Are you able to answer what purpose your wealth has? In this Q&A, the first in a regular series, Charles Lowenhaupt reflects on how family wealth has enabled a generational tradition of helping and counselling others – while reaching self-actualisation in the process.
I am in the enviable position of having family wealth whose family legacy, over three generations, is helping families make wealth do what they want for them. For those families, the starting question is always “What is your wealth for?” That is an easy question to ask, but often a difficult question to answer.
I have no trouble, however, answering that question. My grandfather was raised in a small town in southern Indiana; his father had fought for the South in the Civil War and he would marry a woman from the same town but whose father had fought for the North. He and my grandmother were both raised by parents who believed in education and who gave their children the finest education available. They sent their children to college (primarily University of Michigan), when few of their neighbours saw college as an option. My grandmother's father helped found public schools in the community and through his services to the community earned such love from his neighbours that many infants were given his first name at birth.
Those parents of my grandparents believed in the American Dream and believed in it for everybody. Their son, my grandfather, founded Lowenhaupt & Chasnoff, a business successful during his own lifetime as the first law firm in the US to concentrate in tax law. That allowed him to raise five children with the finest education available. It allowed him to help clients create and preserve wealth so that they could allow their children to be successful.
What are your family values?
For my grandfather, my father, and me, the family wealth is to ensure that every family member can be all he or she can be – to self-actualise. My father and I and my children were all raised to live the lives we want to live. We were given excellent educations (all of us attended Harvard College). We were given great independence, and we have all ended in careers that are absorbing and satisfying. And remarkably, we all ended up in callings not dissimilar from that of my grandfather – counselling and helping people. My grandfather, father, and I were lawyers. One of my daughters is a child psychiatrist and the other is a professor of education, counselling and teaching those who teach indigent children.
That all of our self-actualisation comes from helping others reflects or nurtures family values to serve communities and people. We are all volunteering in various capacities and we are all giving time and careers to others. None of us lives or has lived extravagantly primarily because we are too busy and engaged in our careers and caring for others.
How do these values impact the way you give to philanthropic causes?
Not surprisingly our philanthropy and volunteer activities are parallel and not far removed from our careers. Through generations our focus has been on education, indigent healthcare, social services, and public culture. We like to share our passions and we try to give others the security to pursue passions. So our wealth, our commitment, and our legacy will all be for and to self-actualisation. It is to allow us and others to live lives with freedom from wealth.