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Abigail Disney reveals the 5 secrets the super-rich teach their trust-fund children

Abigail Disney reveals the 5 secrets the super-rich teach their trust-fund children
via U.S. Institue of Peace / Flickr

Abigail Disney is the daughter of Patricia Ann and Roy E. Disney and granddaughter of Roy O. Disney, co-founder of The Walt Disney Company with her great-uncle Walt.

At the age of 21, she came into considerable wealth and at 60, has a net worth of around $120 million. According to Business Insider, she has given away approximately $70 million of her personal fortune over the past 30 years.


Abigail is a documentary filmmaker, peace advocate, and host of the podcast "All Ears." She has used her status to bring attention to the excesses of the super-rich and called for reforms to address income inequality.

She is part of The Patriotic Millionaires, a group of wealthy people who support hiking taxes on the rich.

In a new op-ed published in The Atlantic, she discusses the rules that the super-rich and their heirs live by to hold onto the "dynastic wealth." The article was a reaction to a recent ProPublica article that revealed how little America's top 25 wealthiest pay in taxes.

Here are the five secrets Disney says the super-wealthy pass down through the generations to hold on to their wealth.

1. The common ideology

"One factor is the common ideology that underlies all of these practices: The government is bad and cannot be trusted with money. Far better for the wealthy to keep as much of it as possible for themselves and use (a fraction of) it to do benevolent things through philanthropy." — Abigail DisneyAbigail Disney

I wonder whether this philosophy comes from a realistic criticism of the excesses of government or a selfish desire to hold on to every last penny?

2. Never spend the corpus

"When you come into money as I did—young, scared, and not very savvy about the world—you are taught certain precepts as though they are gospel: Never spend the 'corpus' (also known as the capital) you were left. Steward your assets to leave even more to your children, and then teach them to do the same."Abigail Disney

The corpus is the principal or property handed down through an estate or trust. Say you inherited $10 million, to live by this philosophy, you would live off the investment income produced by the original amount but never dip into the original inherited sum.

According to the philosophy, ideally one would grow the corpus and then hand down even more than they originally inherited, to their children.

via US Naval War College / Flickr


3. Keep it away from the government

"Use every tool at your disposal within the law, especially through estate planning, to keep as much of that money as possible out of the hands of government bureaucrats who will only misuse it." Abigail Disney

In the article, she also discusses the large loopholes in tax law that allow the super-rich to easily avoid paying taxes are so commonly used among the upper 1% that it's astonishing they're legal.

4. Philanthropy

"If you are raised in a deeply conservative family like my own, you are taught some extra bits of doctrine: Philanthropy is good, but too much of it is unseemly and performative."Abigail Disney

This advice falls apart pretty quickly when one realizes that people can give money away anonymously so that it doesn't appear "performative" or "unseemly."

5. Marriage

"Marry people 'of your own class' to save yourself from the complexity and conflict that come with a broad gulf in income, assets, and, therefore, power." — Abigail Disney

This advice is fine unless you happen to believe that marriage should be based on love, not the cultivation of power or wealth.

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