Mothers of affluence: blessing or curse?

By Dave Specht

For the Deseret News

Published: Tuesday, Jan. 17 2012 4:00 p.m. MST

Consider how money might be a magnifier for good. A child who learns to share is more likely to be a good corporate citizen when he or she is wealthy and grown. A child who is taught to “take what you eat and eat what you take” is less likely to misuse or under-appreciate resources as an adult. A child who witnesses random acts of anonymous generosity from his parents toward neighbors and even strangers has been pretrained in the art of charitable giving.

Lessons learned as a child are often forever imprinted on an individual’s personality. Childhood experiences like conspiring to be “secret elves” for the less fortunate at Christmas will have a lasting effect. Will more money change a person from good to bad? It’s not likely, but money correctly applied can magnify the amount of good that person is able to accomplish. How is your money a magnifier for good?

A child raised with a “scarcity mentality" is more likely to become a hoarder of wealth, never believing that he or she has enough. The child that does not learn how to work, and is given credit cards and cellphones with no limits or account- ability, will likely squander riches during his or her mature years. The disease of entitlement has been known to wither away large sums of money and cause destruction in the best of families. Will money change a person from bad to good? It’s not likely, but money poorly applied can magnify character flaws. How is your money a magnifier for bad and how might you change that?

Teach children where wealth comes from. A clear understanding of how a family has achieved financial success is crucial. It takes hard work, ingenuity and some sacrifice to achieve anything significant. It is also valuable to remind children that all success is a blessing from God. The talents and abilities that we have are all gifts from him. As we help our children to view success in the proper context, they will not need to be embarrassed about it, but they will be grateful and become conscientious stewards of whatever financial blessings they have.

Teach them to love to work. As parents, we desire to give our kids “more than we had.” Why is this our natural instinct? Is more always better? More toys, more vacations, more material things are not always better. Perhaps because we want our children to be more (that is, better) than we are, we assume that giving them more things or experiences will make that come to pass. An unintentional yet destructive Trojan Horse.

Many families that have become financially wealthy have done so with great sacrifice and work. Many times parents subconsciously try to make up for time away or missing important activities with their children by showering them with gifts or requiring them to not work. This is guilt-driven and terribly destructive.

Teaching opportunities regarding work are sometimes foregone for more playtime and the very attributes that made a person successful are lost on the next generation. A strong work ethic is one of the most valuable gifts a parent can give a child.

So is being financially wealthy a blessing or a curse? You decide. It just depends on how you approach it. As mothers get intentional about thinking and talking about money with children, it is more likely that financial wealth will be a blessing. Don’t be defined by your money. You define what true wealth really is and teach that to your children.

Dave Specht is professor of family business management at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln. He also owns Advising Generations LLC, a multi-generational family-business consulting firm. Dave is a speaker and writer on the topic. www.davespecht.com

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