A group of Emory University researchers recently wrote that “in times of great stress, stories sustain us.” According to their study, children who know their family stories are more resilient, weather stress better throughout their lives, exhibit more self-esteem, and have higher quality friendships over those who did not know their origin stories.
This concept of generative storytelling is at the heart of how we serve our clients and families at SignatureFD. We focus on the “why behind the what.” Yes, we are a wealth management firm, but our job is about much more than helping people save for retirement. Rather, we partner with people to create a unique wealth journey and uncover the stories that inform personal goals. So, that means asking the important questions to get at the heart of financial decisions: “What are you saving your money for?” “What are your dreams for your family?” “What legacy do you hope to leave?” With this approach to wealth management we can co-create a narrative that connects wealth and worth.
We believe this type of thinking is more valuable than ever. The past year introduced unprecedented levels of uncertainty in our lives, but perhaps the inverse of this pervasive anxiety is the time and space for deeper connection with loved ones. As we approach the holiday season, I would encourage you to ask yourself the following: if you could talk to your family about anything right now, what would you ask?
An excellent place to start is through family storytelling. Sharing the ups and downs of a family’s history invites the next generation to become a part of a greater family legacy and creates a sense of security and belonging.
So how might you get started? Give yourself and those you love, including young children, permission to be curious. The holidays are a great setting to engage in family storytelling, whether virtually or in-person.
Open-ended questions work best. Here are some examples:
- Do you know the source of your name?
- What was going on in the world when you were born?
- Do you know which person in the family you act most like?
- Do you know some of the jobs your parents or grandparents had when they were growing up?
Moreover, adding a layer of generosity as a part of family storytelling brings an even deeper level of connection and a sense of hope during challenging times. And, you can use this time to define the family’s collective giving identity for future generosity efforts that the whole family can enjoy. Ask questions like:
- What breaks your heart?
- What is your “soapbox?”
- If you had unlimited resources to donate, where would you give?
- What are the core values of our family, and how do we demonstrate those in our daily lives?
At SignatureFD, one of our client communities, SignatureGENEROSITY, offers an interactive web tool to help people explore and confirm their values and identify the causes they are passionate about. You can use that tool for free here. We hope this can be a launching pad for your own family’s storytelling.
While there has likely never been a more challenging year in our lifetimes, this “new normal” can also be a catalyst for deeper connection across generations of our families. All we need to do is ask questions and actively listen. From all of us at SignatureFD, we wish you the happiest of holidays with those you love.