Inheriting trouble2 min read . Updated: 29 Jun 2012, 09:15 PM IST
My children, aged 14 and 16, will directly inherit a substantial property from their grandfather. Though we had urged the grandparents not to mention this to them, it has happened somehow. Now some of their friends know, and to our shock, the general attitude of some of them is, “You’re going to be rich, you don’t need to worry about anything." I am afraid this will soon translate into slacking off at school, not worrying about grades and admissions to good colleges, etc. Our daughter, who is older, is an average student, but with a flair for design, communication, etc. Earlier, she talked about joining fashion or design school. Now, she says she will directly open a home store. Our son often tells us that his friends call him “prince" and whatnot. How do we ensure they remain grounded?
Besides this one-time talk, you will need to find opportunities to talk about this at different times and levels too. For instance, when your daughter talks about opening a store, you could actually have her meet someone who runs a store, and get him or her to talk about all the managerial and entrepreneurial skills, hard work and acumen needed, besides the money involved.
What money does and means to them is what you can talk about and have them reflect on. You need to bring home to them that a person’s relationship with money is not as simple as, “I have money so I can sit back". How education and hard work simply add wonderful dimensions to the money you have, is what your children need to understand. They may not get it in one sitting, but you need to introduce this subject in different ways.
You could also give examples of third- and fourth-generation entrepreneurs, and how they are where they are not because they lolled about in their inherited wealth! You could talk about charity, sharing, employment generation...all in age-appropriate doses and not all in one go...but as an ongoing discussion. A little later, you could perhaps get someone like a financial adviser to speak to them in a friendly, informal way.
The covert and overt focus of all such talks should be that wisdom, judgement, education, emotional stability…all of these go into the enjoyment and appropriate use of money. Give them examples (and these can be found every other day in newspapers) of youngsters whose parents have let them use money indiscriminately, and how it has often led to dangerous or plain stupid behaviour.
The other important thing to spell out is that till the money is theirs, it is not theirs. Their grandparents are alive and may be around for many more years, and one must not think of inheritance as something that one already has.
It really is most inadvisable for people to tell their grandchildren or any beneficiaries of a will so much in advance. It messes with their minds and development, and only builds all kinds of unrealistic notions.
Gouri Dange is the author of ABCs of Parenting.
Write to Gouri at firstname.lastname@example.org