Navigating the new reality

What can families do to navigate the new reality and optimize time together? Navigating the new reality – A family governance perspective

Authored by the Merrill Center for Family WealthTM


We are living through an unprecedented time of uncertainty which has ushered in a new reality impacting our daily lives. For a large proportion of families, the new reality has also brought something a bit unusual in today’s fast-charging, interconnected world – time to reflect and to spend together. We at the Merrill Center for Family Wealth™ have the privilege of working with hundreds of families in helping them navigate the opportunities and challenges of wealth. While each family is different, one factor that remains a steady force in empowering families is intentional communication. We invite families to use this time as an opportunity to embrace connection rooted in family values, purpose, and bonding. See below for tips, reading, and activities to help you do so.

#1 Define your Why

Stepping back to define your operating principles and driving motivations can be helpful to inform broader life decisions, particularly in times of uncertainty.



Reach out to your Private Wealth Advisor to obtain a deck of the Merrill Values Cards, a tactical, unique exercise for individuals and families to identify their values, to inform financial, lifestyle, relationship and philanthropic decision-making

#2 Slow down before making decisions

We are all impacted by a host of different biases (subconsciously or consciously) and can act irrationally, particularly when under stress. Having a decision-making process anchored in a process is prudent.



  • Choose one of the above whitepapers to discuss as a family. Then select an example of an upcoming decision (spending or otherwise) to explore how one of the tactics mentioned in the whitepapers could help you make an informed decision.

#3 Create bonding experiences with the whole family

Being intentional about communication and active listening models key principles that are applicable to family members at all ages and stages and helps reinforce a strong family culture.


  • Talking it Through: Conducting Effective Multi-generational Family Meetings: Guide to conducting effective family meetings, a cornerstone best practice used by multi-generational families. – Reach out to your Private Wealth Advisor to access.


  • Select a few questions to review as a family over a meal; great way to engage children of varying ages
    • You know you are a ‘Smith’ when…
    • What was one of your best experiences growing up?
    • What about your family are you most grateful for?
    • If you had a magic wand, what would you do with it for yourself? For someone else?
    • What superpower would you like to have? What superpower do you have already?
    • What is really working well in your life right now? What is a big challenge?
  • Reach out to your Private Wealth Advisor to obtain a copy of our Merrill Center for Family Wealth Communication Cards.Sample questions are provided below. Skillful communication is essential to not only sustain family wealth, but also to sustain family unity. Yet many families don’t know where to start or how to have constructive money conversations. Use this resource to gain insight on topics you wish to discuss with your family.

    Sample questions below:
    • “What was the original intent of our family wealth and how has the purpose adapted over time?”
    • “How do I define and take action on living a financially responsible life?”
    • “How do I utilize money as a tool to enhance personal growth, while not diminishing drive?”
    • “What are some of the reasons for and limits of giving gifts to…”
    • “Do I believe it’s important for our family to promote and / or preserve a spirit of entrepreneurship?”
  • Co-create a list of interview questions with family members to ask older generation family members about their experience growing up. Take notes and turn this into a fun project!
  • Engage family members in giving back to a cause meaningful to your family; examples include:
    • Donating to nonprofits helping to respond to COVID-19
    • Volunteering such as by collecting personal protective equipment and supplies to donate to local hospitals or assisting elderly neighbors
    • Supporting local businesses by purchasing gift cards

#4 Apply a learning mindset

Identifying opportunities for experiential learning can enhance family members’ knowledge and also fuel individual and collective personal grow and development.


  • Financial Education Handbook: Practical Ideas to Engage the Rising Generation: Handbook providing interactive activities and resources (segmented by ages 5-25) to help teach core financial competencies.
  • How Can We Harness the Power of the Rising Generation?: Whitepaper discussing research insights on how sustaining wealth and developing an empowered rising generation go hand in hand.


  • Pick a few ideas from the Financial Education Handbook to implement at home
  • Select a few TED talks to watch together and discuss as a family
    • Start with Why (2014) by Simon Sinek
    • Why 30 is Not the New Twenty (2013) by Meg Jay
    • The Power of Vulnerability (2016) by Brene Brown
    • Amplify the Money You Give (2014) by Kat Rosqueta
    • You Are the Future of Philanthropy (2015) by Katherine Fulton
    • Know Your Inner Saboteur (2013) by Shirzad Chamine
    • The Key to Success? Grit (2013) by Angela Duckworth
    • The Power of Believing You Can Improve (2014) by Carol Dweck
    • What Makes a Good Life? Lessons from the Longest Study on Happiness (2015) by Robert Waldinger
  • Visit the Better Money Habits Website, Bank of America in partnership with the Khan Academy, to explore insights organized by topic, including credit, taxes income, home ownership, privacy and security, and more.
    • Access for the full range of interactive videos organized by topic and age/grade; includes the Khan Kids app for ages 2-7.

#5 Organize key information

Having important information organized in case of emergencies helps take stock of critical details and enables a more effective communication process with key family members.


  • Family Album: Template serving as a master document for clients to catalogue important financial and wealth planning information, including key contacts, investment accounts, insurance policies and estate planning documents. – Reach out to your Private Wealth Advisor to access.


  • Populate the relevant sections of the Family Album to populate; work with your Private Wealth Advisor to gather required information.
  • Reach out to your Private Wealth Advisor and/or attorney to explore whether any estate planning documents may need to be updated or established.

A private wealth advisor can help you get started.

Our advisors can help you follow your passions, build a legacy and have a positive impact on others.