Generational Wealth: How To Invest For The Long Term : Life Kit Wealth isn't just cold, hard cash, says strategic investor Pamela Jolly. It's whatever you value — and that means generational wealth can take lots of forms. Keisha "TK" Dutes speaks with Jolly about how to get strategic about leaving a legacy.

The first step to passing on wealth is deciding what's important to you

The first step to passing on wealth is deciding what's important to you

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Franziska Barczyk for NPR
Illustration of one hand at the bottom left gesturing toward a cornucopia of lush greenery, coins, a home, papers and a rainbow, symbolizing a healthy financial legacy. Another hand receives the bounty at the top right.
Franziska Barczyk for NPR

Generational wealth is a loaded phrase.

For one, it's deeply personal: Talking candidly about money isn't something most of us do with just anyone.

It's also about the legacy we leave behind. "When you think about generational wealth, it's the connection of the past to the present to the future," says Pamela Jolly, founder and CEO of the strategic investment firm Torch Enterprises. But making sure that wealth is, in fact, passed down often means confronting our mortality. Passing any assets down is hard to do if family members haven't spelled out their wishes.

It's also about inequality. You can't talk about generational wealth in the United States without acknowledging who has it and who doesn't.

Here are tips from Jolly on how to plan for the future, while living in the present. As she says, your life in the present is just as important to the legacy you leave behind, for your family, community and peace of mind.

Highlights from the conversation, edited and condensed for clarity, are below. Listen to their conversation on Life Kit or at the top of this page.

Have an "inner circle" of people to talk about finances

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You don't tell everybody everything, but you do need to have an inner circle. You know, I'm a Grey's Anatomy fan. Meredith had her person, which was Cristina, right? You've got to have your person. You know, my person is my cousin, who I call my sister, Avis. So we share our wills, our trusts. We share our balances. We share our plans for retirement. We share that with each other because it's important, you know. And when I launched my business and things got tough, she invested in me. Therefore, I invest in her and her children. And so you want that person or persons that are on the road no matter what.

Interview and listen to elderly family members

I think everyone needs to interview their parents and grandparents. They did so much more with less. And so I want to figure that out. I want to figure out how my grandmother, with less than a sixth-grade education, had a stock portfolio that would be invaluable to us. I want to figure out how my mom was able to take care of two kids, put them in private school, as a single mom. What's the budget? What were the numbers? How did she pay that mortgage? How does she keep that house? Those are questions you need to know. Those are answers that you have inherited. But if you don't ask them, you don't get it right.

Estate planning is imperative

One of the things in my research that I heard from an elder is that when an elder passes away, it's like a library burning to the ground. If you do not protect what is most important to you and write it up and explain it to people, they won't know — and all the time that you spent and invested in building what is most important to you will die with you. So it's imperative.

The podcast version of this page was produced by Clare Lombardo, with engineering support from Neil Tevault.

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