“Richistan”

The salient fact in the NPR interview with author Robert Frank is that wealthy people are planning to pass along 75% of their riches to their children.  Now, what’s left is not a trivial sum, given the recent increase in Latin-American-oligarch-style wealth in this country; but if three-quarters of everything is going to the kids that puts paid to our sector’s hopeful notion that a huge intergenerational transfer of wealth would produce a tidal wave of charity.  After all, the parent-legators we’re talking about are people who were themselves beneficiaries of such a transfer, and still their major goal as a group appears to be making money.

"The next generation" is a funny phrase because it means both "my children" and "the future of the earth."  "Stewardship" is likewise a funny word because it means both preserving wealth (the topic, believe it or not, of a camp for heirs-apparent whose purpose seems to be to teach them how not to spill a drop) and preserving other things by expenditures, that is, reductions of wealth.  In each case, I wish the second meaning were as popular as the first. 

Maybe we should start a camp.

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3 Responses to ““Richistan””

  1. Sam Davis Says:

    Assuming that, after 75% of the generational transfer ends up in the children’s hands, and 25% is left over for nonprofits, that’s still a huge pool of cash for nonprofits to dive into.

    That seems to be additional incentive to work efficiently and smartly to capture as much as possible for your nonprofit.

  2. Stuart Jamieson Says:

    A very good entry. My daughter just attended a camp this summer where, I believe, the second, larger definition of “future generations” was the topic.

    It was sponsored by Northland College in Ashland, WI (my own alma mater) and the University of Wis. Extension. It was called “Navigators” and the topics and community service projects included things like sustainability, organic farming, conscious consumerism, volunteering on a “green” Habitat for Humanity house…

    If you go to http://www.northland.edu, you can see a picture of her and her friends doing work on an organic garden in the area on their homepage. You can work your way through the website to find out more about the “Pathfinders” and “Navigators” camps. They are a program of the Sigurd Olson Institute of Environmental Studies.

    THANKS!

    Organizational Development Consultant –Thrivent Builds
    US Office
    Habitat for Humanity International

  3. Nonprofiteer Says:

    In response to Mr. Davis’s comments: Doubtless nonprofits need to “work smarter,” but they also need more money to do the work that’s been thrust upon them. I’ve noticed that many funders are a lot freer with advice than with money, and the new generation of rich people is no exception. But certainly one-quarter of a large sum of money is not to be sneezed at, and the prize will go to the best fundraisers. Whether those are also the best agencies for providing services to the poor, or health care, or top-quality performing arts, is a separate question.

    The camp Mr. Jamieson describes is an interesting venture in teaching children the value of thinking globally and acting locally, as the saying on the bumper sticker goes. Another less elaborate approach is more familiar: Trick-or-Treat for UNICEF. I’m sure there are many others, and am delighted to see parents thinking carefully about how to instill an understanding of what my people call tzedaka–the obligation to give back–into their kids.

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