Helping The Next Gen Find Their Own Identity — Susan Schoenfeld

4 min readJan 10, 2024


Photo by Tamara Gak on Unsplash

Susan R. Schoenfeld, CEO and Founder of Wealth Legacy Advisors LLC, serves as a ‘thought partner’ to families of wealth through personal attention and human spirit. Susan is an award-winning Thought Leader; she provides guidance on legacy, next-generation, stewardship, governance, leadership succession, and philanthropy. She recently spoke on Family Office Structures at Opal Group’s Family Office Forum West.

In thinking about helping the next generation find their own identity, I recall a family meeting that I facilitated a number of years ago. The wealth creator and his wife had three high-school age children. The parents called for a family meeting because they had the foresight to recognize that their children were different than they were. The children were not financially-minded people, they were artists: one child was a filmmaker, another was a fine artist, and the third was a musician.

As the kids began their college research process, the parents wanted them to know that they had the freedom and flexibility to pursue their passions, and that their parents would not force them into the family business. They wanted their children to understand that as long as the children were doing something productive with their lives and making the world a better place, the parents’ estate plan would support that.

This was years ago and I still remember the story, because the empowerment that these youngsters felt in knowing that they could pursue their passion with freedom and a safety net, that they didn’t have to become captains of industry in order to inherit their parents’ wealth, was a powerful lesson to me. It is one that I share with you because parents of wealth often struggle with how to get their kids to find their own path in life.

The flip side of that is the sense of guilt in the younger generations that they didn’t do anything to inherit the wealth and may feel uncomfortable with it. I don’t generally see that with the G2’s who grew up sitting at the kitchen table and hearing the wealth creator’s stories, but it is not unheard of for G3’s or G4’s to have inheritor’s guilt: “I didn’t do anything to deserve this wealth, I’m just going to give it all away.”

It all comes back to the family stories, the family values, and crafting that intentionally, so that those stories can be shared with younger generations to reinforce the family’s values and culture. The message is not simply, “here’s your inheritance, do with it what you will,” but rather “we have a legacy of philanthropy in this family, and we support these kinds of causes.”

I’m working with a family now with a significant family foundation that was just funded because unfortunately, the patriarch just passed away. In the past, the foundation historically gave to very specific local causes supported by the patriarch, but his descendants don’t live in that geographic community. What we’re trying to do with that family is broaden the lens of the foundation; as long as the descendants are making the world a better place then they’re satisfying the founder’s mission.

Susan Schoenfeld, a public speaker & thought partner to families of wealth and their advisors, is an award-winning thought leader. Susan’s switch from successful estate planning attorney and CPA to a trusted family advisor and thought partner was inspired by families of wealth asking her to search questions beyond estate tax planning. As a conflict-free advisor who provides no investment, tax, or legal advice and sells no product, Susan shares her insights directly with wealthy families and with financial services experts. She is active as a keynote speaker and a leader of break-out sessions and workshops at conferences throughout the US.

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