💡 An important and paradoxical principle for parents: Don’t make your kid’s life easy 💡

Photo by Sharon McCutcheon on Unsplash

“儿孙能如我,何必留多财,
倘若不如我,多财亦是空,
不为自己求利益,但愿大众共安宁”。

If the children and grandchildren can be like me, then they require not of material inheritance;
If the children and grandchildren are not like myself, then of what use is my wealth to them?
Do not seek personal interests but peace for all

Robert Kuok’s mother, Tang Kak Ji wrote these words herself and then got a small shop to inscribe them. This has become the family motto of Robert Kuok’s family.

It is a quote that surmises the role of parents and wealth very well. As I observe and reflect, I appreciate its meaning and intention more.

About Robert Kouk
Extracted from Wikipedia: He is a Malaysian business magnate and investor. According to Forbes, his net worth is estimated at $10.6 billion as of July 2020, making him the wealthiest person in Malaysia and the 104th wealthiest in the world. His business interests range from sugarcane plantations (Perlis Plantations Bhd), sugar refineries, flour milling, animal feed, oil, mining, finance, hotel (Shangri-La Hotels and Resorts), property, trading, freight and publishing. Businesses in China include 10 bottling companies for Coca-Cola and ownership of the Beijing World Trade Centre. His biggest source of wealth is a stake in Wilmar International, the world’s largest listed palm oil trader company.

Money as a magnifier of character

Money is a magnifier. Having the right values and character are critical, they have to be inculcated from young. With the right character and attitude, money can multiply and bring benefits to society at large. Without the right values and character, having money will magnify the character’s weaknesses and do more harm to himself and the family.

After much observation of super-wealthy families, here’s my recommendation: Leave the children enough so that they can do anything, but not enough that they can do nothing.

Warren Buffett

Using money to solve problems can be a bad idea.

If you can fix a problem with money, it’s not really a problem.

Kim Kardashian

With rising income and living standards, we can often witness this in play. As parents, we shower the children with the things they want; to make them happy, to compensate for the lack of time spent with the children and what they did not have during their childhood previously. Especially being busy with careers, by spending money and providing them with what they want, we believe we have done our part as parents — a better life for the kids and family.

The kids may grow up having the belief that money can solve (all or most) problems as they learn from their parents. Wealth can breed arrogance and social status. They may be more accustomed to branded products and services as a signal of a social cue than having products based on price-quality propositions. They may pay less attention to friendships or relationships or worse, they built friendships and relationships with money. Money becomes a more important foundational component of relationships than developing a more durable and sustaining relationship with open and honest communications, respect and appreciation and being supportive and positive regardless of financial situations.

As the family gets more wealthy, more money is used more often to make sure the kids do well, to solve problems; as compensation and perhaps, to salvage situations. To make sure the kids do better, we stuffed them with tuition to do well and send them to good schools. When the kids are unable to study well; we send them to universities overseas with full allowances so that they live comfortably and focus on their studies; they do not need to worry about money and work part-time. Thereafter, some may have their apartment and car fully paid for by their parents. Some may not want to work if their salary expectation is not met. Some families are perhaps wealthy enough to last through their children’s generation.

Money provides a high safety net so that the kids do not fail and suffer.

Money, as a solution to problems together with protective parents, can provide a high safety net with good cushioning for children. They get what they need. The kids grow up sheltered, comfortable and educated. Life is great and smooth sailing.

If from infancy you treat children as gods, they are liable in adulthood to act as devils.

P.D. James

We feel pain when our kids fail (badly). We ourselves may have faced failures and hardships that we want our kids to avoid. Hence, we want to minimise failures for our kids.

However, we forget that we learn the most important lessons from failures much more than from success. From failures, we learn about motivation, being flexible, able to adapt, embracing change, humility and resilience. From failures, we appreciate success more. It is better to fail young, lower losses, and easier to recover while we are here with them to guide and help.

With wealth, characters and attributes such as resilience, drive and ambition can be more difficult to develop and build. They may not understand frugality. They may lack empathy to appreciate life outside their comfort zone and people and families in different financial situations and circumstances.

Character and mindset, once developed, can be very difficult to change.

Wealth gained quickly will dwindle away, but the one who gathers it little by little will become rich.

Proverbs‬ ‭13:11‬

Values and character are developed and cultivated from young, moulded and reinforced through challenges and failures (more important if the family is wealthy).

Character flaws developed can be very difficult to correct. They may have the belief that money can solve (all or most) problems as they learn from their parents. They may have a sense of self-entitlement; worse if they felt entitled to their parent’s assets.

When life challenges occur, they may lack the attitude and skillsets to turn the situation around. They may not listen to the parents; believing that the parents’ thinking is outdated and they are right. Family relationships may become strained. Perhaps, they may realize and learn with a crisis; by then, this will be too late, too painful a lesson. It may be a grown-up alone in denial and suffering.

If you want children to keep their feet on the ground, put some responsibility on their shoulders.

Abigail Van Buren

A smooth sea never made a skilful sailor. 

Franklin D. Roosevelt

A universal truth: Wealth often does not stay.

Every culture has similar observations with their aphorisms.

American expression: Shirtsleeves to shirtsleeves in three generations
It means that the older generation started with nothing, worked hard and amassed wealth, and by the time their great-grandchildren are in charge, the family is back where they started, with nothing.

Chinese saying: 富不过三代
Wealth does not pass three generations.

A quote from the former Ruler of Dubai, United Arab Emirates:

“My grandfather rode a camel, my father rode a camel, I drive a Mercedes, my son drives a Land Rover, his son will drive a Land Rover, but his son will ride a camel”

Sheikh Rashid bin Saeed Al Maktoum, former Ruler of Dubai, Vice-President and Prime Minister of United Arab Emirates

It reflected the Ruler’s concern that Dubai’s oil will run out. Thus he worked to build up an economy in Dubai that could survive the end of Dubai’s oil boom. He also expressed his worry that Dubai may return to its original form if It does not make full use of the wealth from oil to diversify into other non-oil sectors substantively.

Hard truth: Character is developed with scarcity and discomfort.

Character cannot be developed in ease and quiet. Only through experience of trial and suffering can the soul be strengthened, ambition inspired, and success achieved.

Helen Keller

We don’t grow when things are easy; we grow when we face challenges.

Anonymous

We learn and become better with scarcity (less money and resources) — through tough times, challenges, and hardships. Character is forged in adversity. We can learn from good times (with plentiful money and resources) but the learning is shallow and worse, it may create an illusion that we are great.

By creating an environment of abundance and ease, we are not preparing our children enough for their road ahead for the plausible challenges ahead when we are not around.