Dr. Jamie Traeger-Muney, Ph.D., is the founder of Wealth Legacy Group. Dr. Traeger-Muney made Aliyah in 2009. Working with Israeli and global clients, she specializes in the emotional impact of money on inheritors, couples, and families. She has previously worked as a Family Wealth Consultant for Wells Fargo’s Family Wealth Group, a multi-family office platform serving families with $50 million and above in investable assets.
You specialize in the emotional impact of wealth on inheritors, women, and couples. What do you mean by the emotional effects of wealth?
The emotional impact of wealth is the qualitative foundation of sound quantitative financial planning. It helps clients create their Wealth Philosophy (TM) by defining what purpose they want the wealth to serve in their lives. I liken it to a business plan; you would never start a business without one, defining your values, your goals, and your vision.
When I begin work with clients and ask them what their values, goals, and vision are for their wealth, they invariably cannot articulate this. This is the work I help them do by creating their RichLife Portfolio (TM). This comprehensive process enables clients to draw upon their family’s past and their vision for the future to help create a more powerful, meaningful, and sustainable wealth plan for the present.
How does this process begin?
This process begins by exploring their past, what I call, Understanding Whose Shoulders You Are Standing On (TM). We examine their family history, remembering previous generations whose efforts helped build the family, identifying past leaders, visionaries, pioneers, and role models. I also help clients examine their inherited money stories, stories they grew up hearing, and unconscious family truths that shape the way they see the world and understand the role that money plays in it.
This is a process of understanding what each person was taught in their family of origin about what money can and cannot be used for, its importance, and emotional valence. Becoming conscious of these money scrips allows clients to choose what they want to believe about money moving forward, choosing to let go of some of their inherited messages while carrying forward or adopting others, concretizing their values around money.
What is the next step?
From there, we begin to design their future, what I call Designing Your Future Now (TM), creating both an individual and shared vision around planning for the family’s future. This phase entails envisioning in detail what the clients want their future legacy to be. One of my clients called it building my own, perfectly tailored land of Oz. Without this vision, it is impossible for anyone to reach their goals. It’s like trying to fly somewhere but not knowing your destination.
How do you create a plan?
Once I have helped clients better understand their past and design where they want to go in their future, we are then ready to create the flight plan, or yellow brick road, if you will, leveraging all of their resources, including their wealth, in service of accomplishing their goals. We explore the clients’ individual strengths and talents that can be utilized to make their vision a reality. Then, drawing from where they want to go and being cognizant of what they would like to leave behind, together we develop a set of guiding family principles and an action plan for bringing the family’s vision to fruition.
You co-authored a book titled Social Impact in Hundred-Year Family Businesses: How Family Values Drive Sustainability through Philanthropy, Impact Investing, and CSR, where you were in charge of the philanthropy section. You also co-authored several chapters in the book Borrowed from Your Grandchildren: The Evolution of 100-Year Family Enterprises.
You assess that the families you work with have a core sense of humility and gratitude. They see making the world a better place as a critical element in raising their own families. How do families develop this sense of responsibility? How do they pass it on?
Both of these books are based on research we did with families that were able to maintain their wealth as well as their family relationships across four generations, 100-years. It is very unique that families are able to maintain these things past the 3rd generation, and there are idioms in several languages that support how rare this is.
In English, we say shirtsleeves to shirtsleeves in 3 generations; in Japan, they say rice paddies to rice paddies in 3 generations, and in China, they say wealth never survives three generations, to name just a few. We interviewed over 100 global families, including Israeli families, who have been able to thrive beyond this proverbial limit, looking for the best practices that made them sustainable.
The RichLife Portfolio (™) process enables families to firmly define their values and wealth philosophy and then use their resources to create an actionable plan to reach these goals. Families that value humility and gratitude, common amongst the families we interviewed, saw Tikkun Olam as an opportunity to put these values into action, engage their rising generations, and practice together with their wealth philosophy.
Your book discusses the need for suitable governance structures. What do these structures look like? How are they managed?
As family enterprises grow, they realize that governance is a critical component for creating sustainability with high levels of engagement and participation. This was a hallmark feature of our 100-year families, with 100% having established some governance structures by the 4th generation.
In order to work together as a family with shared fiduciary responsibility, policies and guidelines need to be established, just like in any organization, to ensure that things run smoothly and mitigate conflict. Families, generally with the help of an expert advisor, create their values, mission, and vision and then the infrastructure, what we call governance, to support their goals. These structures are managed by the family through their stakeholders, serving on various boards.
What are you currently working on?
I am currently conducting research on Financially Diverse Couples, exploring the unique experience of couples when the wife, through an inheritance, comes to the marriage with more money than her husband. Unfortunately, while this kind of relationship is increasing, there is no available research to support this growing population to flourish or help couples prepare for this type of marriage.