Learning to Earn
Is there something I’m missing? People immediately assume that if a man or woman is rich then his or her children are also rich whilst the parents are still alive. This is not necessarily so, or at least, I personally believe that what belongs to my parents is not by default also mine and certainly I would never think to demand things off my parents for no good reason.
Bill Gates made the wise decision to give all his money his charity. I think this is probably the best thing he could have done for the mental health and wellbeing of his kids. Having to earn gives people concrete goals and ambitions. This also explains why large lottery wins are well known to destroy the life of the recipient. One minute, you know what your goals and ambitions are the next a large cash lump sum confuses your status quo.
The problem with getting something for nothing is that it almost certainly kills ambition and the will to get up in the morning.
If I know that I can ask my dad or mum to buy me a mansion and that they’ll get it why would I bother working for it?
As a parent you want the best for your kids and that desire can and frequently results in parents throwing things at their kids. In so doing, they destroy them. One generation builds a fortune the next destroys, it’s so cliché and yet it happens again and again. Parents fail to learn from the examples of others.
In South Africa the showy children of the middle class are called izikhotane (the boasters). They buy very expensive clothing at their parents’ expense and spend time in parks playing loud music, drinking and plain simply wasting time.
It doesn’t take a genius to predict what the future of most of these kids will be like. Although this social phenomenon is not as yet a major issue in Malawi it does exist on a smaller scale. Mostly, it’s not spoilt children wearing expensive designer clothing; but they are growing up with an entitlement mentality, drinking excessively and have no appreciation of the real value of work and money.
You might be thinking that you don’t have enough to spoil, your kids but the izikhotane are generally not from wealthy backgrounds, most of them live in “locations” and their parents are hard-working for the money that they so carelessly burn.
In South Africa, there is also a higher tier of good-for-nothing girls and boys whose parents throw mansions and posh cars at them. They will almost certainly burn the entire fortune the moment their parents give them access to it or die.
School can’t teach your children the value of money. You need to do that.
You don’t show your kids you love them with expensive gifts and holidays; if you truly love them you give them a good education and your time. Quality time is what they need.
My sister and I used to go cycling with my dad when we were kids and sometimes we took long family walks altogether. My mum helped me with my maths homework, my dad with geography.
You probably spend freely and willing on your children, however, take a moment to think about whether you’re passing on an attitude to money that will set them up for success or failure. It’s up to you.
“My mum says that I was born 45, and I do remember at six thinking that I should be earning my own living.” Keira Knightley
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For 2 years until early 2014 I wrote a weekly personal finance and business column for Malawi's leading media house, The Times Group. The target is middle-class, working African women.
This is a reproduction of the articles that appeared in the weekend edition of Malawi News.