A Favorite Annual Experience in Our Family

In last week’s Family Legacy Planning post, I shared that the first prong in the Blum Family Mission Statement is Relationships. It takes work to build solid relationships. They don’t come together unless each party invests 3 T’s: Time, Transparency, Truth, all of which leads to the critical fourth T: Trust.

I quoted Malcolm Gladwell for the proposition that relationships and shared values grow out of shared experiences. To repeat Gladwell’s wisdom: “You can’t share values with others until you share meaningful experiences with them…; the relationship, trust and friendship has been shared through the experiences first.” Therefore, for families and friends to build trusting relationships, they must share meaningful experiences. I urge all families to create traditions for heirs to spend meaningful time together, keeping the family connected long after the matriarch and patriarch are gone.

I also encourage families to endow those experiences in the estate plan, so the funds will be there to cover the cost. In past posts, I quoted Mitzi Purdue who credits her ancestors for setting up a trust to cover the cost of family reunions (every 12 months on the Sheraton side of the family with more lavish trips, and every 18 months on the Purdue side of the family with more modest trips). Purdue asserts that those trips are the single biggest reason both sides of her family have remained connected over the years, as well as the single biggest reason their family business continues to thrive.

In thinking about the close connectedness of my wife Laurie’s family, I realize those strong relationships are no accident. Four Kriger sisters grew up in Memphis but now live in various states, and the next generation has spread out across the country even more. However, the Kriger family is intentional about regular family gatherings. These gatherings are a tribute to their deceased parents, who made it clear that family closeness was a top priority. One of those traditions is an annual family trip to Omaha to attend the Berkshire-Hathaway annual meeting. It’s an important ritual that has been continuing for over a decade.

After a two-year break due to COVID, it was good to be in Omaha again for this year’s annual meeting. People are always curious about our takeaways from Warren Buffett and Charlie Munger, who entertain the crowd of some 30,000 Berkshire groupies with their wit and wisdom, answering questions all day with only a one-hour lunch break. Buffett (age 91) and Munger (age 98) are an inspiration. At their advanced ages, there is no sign of mental slippage. They are role models for us to always keep our brains active and never quit learning.

Two times in the past, I was fortunate to be selected to ask questions, and that was a special highlight. The first question was for Buffett to discuss his estate plan and to elaborate on his famous line: “I want to leave my children enough so they can do anything, but not so much that they can do nothing.” Click here for Buffett’s answer. The second question was to ask Buffett to discuss his philanthropy and how he decided to become a philanthropist. Click here for his answer. I have found that people care what Buffett and Munger say, so at future meetings I’ll try to seek more guidance from them on estate planning topics.

Here are some other takeaways from this year’s meeting:

  • The number one reason for Berkshire’s success is the company’s culture. Create a positive work environment where people feel they are part of a family who cares about them. Hire the best people and set them free to soar. That’s certainly my goal at The Blum Firm.
  • The second half of life offers the best opportunities. Learn from mistakes you made in the first half of life, and that sets you up for success in the second half of life. Don’t beat yourself up over mistakes. Even Warren and Charlie made plenty of mistakes.
  • Be forgiving when your team makes mistakes, as long as it’s not a slip of integrity. Buffett and Munger are unequivocally supportive of their team, as long as the employee behaves with utmost integrity.
  • Don’t panic over stock market declines. See it as an opportunity to pick up bargains. Ride out the waves, and you’ll win over the long run.
  • Maintain a sense of humor. Warren and Charlie made every topic fun and enjoyable, no matter how serious. I believe their sense of humor helps sustain them.

The Kriger family is already making plans for next year’s annual meeting. Here’s hoping Buffett and Munger will still be going strong next year, but given what I just saw, I’d put my money on them.

I urge you to come up with some meaningful experiences your family can share. It’s essential in building and sustaining family connection. As you consider the possibilities, perhaps you’d like to join us next year in Omaha!

Marvin E. Blum

Marvin and Laurie Blum (far left) with family members on an annual outing to the Berkshire-Hathaway Annual Meeting—building relationships by sharing meaningful experiences.