August 14, 2014

BAD NEWS: Money Won’t Buy Your Kids A Future.

Having grown up in New York City and attended an expensive college, I invariably came into contact with quite a few people who had sizable inheritances or trust funds coming to them. Over the years, I’ve grown quite sincerely glad that I wasn’t one of them. I can’t claim to have any scientific data, of course, but in my experience, too many of those people were always about to do something but never got to the point of actually having done it. They got jobs but left them when the job proved to be tiresome, or when they had a major setback such as a terrible performance review. They didn’t need to make a career in order to put food on the table, and that kept them from doing the often painful and unpleasant work of getting really good at their jobs. And ultimately, they weren’t happy about that. Their money protected them from the very real miseries of being broke. But it also protected them from the sweet smell of success. . . .

Help with a down payment on a reasonable mortgage is probably better than buying your kids a house (or a car, or a stock portfolio, or regular cash infusions). You want to give them the tools to build a prosperous life, but if you subsidize the life itself, they’ll end up building lives they can’t really sustain without your help. And I know more than one family that was counting on a sizable cash infusion when Grandpa or Mom died, only to find out that elderly relatives can burn up an astonishingly large estate on lengthy nursing home stays.

Indeed. The best thing you can do for your kids is to help them develop a good character, and a good work ethic. Which reminds me of Adam Shepard’s Scratch Beginnings, and the interview we did with him on the late, lamented, Glenn & Helen Show.