Question of the Day: Should you leave your children an inheritance?
You guys know my story. I didn’t come from anything. But now that I’m raising children, I get worried that I am spoiling them and they won’t learn to appreciate hard work. They need to have a little bit of struggle to understand how to be productive human beings in society.
I think about it even with my son’s little actions that he does — when he doesn’t want to eat his food and he just sticks his head up, sticks his nose up.
I think to myself, I was not allowed to do that as a kid. I would get smacked in the back of the head if I didn’t eat my food.
Now, of course, my son isn’t even two years old, so he’s got plenty of time. But what about people that grow up and they’ve always had every single thing they’ve ever wanted? Do these people turn out to be okay?
I think the answer is mostly no, and I’ll tell you why.
There’s one experience that has really stuck with me. And I say this with sympathy in my heart. There was a girl that I was best friends with throughout my college years and I’m still good friends with her. She is actually a good person, but she grew up with a little bit of wealth.
Her parents were able to give her whatever she wanted. She was the firstborn in her family and after school, we both moved to New York City.
I remember being with her right after her father decided it was time for her to start taking care of herself.
So, I have worked since I was actually 14 years-old. I had to take out student loans to go to college. I’ve always had to pay my own rent in life. If I was not paying my own rent, I would have been living at home.
My friend didn’t have that experience, so this entire concept of supporting herself really caught her off guard.
Her dad was very fair about it. These were the rules that he established. He told her every three months he was going to remove 25% from his financial support.
So essentially, when she moved to New York City, he was covering 100% of her rent and expenses. So for example, he would start off giving her $2,000 per month, then three months later knock that support down to $1,500, and then three months later $1,000 and so and so forth.
Personally, I thought this was a pretty good deal — giving her an entire year before she would have to support herself.
Yet it devastated her.
Obviously, she was suddenly realizing that money does not come out of thin air, that she was not making enough money to live in New York City. I remember going over to her house when she was having a legitimate anxiety attack. She was crying, breathing deeply.
I was trying to calm her down when she said something to me that never left me. She said, “If my dad wanted me to figure out how to support myself, then maybe he shouldn’t have gotten me a pony.”
She was being very serious. She wasn’t making a joke.
And I remember looking at her almost like an alien visiting another planet. I couldn’t even comprehend the words coming out of her mouth, but I knew that she meant the words sincerely.
Again, she was not a bad person. She was a person that had never been made to suffer. And being cut off from her father was the first form of “suffering” that she had to experience — a full year to figure out how to support herself in her young twenties.
While I felt bad for her, I realized at that moment I was grateful to have come from nothing because it had completely changed my perspective throughout life.
It made it so that I had to work harder from a younger age. I understood that everything she had was a sign of privilege.
She had the exact opposite of what I experienced. She had no perspective of where the money came from.
And because of that, I believe firmly in “rich kids’ problems.”
It is a legitimate problem.
We have to do a better job. So I ask the question again, should you leave your children with everything you worked for? Does it actually produce a good human being at the end of that lifetime?