The Five Family Capitals

Updated: Jul 24, 2020


Legacy involves more than the financial aspects of your life. Over the years there’s been a lot of research and thinking done on the concept of legacy. One of the cutting-edge thinkers in this area is J. Hughes.

Mr. Hughes and his team have identified five aspects of legacy – often referred to as the “Five Family Capitals”.  Every family has these capitals – and each should be addressed in your legacy thinking and planning.  This article addresses each of these five capitals at a high level.  Future articles will discuss each of these in more detail.


Human Capital The first type of capital is Human Capital. This capital is made up of the individual family members – and the skills, talents, knowledge, dreams, aspirations and history that each member of the family possesses.  It also consists of the values, passions, and spirituality of each of the family members. When I sit down and really talk with my clients about this concept, they tend to list this one as the greatest assets any family or individual can have. Intellectual Capital The second type of capital is Intellectual Capital. This aspect addresses how people learn over the course of their lives, and going a step deeper, it shows how they communicate and resolve conflict. The intellectual capital usually involves education and mentoring of some type – quite often from within the family. This is another often overlooked area that I really encourage my clients to begin thinking about and to develop a plan to ensure the intellectual capital continues to be passed on throughout the generations.   Social Capital The third Capital is Social Capital. This encompasses how a family or a person interacts with their environment, and their community.   One important question to consider when thinking about Social Capital is: “What is your level of civic engagement?” Is it at a level that you would want to continue for the next 20, 50, 100 or even 200 years? Do you want to increase your commitment to the same civic organizations you support now or do you want to include other ones? Unfortunately, if this is not covered in your planning, an organization that is near and dear to your heart may not hold the same emotional pull for your grandchildren or great-grandchildren.   Financial Capital The fourth capital is Financial Capital – the assets you have accumulated throughout your lifetime. These are the assets that generally come to mind when we think about leaving a legacy: stocks, bonds, investments and property. Unfortunately, many financial plans focus solely on this Capital and totally ignore the other capitals. Spiritual Capital The last capital is Spiritual Capital. Spiritual capital is unique to every family. This capital is how a family, or an individual within the family, deploys their unique gifts. This also includes how they are deployed not only within the family but within the surrounding community and the world at large. This is where we see the “why” people want to make a difference.

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