Financial decisions—inheritance, taxes, retirement, tuition, mortgages, credit cards, businesses, estates—can be stressful to families. But not so stressful as to weaken family relationships, a new survey says.
Financial decision-making within ultra-high-net-worth families in North America positively impacts intra-family relationships, according to recent research from New York-based Morgan Stanley Private Wealth Management and Campden Wealth Research.
What’s more, financial advisors can be largely credited with guiding those decisions, according to the study.
When researchers asked ultra-high-net-worth family decision-makers, representing households with more than $35 million in net worth, about the effects of financial decision-making, 44 percent said it had a positive impact on their relationship with other family members, while only 19 percent said it had a negative impact.
“Among the wealthy, there isn’t this negative relationship between involvement in financial decision-making and family relationships,” says Stuart Rutherford, director of research at Campden Wealth. “We think that demonstrates the importance of advisors, financial planning and having a clear process for making financial decisions.”
Thirty percent of the respondents said their financial decisions had no impact on their family relationships.
The researchers said that ultra-high-net-worth families are aided by structured financial decision-making processes—respondents reporting positive impacts from their financial decisions said that it was important that the process be clear, effective and efficient.
“The presence of governance and decision-making processes is fundamental to having a more positive relationship around wealth,” Rutherford said. “It logically flows that if thought has been given to implementing a framework, rules or a set of values around money, some way in which a family can go about making financial decisions, then the results will tend to be smoother and more harmonious decision-making.”
Financial Advisors play the biggest role in ultra-high-net-worth families’ decisions, according to Campden Wealth Research. In 41 percent of the cases, a professional advisor was used for overall asset allocation, while a family advisor or family office executive made asset allocation decisions in another 38 percent of the cases.
Advisors were also typically consulted about specific financial opportunities: 44 percent of respondents say they consult a professional advisor, while another 35 percent say they consult a family office executive or private family advisor.
“Given the kind of special space they occupy at the table with ultra-high-net-worth families, it’s important for advisors to understand the entire family’s needs, natures and aspirations,” Rutherford said.
Forty-one percent of the families reported consulting professional advisors when making a decision to divest; the same number said they talked to a family advisor.
Fewer families consulted committees, family business partners or used the head of family to make financial decisions.
The respondents were not consulting with an advisor to make decisions on impact investing, according to the survey. Twenty-four percent reported discussing impact investments with a professional financial advisor, while just 18 percent met with a family office executive to discuss the issue.
Financial advisors wield a lot of influence on the respondents’ financial goals, more than any other stakeholder outside of the family. Eighty-nine percent said that their wealth advisors had at least some influence on their goals.
“What we’re finding is very encouraging for the advisory community,” Rutherford says. “There is a significant amount of decision-making that is deferred to advisors. We would encourage advisors to understand the families they serve and to look at their needs in a more holistic way.”
Though they are consulting advisors, only half of the respondents, 51 percent, reported having a financial plan in place. Seven percent said they were developing a plan, and another seven percent said they intended to develop a plan in the future.
The study was conducted among 59 individuals from families with net worth in excess of $35 million from July to November.