What is a Family of Affinity?

Shirt sleeves to shirt sleeves in three generations

is the American version of a Lancashire proverb, “there’s nobbut three generations atween a clog and clog.

Many have attributed Andrew Carnegie, the famed 19th century industrialist from Scottland, with bringing the proverb’s message to America. Investigation shows that the adage is ancient and not unique to any one country or culture. In Italian it is “dalle stalle alle stelle alle stalle” (“from stalls to stars to stalls”). The Spanish say, “quien no lo tiene, lo hance; y quien lo tiene, lo deshance” (“who doesn’t have it, does it, and who has it, misuses it”). Even non-western cultures, including the Chinese, have a similar proverb, “rice paddy to rice paddy.” Shirt sleeves to shirt sleeves is a proverb that describes human behavior’s natural tendency in terms of creating long-term families as financial failures.


The theory of the proverb is that the first generation starts off in a rice paddy, meaning that two people with an affinity for one another came together and worked from the bottom to create a financial fortune.  The original generation usually builds their wealth without making significant changes to their values, customs, or lifestyle.  The second generation moves to the city, embraces the hottest fashions, patronizes the opera, runs large organizations and the fortune plateaus.  The third generation, with no experience in building or maintaining wealth, consumes the financial fortune, and the fourth generation goes back to the rice paddy.  This is the classic formulation of the shirtsleeves proverb, which remains as true today as it has proven to be throughout documented human history.

When considering long-term legacy planning, what is often referred to as seventh-generational thinking comes into play.  Seventh generational thinking can be illustrated by an antidote from an old Iroquois tribal elder, who begins the tribal council meeting by saying,

“Let us begin our work here today with the hope that the decisions we make will be honored by our tribal members seven generations from today.”

James E. Hughes, Jr., an attorney, author and multi-generational family advisor, defines a family as two or more people who by either genetic lineage or bonds of affinity consider themselves related to each other.  The core of his philosophy is the belief that a family that sees itself as linked not only by blood but by affinity and acts from that philosophical base has the greatest chance of successfully enhancing the individual development and growth of its members and thus of dynamically preserving the family as a whole for at least five generations.  A family of affinity maintains open systems that welcome new members, giving the family a better chance of survival.  These outsiders represent the new energy the family needs to overcome what it will lose through natural attrition.

Note that Attorney Hughes suggest that relying solely on the biological constituents of a family will lead to attrition and a weakening of the family unit and wealth over time.  Creating an open-source family unit enthusiastically embracing new members through marriage and other bonds of affinity are vital.  When counting a family’s assets they are represented by the individual members of the family of affinity:

  • The family’s human capital
  • The family’s intellectual capital
  • The family’s financial capital
  • The family’s social capital

A family with long-term seventh generational thinking will have a 100-Year Plan to manage and capitalize on the family’s core assets listed above.

If you feel your family is a family of affinity:

Have you crafted a written Family Mission Statement as the guiding expression of the vision, values and goals of the family? and

Have you embraced seventh-generational thinking and begun to work on a 100-Year Plan?


Donald L. West, Jr., JD, CTLP,  serves as the Associate Director of Education to the Legacy Institute, is a Chartered Legacy & Trusts Planner, a Personne De Confiance, the Creator of the Legacy Pyramid and co-author of A Step-By-Step Guide To Crafting Personal Legacy Statements.

The Legacy Institute, (A.I.L.E.P.), is an organization devoted to empowering families and closely-held business entities cultivate multi-generational connectedness, growth and prosperity.


What Does Legacy Mean? Peyton Manning says he doesn’t really know.

Peyton Manning says he doesn’t know what Legacy means, do you?

At the NFL’s 2014 Media Day for Super Bowl XLVIII the Denver Broncos record-setting
quarterback was asked about his legacy, which he basically declined to speak about.

I’ve been asked about my legacy since I was about 25 years old, which I’m not sure you can have a legacy when you’re 25 years old or even 37,” Manning said.  “I thought you had to be like 70 to have a legacy.  I’m not 100 percent sure what the word even means.”

Below you can actually take a look for yourself if you did not see the actual interview:

So here is the actual dictionary definitionLegacy – noun:  something transmitted by or received from an ancestor or predecessor or from the past.

According to the renowned psychotherapist Erik K. Erickson, Peyton Manning is normal and just like almost every other person when it comes to the timing and age of internalizing and understanding our legacy and our connection to those who will come behind us.

Erikson who is most famous for coining the phrase “Identity Crisis” also gave us the term “Generativity” as the 7th of 8 Stages of Human Development Generativity vs. Stagnation which occurs between the ages of 35-64.

Generativity is the ability to generate anything tangible that will exist beyond one’s earthly life; particularly when exhibiting a need to nurture and guide younger people and contribute to the next generation.  The adult stage of generativity has broad application to family, relationships, work, and society.  Eriskson said, “Generativity, then is primarily the concern in establishing and guiding the next generation… the concept is meant to include… productivity and creativity.”

There are five primary categories of Generativity, they are:

1) Biological – the act of making a child;

2) Parental – the act of raising a child;

3) Technical – the creation of tangible works that will maintain an existence beyond your life, (i.e., paintings, writings, or a business organization);

4) Cultural – the creational of a meaning belief or value system that is passed on to others; and,

5) Societal – the ability to create societal change and/or reform, (i.e., Ghandi, Martin Luther King, Jr., et. al.).

Now we have covered Legacy and thrown in Generativety as a bonus, which begs the question, “What is Your Legacy?”

The Four Basic Building Blocks of Legacy

Legacy Wisdom – Dorothy Canfield Fisher

“If we would only give the same amount of reflection to what we want out of life that we give to the question of what to do with a two weeks’ vacation, we would be startled at our false standards and the aimless procession of our busy days.”

— Dorothy Canfield Fisher

source:  “Creating Your Personal Life Plan: A Step-by-Step Guide for Designing the Life You’ve Always Wanted” By: Michael Hyatt

Not Just For Baby Boomers – Legacy & Estate Planning Basics

Take a few moments and ponder this: If you could open a portal and ask three questions of a deceased ancestor, what three questions would you ask? Why were these questions the ones that you choose? If you were visited by one your future decedents what three questions do you think they would ask you? The success of sites like Ancestry.com and MyHeritage.com proofs our culture’s desire to understand their relationship to their ancestors – but the question remains, are people just looking for names and pictures? When you discover a few short news headlines and census records will all your questions have been answered, will your quest be complete?

Through conversations with advisors, clients and observations throughout history I have learned that the stories are what people cherish. Every person has a story – therefore every person has a legacy. Still don’t believe you have a legacy to share?

Merriam-Webster online states that the word Legacy is a noun and means: something transmitted by or received from an ancestor or predecessor or from the past. So we know that you have a story and we also now know that if you pass that story on – you are passing on Your Legacy. Quite simply, Legacy Planning is the thoughtful process that organizes and preserves you and your stories for future generations. Those that are seeking to live purposeful lives will find Legacy Planning and Estate Planning can be combined to guide and direct future generations while also helping you preserve your hard-earned assets and ensure that they go where you want them to go after you pass on.

By purposefully plotting your generational impact you can save your family and heirs considerable time, expense and potential grief by eliminating uncertainty about inheritance and sharing valuable life lesson. In the legacy planning process you are given an opportunity to teach and offer hard-earned life experiences that helped shape your life and guide your destiny. The old saying, “If you give a person a fish you feed them for a day, but if you teach a person to fish they can eat for a lifetime,” is a common theme drawn upon daily by many successful clients who worry about the well-being and preparedness of their future generations.

There are numerous studies that show those who have written plans outperform those who do not. Take a moment and contemplate the effect this principle can have when applied across generations. Planning and productivity leader Michael Hyatt astutely observes, “I have met few people who have a plan for their lives.” How many families do you know who have a written 100-Year Plan agreed too and actively in place? Fifty-seven percent of Americans do not have a will. Unless you would like to potentially donate a substantial portion of your estate to Uncle Sam, it is time to join the forty-one percent who do. Though writing a will, or the appropriate instrument recommended by your advisor, may not be fun to think about, a little foresight now will save your heirs and loved ones enormous hassles down the road. The planning process of collecting thoughts, stories, ideas and traditions together will prove rewarding and inspire many new thoughts and possibilities.

In this series on Legacy & Estate Planning Basics you will learn to:

o Identify Generativity in yourself and other and steps to increase it;
o Implement the 4 Basic Building Blocks of a Strategic Legacy Plan;
o Understand the basics of wills, trusts, probate, legacy statements, and charitable giving;
o Set up a power of attorney, a living will, and long-term care arrangement; and
o Minimize the impact of estate and inheritance taxes on your heirs.

Warren Buffet, famed investor and head of Berkshire-Hathaway has drawn much attention and praise for his comments regarding his own children’s inheritance, “The perfect amount of money to leave children is enough money so that they would feel they could do anything, but not so much that they could do nothing.” In Buffet’s case that amount has been reportedly, $10 million. Buffet’s attitude of empowering the next generation without stifling their drive to create, contribute and self-direct has been embraced by the middle class, young professionals and baby boomers alike. The objective is to avoid the ancient adage, “shirtsleeves to shirtsleeves in three generations.” Only by planning your legacy and your estate now can you be sure that all your wishes will be known and respected when you pass away.  *****

Respectfully submitted by: Donald L. West, Jr., J.D., CLTP
Assoc. Dir. of Education / Chartered Legacy & Trust Planner
The American Institute of Legacy & Estate Planning

Don is available to assist with your Legacy & Estate Planning journey, have a question or need assistance – just ask.


About the Author: Don West, Jr. serves as a Personne De Confiance and counsels families, individuals and entities on the principles of generational legacy and wealth transfer as the Associate Director of Education at The American Institute of Legacy & Estate Planning. Don utilizes a planning philosophy of teaching “Healthy & Sustained Multi-Generational Family Prosperity” focused on increasing Generativity – guiding the next generation and building strong Families of Affinity. Don is the creator of ‘The Legacy Pyramid’ and teaches that “Every Life Is A Legacy”.

Legacy Excercise: Family History

List as many names as you can on your family tree.  Tell what you know or have heard about any of your ancestors, other than your parents and grandparents.  If you have the information, include any birthplaces, residences, or significant life events and dates.  If you have a Facebook Timeline or keep a journal you should note the date you began ur Legacy Quest.

Legacy Wisdom – Sheree Bykofsky

“No amount of external validation can force an unhappy person to be happy.  By the same token, if you choose to follow your own path, and create your own criteria for happiness, no amount of external adversity can “force” you to become unhappy.” ~ Sheree Bykofsky – “Me Five Years From Now”

Legacy Question: Family History

What do you know about your family history?  How far back has your family tree been traced?  Have you considered a DNA test?  Why, or why not?  If you have ancestors from another country, where did they come from?  What made them come to America?  When did they come?  How did they come?  When they arrived where did they settle and why?