In his new book, The Chase Continues, Charles Lowenhaupt presents a practical guide to ageing written for both wealth holders and their adult children who care for them.
A guidebook to following your dreams and achieving self-actualisation throughout the final phase of life, despite the challenges of old age, the book talks about setting priorities, balancing independence and control and continuing to provide value as you age.
A recognised leader and wealth counsellor for ultra-high net worth (UHNW) individuals and families around the world, Lowenhaupt is chairman and partner of Lowenhaupt & Chasnoff, LLC, the first US law firm to concentrate on tax law and established by Charles’ grandfather in 1908. He is also a founding advisory faculty member of the Institute for Private Investors and co-founder of the Leadership Center for Investment Stewards, President of the Board of Commissioners of the Saint Louis Art Museum, a director of the American Jewish Joint Distribution Committee and a Director of the Urban League of Metropolitan St. Louis.
The author of three books: The Chase Continues, Freedom From Wealth (with Don Trone) and The Wise Inheritor’s Guide To Freedom From Wealth, Lowenhaupt has been acknowledged and awarded for his contributions to the wealth management industry and was named one of the 25 most influential people in wealth management and family office services.
In an exclusive interview, Lowenhaupt discusses his new book, the benefits of talking about aging and living out your dreams…
How does your experience as chairman and partner of Lowenhaupt & Chasnoff lend insight into this uniquely private world?
My grandfather, who founded our firm, my father and I have counselled wealthy families since 1908. Over those many years, we have worked for families and helped young people as they became old and older people as they became very old. We have always tried to help our clients lead the best lives possible and we have seen those who succeed and those who do not. This gives us a perspective on aging with wealth that very few firms have. What we have seen is that individuals and family can be in harmony with their wealth when it is focused on two goals. The first is self-actualisation – being all you can be. The second is that wealth must be rooted in community and that means making the world a better place.
When we start with the question: “What is your wealth for” the answer is almost always to make sure I and my family members can be all we can be – to self-actualise.
What were the aims of The Chase Continues?
Most firms and advisors look at aging in terms of maximising wealth and ensuring that there can be a next generation transition. They focus on investment management and planning for wills trusts and other ways to ensure post-death transmission of wealth is efficient. Of course, both those subjects are very important. But the harder, and for most clients, more relevant questions become, “What do you want as you get old? Who can help you make the most of your life in your final years.” In other words, how do you continue living life to the fullest – self-actualising – as your physical and mental health gradually decline.
In the book, you write about how hitting 70-plus isn’t necessarily a time to slow down. Can you talk a little more about this?
When we start with the question: “What is your wealth for” the answer is almost always to make sure I and my family members can be all we can be – to self-actualise. That means freeing yourself of the burdens of wealth and spending your life as productively as possible, that is self-actualisation. The traditional approach to aging was that at 70 or 80, you more or less stop what you have been doing and contemplate your life. Yet, today we see Warren Buffet, Jimmy Carter and various hundred-year-olds who are very active and engaged in important work. They are continuing to make a difference to our society. It seems clear that self-actualisation doesn’t have to stop when you reach that age we call old. If you are “Chasing a dream” of self-actualisation, (which I also encourage young people to do) that should not end when you are old.
To continue living life to the fullest, aging wealth holders must lay out their priorities while they are younger. The emphasis is on “Younger.” Wealth holders must be clear about what they care about and what they don’t. Equally importantly, a wealth holder’s family members and advisors need to understand and abide by those priorities. After all, 20-year-olds have lots of time and energy to pursue all of their dreams – either at once or serially. That is not easy for 70-year-olds, who may be more limited in energy and ability and are certainly more limited in terms of remaining life expectancy. Thus, every person needs to build strategy: What chase is the priority and how does that person ensure everything else is taken care of. That planning needs to start when the person is younger than 70 or 80.
How would you say the modern world is a challenge (and a gift) to older UHNW family members?
If you have a chase you want to continue, you likely have more time to follow it than your parents had. With wealth, we can often live longer, and that gives us time to pursue our dreams. Modern medicine is a blessing. There are many resources today, such as geriatric social workers, technology, health care and others, which allow us to design support systems and continue living life as we please. Those are the gifts. The surprises present challenges and do require some flexibility – pandemics, restrictions on travel and others. However, with advanced planning, many of those can be managed.
Next-gen family members now have a stronger voice than they traditionally did in the past, how are older family members responding to this increasingly vocal group?
The challenge facing many elderly wealth holders is recognising that younger people need their own dreams to chase – not necessarily their parents or grandparents’ dreams. One of the mistaken priorities of many aging wealth holders is maintaining control over the next generation. That is a dangerous priority and there are much healthier ones to pursue. After all, just as you may want to have control over your own life and dreams when you are old, your children and grandchildren want that as well even when they are young. How often do we find the elderly resenting the “Control” they believe their children are trying to exercise over their lives. That parent needs to understand it is a two-way street.
I find it is important to counsel those older people about the other options because maintaining control over the succession family members is quite difficult.
Can you talk about the importance of setting up a solid support team – including staff and family members – to facilitate later-life aspirations and end-of-life wishes?
Setting priorities is the first order of importance. That must be followed by the next most important task: Creating a support system. If you set priorities, but don’t put a support system in place, it will be difficult to continue chasing your dreams. Once wealth holders have established their priorities, they need a team who understands what and how they can accomplish it. For example, do you want a partner or companion. Are you willing to support that person as necessary to enjoy his or her company? Often, family and advisors make assumptions and decisions for wealth holders. However, those decisions should be the wealth holder’s and should be made when the wealth holder is younger. Similarly, how should a wealth holder balance safety and independence, or staying in a house, or living alone? These are the issues a support team will likely face as a wealth holder ages. Conversations when you are fully in control become the way to ensure you will get what you want as you age. A support team also will need to maintain the wealth holder’s desired lifestyle to the extent health allows. With adequate wealth, this can be done in numerous ways, and the support team should understand and embrace those wishes.
Because the support team is so crucial, that team needs to be carefully chosen. You must not confuse the love you have for your children with the critical decisions about which child or who will be best equipped to be trustee, to handle your financial affairs and your end-of-life decisions. You should look to objective advisors as well – lawyers, accountants, pastors and others, as possibly on your team. We talk about options in the book and there are many. The critical point is that all these decisions need to be considered while you are capable.
Globally, there’s a major succession transition underway, can you talk about your experience of how older family members are dealing with this transfer of power?
Some aging wealth holders are finding relief because the transfer allows them to pursue their own interests and dreams and to offload the more mundane wealth management to the next generation. For those wealth holders intent on retaining control, the challenges are daunting. I find it is important to counsel those older people about the other options because maintaining control over the succession family members is quite difficult.
What advice would you give to family members looking to start a dialogue about older family member responsibilities and succession planning but don’t know where to start?
It is not as hard as you think. Asking a trusted advisor to start the discussion can help. In The Chase Continues, we set out all the issues and actually include a checklist to help guide the discussion. So, I would urge family members to offer the book and then start a dialogue. And I say start early. The conversation does not usually get easier as your parent or grandparent ages. And don’t start with the death conversation – “Is your will up to date?” That is about death and often read as impatience for an inheritance threatening a parent approaching the end of life. Instead, start with “How can we help you when you get older and how can we help you build whatever documents and advisors you will need as you get older?” Remember that many people care about their funeral and obituary (and would like to be at the funeral and watch their friends read their obituary), and we write about how to consider those. Otherwise, many of us are not particularly concerned about what happens to our money when we die!
The Chase Continues by Charles Lowehaupt is available to buy now. Click here for further information.