A definition of wealth (according to Wikipedia) is “the abundance of valuable resources or valuable material possessions.” A simpler definition from dictionary.com is a “great quantity or store of money, valuable possessions, property or other riches.” A definition by Legacy Legal, hits the nail on the head. It defines it as “an aspect of financial planning that is geared towards passing down STABLE, SIGNIFICANT financial resources to future generations.”
The richest man in the world according to the Forbes 2017 rankings is Bill Gates with a net worth of 88.8 billion USD. Down the list is a family that grabs attention, ranking 15th, 16th and 17th, are Jim Walton, Alice Walton and S. Robson Walton with a collective net worth of US$97.8 billion, that is US$25.8 billion more than Bill Gates. This is excluding their cousins’ worth, which according to Forbes magazine of January 27, 2017 makes the Waltons have a collective net worth of about US$130 billion as of June 2016. The question therefore begs to be asked: who are the Walton family and how did they make their money?
Samuel Moore ‘Sam’ Walton, father of these people, was the founder of Wal-Mart Stores Inc. and Sam’s Club. As at the time of his death in 1993, he was worth US$8.6 billion, one of the richest men in his days.
He began with a start-up capital of US$25,000 and went on to form one of the largest and most successful retail chain stores in America and eventually, the world, Wal-Mart. Focusing on selling only made in America products, providing a one-stop store and locating their shops within reasonable distance of the warehouses, Sam Walton developed a system that ensured a continuous flow of wealth long after he was gone.
When he died, there was no question of shutting down the company, rather, leadership was passed down to his son, S. Robson and his other children stepped up to handle different responsibilities in the company which has grown to greater heights.
It is important to note that the family kept their wealth within the family with S. Robson serving as Chairman from 1992-2015 and Jim and Alice functioning in various capacities on the board of directors. Whatever company they founded were placed as subsidiaries of the parent company, Wal-Mart. Some of them include Arvest Bank, Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art, and the defunct Llama Company amongst others.
Rich Gaines of Legacy Legal rightly said in an article that, “generational wealth is about more than just money. It is about wealth in VALUES, BELIEFS and TRADITIONS.”
Walton made sure to pass down to his children the values that made him wealthy, one of them being ‘hard work’ – which is a vital value to cultivate. Unlike some children who inherit great wealth and squander it, the Walton children worked hard and justifiably improved on their father’s legacy.
A perfect biblical example is the father of faith himself, Abraham. He owned a flock of sheep and that was his major source of income. He passed down the business to his son Isaac who, although diversified into building wells, stuck true to shepherding. Isaac in turn passed it to his son Jacob who also amassed great wealth from taking care of sheep and passed it on to his children and even till now, in modern Israel, Shepherding is still good business.
Robert Allen in his book, Multiple Streams of Income described an enlightened millionaire as “one who uses his wealth to help others less privileged.” Walton was certainly enlightened as his children have continued his legacy of giving to numerous charities. One of them, the Walton Family Foundation, founded by Sam and Helen Walton, is committed to creating opportunities so individuals and communities can live better in today’s world. This principle is also mentioned in the bible in Proverbs 19:17 (NKJV), “He who has pity on the poor lends to the Lord, and He will pay back what he has given.”
While creating wealth is important, building a legacy that will impact generations after you is more important. So, what wealth are you creating for your future generations?
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