Tim Belber, Founder and Principal of the Alchemia Group, Addresses the Tricky Question of How to Effectively Pass on Wealth Through the Generations.
By John Raith
W hen Tim Belber graduated from Wharton, he went to work for a life insurance company doing business and estate planning services on the east coast at the age of 22. It was intimidating to the young man, but he quickly learned by working with entrepreneurs ranging, as he described, “All the way from a scrap metal business, to people who managed mailing lists, to magazines like The Economist” and subsequently found a love for helping people craft plans that were going to impact the coming generation.
Tim went to night school and got a law degree in order to be better equipped to help his clients with their inheritance issues. He continued working with clients in the same way he’d been taught until, one day, he was talking with a family that needed help modifying their inheritance plans to accommodate the youngest member of the family getting married along with a subsequent restructuring. At the end of the conversation, they told him, “You know, we hate talking about this kind of stuff, but at least you’re pleasant to be around.” In that moment he noticed that he’d become a necessary evil in someone’s life and that just wasn’t the profession he wanted.
Then Tim met Scott Fithian and Jay Hughes. Through their help and tutelage, he had an epiphany and changed his outlook on advising clients. He change from his old attitude, which was more like, “Worry about the things creeping up behind you” and “If you don’t work with me, all kinds of bad things will happen to your family.” Now he was advising families to look ahead and do what’s meaningful, will have impact, and create a legacy you will be truly proud of. From there the seeds of what would become the Alchemia Group were born.
Primarily working with the group he calls G1’s, or the primary wealth creators/owners, Tim’s mission is “to help families construct multi-generational plans that are based on the people first, then using the assets to drive the goals for the people, both future and present generations.” Inspired by a conversation that he had with another family, he started asking, “Wouldn’t you like to know that every member of your family always has a place to live, food to eat, and access to medical care, including mental issues and substance abuse issues?” With that question in mind, he built a way to help figure out what the needs and wants of a particular family are for their future generations and how to effectively put them into action.
How Much Is Enough?
After years of helping families plan their inheritance, Tim noticed a quote credited to Warren Buffet, “Leave enough so the children can do anything but not so much that they don’t have to do something.” This sentiment was becoming the focus of the families that he worked with. This sage advice generally led to more pain than progress when, in Tim’s observations, the families chose to focus in on the negative consequences of handing their children money could have. From this, he developed four simple questions to help focus people on creating a legacy that is not fear based, but focused on future growth.
1. “What do you want your children, grandchildren, and beyond to feel, think, and say when they hear your name?” leaves things open ended enough for people to answer in their own words, but focuses people on their intentions.
2. “What do you want every member of your family to always have?” focuses them further, intentionally making them think about the necessities their future family members shouldn’t have to spend time struggling to get access to.
3. “What opportunities do you want your children, grandchildren, and beyond to have?” continues the theme of being mindful multiple generations out, but starts to scratch the surface of what kind of ethic they want their family members to live by.
4. “If the world is to be a healthy place with healthy people in it, what is required?” nails home that we are all part of an interconnected system, and the impact that a family has goes beyond simply protecting what they have. These questions form the basis for a meaningful inheritance that Tim then uses to build a plan for the deployment of assets in a way that fits the family’s vision.
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Since 1978, Tim Belber has been working with, “self made families, offering them a different, more expansive way of thinking about wealth.” Through his experiences he founded The Alchemia Group in Denver, whose aim is, “helping our clients think and act differently in regards to their wealth and its impact on their family.” He gives seminars for groups like the Purposeful Planning Institute, and has written the book The Middle Way, available on Amazon and in discerning book shops.