Shirtsleeves to Shirtsleeves in three generations …

Are you familiar with the saying, “Shirtsleeves to Shirtsleeves in three generations”?  It is found in just about every culture around the globe.  “Shirtsleeves to Shirtsleeves in three generations”(the first generation creates, the second preserves, and the third consumes)

This was a hard learned lesson. This proverb that says “shirtsleeves to shirt sleeves in three generations,” is as old as writing itself. And it is universal.  It appears in many cultures – In thirteenth century England they said “Clogs to clogs in three generations,”   in Brazil it was “From the stables to the stars to the stables in three generations,” in China it was rice paddy to rice paddy  Two thousand years ago a Chinese scholar penned the adage: “fu bu guo san dai,” or “Wealth never survives three generations.”

This proverb can be dis-proved. The Heritage Institute research reveals “Across the centuries, through war and depression, political upheaval and social chaos, 10% of families have shown that it is possible to sustain their wealth and unity generation after generation.   Most of these families ‘discovered’ the elements of success themselves, through long and painful trial and error. They kept what worked, and discarded what didn’t.”
Happily, the ‘trial and error formula’ for success is being replaced by a growing consensus within the professional planning community that planning to sustain family wealth and unity is equally as important as traditional financial and estate planning.

Regardless of a family’s level of financial resources, most families desire to see each member thrive on their own.  The question becomes ‘How do we make sure we are using our financial wealth to develop a healthy family and create the right environment?’

Jay Hughes’ book, Family Wealth, provides answers to why families fail to disprove this proverb.  Jay believes a family’s greatest wealth consists of its human capital (all the individuals who make up the family) and its intellectual capital (everything that each individual family member knows). the family’s financial capital is  secondary.  He has experienced that to successfully preserve wealth for the long-term, the family must create and maintain a system of governance and joint decision making.

If you are interested in purchasing this book, please visit

Caroline Berry Consulting © 2019
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