Help! What role can retired grandparents play?
A reader whom we will call Tatang writes: I am 73 years old and a proud grandparent to five grandchildren. I retired at 69 when my wife passed away, and my three children are now handling our real estate business. Often, I feel that my ways of doing things are better, but I keep quiet. You say that we have to let our children make mistakes so they can learn (Aug. 28, 2015). If I nag them, it would not be productive. The business is fine as of now.
Now retired, I have more time to spend with my apos. Three are working in the business, two are in college. I am closer to them than to my own children. I was busy working when my kids were growing up (they were closer to their mother), but I am making up for it now with my apos.
I do not want to interfere a lot in the business. But I also want to keep busy. You suggest that retired founders set up foundations. Can you discuss this further?
The Chinese have a saying: “Grandparents and grandchildren are the natural enemies of the parents.”
What you are describing is natural: it is common for grandparents to have a closer bond with their grandchildren rather than with their own kids, because they have the chance to spoil and interact with them without the parental obligation to discipline.
Stop feeling guilty about your perceived inadequacies regarding your own children. By leaving center stage and giving them full responsibility, you have done what many founders find hard to do: let go. Congratulations. Thank you for heeding my suggestion. I am happy to know that your business is doing well, even without you at the helm.
Taking a back seat is not easy, but necessary. However, since you are of sound mind and body, with your experience and wisdom, you should not be totally relegated to the background. I commend you for thinking about philanthropy. I have mentioned this in the past, and I highly recommend that you explore this option now.
Instead of an active management role, elders in the business usually become the advisers and referees, to be called upon in cases of dispute. But hopefully, these do not happen often in your business, so most of the time, you may be just an observer. This is a waste of resources, because your family should be able to continue to benefit from you.
Directly taking over the reins is not fair to the next generation. But leaving you on the sidelines is not fair to you. Since you are particularly close to your grandchildren, philanthropy is a win-win for all.
“Philanthropy, in and of itself, is a practical teaching tool for learning virtues through the process of giving to others,” says US family business consultant James E. Hughes Jr. in his book “Family Wealth.”
“Philanthropy, as a vehicle for grandparents to take an active role in family governance, offers a means for them to teach their grandchildren the family’s values and particularly the values of gratitude and stewardship. This gives grandchildren and grandparents a particularly powerful role in family governance,” he adds.
Lead the family foundation. Get suggestions from everyone, including your grandchildren, and involve them in the process. Ask them for grant proposals (including feasibility, pros and cons), and encourage them to discuss and defend their causes.
“From the grandparents’ perspective, what could be more fun than to sit with one’s grandchildren, discuss their passions, and discover who they are? From the grandchildren’s perspective, what could be more beneficial than to get to know their grandparents through their wisdom and the stories of their own giving, to deepen their knowledge and respect for them, and with great fun, to be taught the family’s wisdom and rituals?” Hughes says.
Queena N. Lee-Chua is on the Board of Directors of Ateneo de Manila University’s Family Business Development Center. E-mail the author at [email protected]
Subscribe to INQUIRER PLUS to get access to The Philippine Daily Inquirer & other 70+ titles, share up to 5 gadgets, listen to the news, download as early as 4am & share articles on social media. Call 896 6000.