Shirtsleeves to Shirtsleeves in Three Generations

The progression of wealth begins with a Builder, transferring down to a Janitor, and finally disappearing from the clutches of a Debtor. There is a better way to leave an inheritance for our Children.

Shirtsleeves to Shirtsleeves

One of the greatest burdens on children is the inheritance of wealth. Yes, I know this sounds counterintuitive. Yet, with 35+ years of experience working with three generations of families, I can attest to the validity of the premise.

Each culture has its phraseology:

  • Old English: “there’s nobbut three generations atween a clog and clog.”
  • Italy: “from the stable to the stars and back again.”
  • Japan: “rice paddies to rice paddies in three generations.”
  • China: “from peasant shoes to peasant shoes in three generations.”
  • Scotland: “father buys, son builds, grandchild sells, and his son begs.”
  • America: “shirtsleeves to shirtsleeves in three generations.”

Why is this true? Answer: “We want what we don’t have.

In the Spanish language, this is stated as, “Who doesn’t have it, does it, and who has it, misuses it.” Within that culture, they summarize the three generation “rule” as:

First generation, Trader;
Second generation, Gentleman;
Third generation, Beggar.

Those born poor want more, and those born rich desire simplicity.

In fact, the “curse of wealth” haunts the third generation. Because they:

  1. Have absolutely no idea what it took to create the Empire.
  2. Have little knowledge how to fix what breaks.
  3. Have a nagging fear of poverty.

All the while watching the wealth shrivel under their management.



For those born poor, the fear of starving to death is a great motivator. They have nothing to lose and everything to gain. Taking “flying leaps of faith” comes quite naturally. They have mantras such as, “If It Is To Be, It Is Up To Me.”

There are no “coattails” upon which to ride. They know life is what they make of it, and they are determined to create heaven on earth. An investment of “blood, sweat, and tears” seems to them a small price to pay for the dividends of “peace, wealth, and happiness” for the benefit of their Family and everyone in their sphere of influence.

This is the generation of Grandma and Grandpa.



Pity the children of the Builders, because quite often they are expected to maintain what their parents built. Although an important function of society and an honorable profession, those with the wide brooms in the hallways of schools are typically referred to as Janitors.

Within families, generally there is little responsibility given and even less accountability required of this second generation. Teaching about the inner-workings of the ship-of-state is not done, because the steering is still performed by the first generation. Rare it is for the Captain’s wheel to be delegated to younger hands.

This is the generation of Mom and Dad.



What once was an Empire (with all Assets free and clear, Cash in the bank, and Investments for the future) has been chiseled down in size because Mom and Dad were not taught either how to build or how to manage. Rather than “playing to win,” they “played not to lose.” The psychology between the two concepts is stark, and if you’ve ever watched a sports team do the latter, you know how that game ends.

If you don’t know how to build and you refuse to maintain, then the 2nd Law of Thermodynamics will reign supreme. It is partially a universal law of decay; the ultimate cause of why everything ultimately falls apart and disintegrates over time.

This law observes the fact that the useable energy in the universe is becoming less and less. Ultimately there would be no available energy left. Stemming from this fact we find that the most probable state for any natural system is one of disorder. All natural systems degenerate when left to themselves.

Second Law of Thermodynamics

The third generation receives vast sums of wealth, which magically appear on a silver platter for them. They did nothing to deserve the opportunity. Clueless to the reality of being born on third base, they (literally) spin the story to have us believe they hit a homerun. Their ignorance and arrogance are unrestrained and without limit.

This is the generation of Little Juniors.

Know Where to Tap

Here is a story to enlighten, empower, and encourage every generation.

A giant ship’s engine failed. The ship’s owners tried one expert after another but none of them could figure out how to fix the broken engine.

Then they brought in a man who had been fixing ships since he was young. He carried a large bag of tools with him and when he arrived immediately went to work. He inspected the engine very carefully, top to bottom.

Two of the ship’s owners were there watching this man, hoping he would know what to do. After looking things over, the old man reached into his bag and pulled out a small hammer. He gently tapped something. Instantly, the engine lurched into life. He carefully put his hammer away and the engine was fixed!

A week later, the owners received an invoice from the old man for $10,000.

What?! the owners exclaimed. “He hardly did anything.”

So, they wrote to the man; “Please send us an itemized invoice.”

The man sent an invoice that read:
Tapping with a hammer…..…. $2.00
Knowing where to tap…. $9,998.00

Quote Investigator

Knowing comes from sustained effort to accumulate education and experience. The science of anything can be quickly taught. Taking the science to the higher level of a Master Craftsman’s artform requires at least ten years (10,000 hours) of experience. Amateurs practice until they can do it right, while Professionals practice until they can’t do it wrong.

TAP Into Success
Click to Understand More about TAP

In other words, the person (Grandpa) who built the Ship and all its moving parts can tell by feel and sound when, “All is well.” Crew members (Dad) can sail the Ship in fair weather and calm seas. Pity the poor soul (Junior) who joins the vessel later — because they didn’t build it, maintain it, or receive any instruction about its design, capabilities, or destination.

The third generation is lost in a sea of doubt, despair, and derangement.

Resources of Time and Money

For any decision, there are only two resource management considerations: Time or Money, and sometimes both are required to achieve Success. With age comes the wisdom that between the two, Time is the most precious.

Yet, society with its 24/7/365 propaganda wants us to believe money is the answer to all ills. Money is important. Zig Ziglar is quoted as saying, “It ranks right up there with oxygen in the got to have category.”

What most people forget (or maybe have never learned) is that money is a tool to provide opportunities. Nothing more. It is not a goal worthy of sacrificing health, Family, and sanity to obtain.

In fact, my Grandpa Foard was known to say, “Too much money makes people go crazy.” As a poor kid, I remember thinking, “A little crazy is OK.” Yet, in helping individuals build their little Empires with the associated vast sums of wealth, I’ve watched them get goofier by the day.

Money is not the answer.

True Joy

Think of a time when you were building — creating something out of nothing. Do you remember the emotion? — the exhilaration? — the excitement?

Those “rich kids” on the sofa with their TV remotes, PlayStation, and digital devices tuned into AR (augmented reality) and VR (virtual reality) are utterly clueless to the real joy discovered in designing, building, and otherwise creating tangible Value for those in their sphere of influence.

There is an indescribable JOY from being “in the zone” of creative effort.

Leave an Inheritance

The scholars among us will take great offense at the concept of not leaving children and grandchildren a large monetary inheritance. They will even pretend to have God on their side of the argument and quote an old Proverb.

Good people leave an inheritance to their grandchildren,
but the sinner’s wealth passes to the godly.

Well, here’s the Real Deal — I don’t see a single reference to Money in the phrase (before the comma) about good people. Do you?

I know – for a fact – my Grandchildren will receive an inheritance from me.

No, it will not be because my children, Lindsey and Ryan, were anxious for me to tip over, so they might win the Lottery of wealth untold.

The inheritance my Children will pass on to my Grandchildren will be everything they have learned from me.

I have diligently provided opportunities for Lindsey and Ryan to learn everything they need, to be successful in this life and beyond.

Now, the ultimate question, “What will YOU choose for your Family?”

Author: Kim Foard

My mission is to guide YOU to personal and business success, according to the vision that YOU establish for us. Whatever you can do, or dream you can, begin it. Boldness has genius, power, and magic in it.