Time – a Two-Sided Coin

Key Takeaways

  • “Time is money” is an American philosophy about productivity that dates back to Benjamin Franklin’s time.
  • Whether at work or at home, the main thing people want from us is our time and our attention.
  • Now is the time of year to have those important conversations with family about stewardship and shared values, not just wealth transfer, to make sure the next generation is ready.

I’m sure most of you have heard the expression “Time is money.” It was coined by Ben Franklin, and it’s all about productivity–if you waste your time, you waste your productivity and you therefore don’t make any money. That’s a quintessential American philosophy and it’s a very tangible concept. But there’s also an intangible side of the coin that I cover in a recent Observer post, “Of Family, Its Function,  and a Child’s Future.” It has to do with how you spend your time when you’re not working. It’s about relationships, legacy and family. Whether at work or at home, the main thing people want from us is our time and our attention. That’s invaluable to them, especially when we’re talking about the generations and wealth. In estate planning, we try to make sure that all the assets are going to the right place when one dies.

I was recently in Old Town Alexandria, Virginia. Many people there live in historic 200-plus-year-old homes marked by special plaques. When you talk to the owners of those homes, you can tell they feel like stewards of the residence more than simply homeowners. From their perspective, they are simply looking after the landmark home until it passes on to the next owner.

The importance of stewardship

One of the most valuable uses of your time is stewarding family values and history, not just your wealth, for future generations. I know many of you don’t feel rich, but quite frankly, if you have over $1 million in investible assets you probably are. In fact, there are 5.5 million folks like you who will be passing on a tremendous amount of wealth in the near future to millennials and Gen Z (the post-millennials who are high school age and younger today). Some of that is wealth that you made and accumulated and some of it came from your parents or grandparents, but it all gets passed along.


I bring this up because this is the time of year that you’re going to be around family and friends over the holidays. You’re going to have time to reflect on the year and your life path, among other things. It’s also a good time to have those sometimes uncomfortable conversations about what really matters to families and ultimately who is going to steward the family when you’re gone.

I thought I’d leave you with this to think about until the New Year.

Until next time, enjoy.

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