The Inheritance Project was founded in 1992 by three heirs who share an interest in the emotional consequences of inherited wealth. All but one of the publications were written by the three of us—Barbara Blouin, Katherine Gibson, and Margaret Kiersted. Dennis Pearne, Ed.D., a wealth counselor, wrote “Wealth Counseling: A Guide for Therapists and Inheritors.”
“Listening is an act of love.”
—David Isay, Founder of Storycorps.
My two co-authors and I created The Inheritance Project in 1992. As women who inherited wealth at an early age, we wanted to challenge the taboo that forbids inheritors from speaking openly about just how profoundly their lives differ from almost everyone else’s. Inheritors have enough wealth that they can choose whether or not to work. This is indeed good fortune in some ways, but it can also be a huge obstacle, which few others understand. Inheritors are more likely than not to feel paralyzed by the absence of necessity of having to work, which is what gets other people out of bed in the morning. Far too many of us drift aimlessly, unable to take hold of anything meaningful and fulfilling. Far too many of us have addictions. Far too many of us find it difficult, or impossible, to sustain intimate relationships.
My two partners (whose names are pseudonyms) and I began by listening to each other tell our stories—for hours, talking with each other, one on one, with a tape recorder.
We also wanted to find others we could talk to whose situations were like our own. We started our exploration without knowing what we would find. Looking back, I think not-knowing was a good place to start: our minds and our hearts were open. Over the next several years we interviewed about two hundred inheritors. Most of the stories we heard were compelling, and we knew we needed to share them with others.
We described our work as “interviews,” but I now prefer to call what happened “conversations.” Yes, we did ask questions, both specific and open-ended, but “interviews” is too formal a word for what happened. We met the other person in a deeper way—heart to heart.
And we listened—an act of love.
Through doing this work, we were ourselves transformed. Speaking for myself, hearing the candid stories of other inheritors broke my strong sense of isolation and dismantled the shame and guilt I had felt for so long because I was rich, had unearned income, and didn’t have to work. “Journey” has become an overused word, but my work (and I can say the same for my co-authors) was an amazing journey.
One booklet (” Wealth Counseling”) was written—not by an inheritor—but by a wealth counselor, Dennis Pearne, Ed.D. His approach and ours dovetail perfectly and broadens the perspective of our subject.