefeller-rich (so few of us are!), the family provides a wonderful example of what is possible. It’s not the size of the fortune involved that’s important, but rather the impact that the right traditions and family wealth management strategy had on them, which can be achieved by a family of any level of wealth.

John D. Rockefeller was an industrialist, oil tycoon, and great philanthropist in the early 1900s. He was the wealthiest man of his time. By the time of his death in 1937, his fortune was estimated to be over $1.4 billion. At the time, the nation’s entire GDP was $92 billion!

More impressive than that is the fact that the family has accumulated even more wealth and success since his death. The family’s financial wealth has enriched six generations of descendants and funded high-profile philanthropic efforts. The descendants of John Rockefeller include many successful business, political, and philanthropic leaders who continue to have a significant impact, including governors, senators, CEOs, and other business leaders.

The Rockefeller family was able to blossom because the family focused on building traditions and rules for the stewardship of their financial wealth and on developing strategies to cultivate the family’s skills, capabilities, habits, traditions, and character. John Rockefeller, Jr. took the lead in creating these systems and is largely credited with the ongoing success of the family. After his father’s death, John Jr. established a family office to manage the family fortune and educate future generations. The family office has been intensely focused on giving future generations a strong education in financial literacy and grooming them to be proper stewards of the family wealth. In fact, the Rockefeller family adopted a family mission statement which persists to this day:

“To grow the human and intellectual capital of the family.”

The Rockefeller Rules

John, Jr. was intensely focused on ensuring that the heirs to his father’s fortune would always respect a set of key values about money, and he worked hard to ensure that the entire family adopted the following principles:

  • An appreciation of money and material goods and an understanding that money and possessions must be the product of hard work
  • A strong work ethic, sense of satisfaction, and self-esteem derived from work
  • An understanding of the importance of saving, budgeting, and living within one’s means, as well as a taste of the accomplishment that comes with saving and growing one’s financial resources
  • An appreciation for