Do you want a better life for your children?
That’s a rhetorical question…of course you do.
The question that’s not so easy to answer is what constitutes a better life?
And the answer depends on where you’re at in life.
If you’ve struggled to pay off a mortgage and worked 9–5 to pay the bills, then the ‘better life’ you envisage could be for your children to secure higher-paid employment…so they don’t have to struggle to the same extent you have.
However, if you’ve generated a considerable amount of wealth (from business and/or investing), what’s the better life you have in mind for your children, who — to the outside world — have everything?
When your children are enjoying or have enjoyed a life most could only dream of, it’s easy to lose sight of the true meaning of a ‘better life’.
The fruits of your success could be the seeds of their failure.
Stories of wealth gained and lost within a generation or two abound.
Wealth is a twin-edged sword
Money can be used to access opportunities, people and experiences.
Higher education. Quality advice. Better health options. Travel. Business ideas.
Used correctly and constructively, wealth can play an important role in cultivating the character needed to perpetuate your family values and ethos…ensuring future generations can also experience a better life.
Alternatively, money can sow the seeds of destruction within a family. Money can foster an air of entitlement, arrogance, idleness, jealousy and vindictiveness.
This is where the ‘money is the root of all evil’ thinking comes from. That saying is pure nonsense.
Money is not good or evil. Money, of itself, is just money. It does not have any intent or plans…only people do.
Money can also be the root of all good as well.
‘…for there is nothing either good or bad, but thinking makes it so.’
What money does is reveal a person’s character…good, bad, idle, industrious, frivolous, responsible.
What constitutes a better life?
Clearly defining what constitutes a better life for your children is crucial. Think deeply about it and remember to be careful what you wish for.
Here’s a hint…that ‘better life’ cannot be measured in material possessions alone.
Before identifying what needs to be better, it’s worthwhile reflecting on the values derived from the life you’re leading.
The 9–5 job that pays the bills could be seen by your children as a sign of responsibility and reliability. Paying off the mortgage could be viewed as financial discipline.
I say that from personal experience. When I was growing up Dad would allocate the contents of his pay packet to various expenses…mortgage, school fees, groceries etc. Watching my parents juggle the demands of raising five children on one wage is a lesson that’s stayed with me all my life.
They didn’t even know they were teaching us a lesson in responsible money management.
To them, it was just what they did.
Imagine what you can achieve if you consciously decide to create that vision of a better life?
According to Barron’s (emphasis added):
‘Remember that values are caught, not taught. Your children will pick up more from seeing the choices you make about how you spend your time and money than they will from what you say. If you want them to learn frugality, humility, and good judgment, you need to live those values. As Duke University’s respected Dr. Kelly Crace put it: “If I followed you around for 3 weeks, I could tell you exactly what your top 5 values are.”’
There are no surprises there…actions always speak louder than others.
While we may wish for our children to experience a better life, we should be careful to assess which areas of life need to be bettered.
For me, a better life for our children is one where they build on the base — education, experiences, knowledge, ethics, morals — we’ve provided them with. It is giving them the ability to make better decisions.
That better life could take them in any number of directions. That’s OK. We’ve encouraged them to be excited by life and to go forth and explore its endless possibilities.
Confront your fears and you’ll be a better person for it. You learn — good and bad — from every experience.
We want them to be challenged, to face adversity, experience setbacks, be disappointed, get annoyed with the unfairness of the world.
Let them fall over. Let them fail. Let them make mistakes. Let them experience heartache.
I want them to experience…working like a ‘navvy’, being bullied, having their eyes opened by people outside their circle, feeling the exhilaration of savings.
That’s how they’ll build strength, resilience, persistence and wisdom. And, when they harvest the fruits of their success, it will taste oh so sweet.
That’s the better life we want for them…the feeling of freedom to have a go, to expand their horizons.
Knowing that if all else fails, there’s a family safety net that’ll catch them, dust them off and send them back out there to try again.
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The formative years of our children’s lives are so important
The ‘helicopter’ parent — the ones always hovering over their children, shielding them from life’s nasties — are NOT creating a better life for their children. They’re making it far worse.
The children will not be children all their lives…what happens when they’re adults? Will mum and dad still be piloting that parenting chopper in their 60s and 70s?
The formative years of our children’s lives are so important. That’s when the values are caught.
Make a conscious effort to throw them something every day that’s worth catching. Something that moves them towards your definition of a better life…not away from it.
Please take the time to define what you think is a better life…not just now, but for the long term.
Our children are our greatest legacy. We must do all we can to equip them with the skills, experience and character to live rich, rewarding and successful lives.
Raising a well-adjusted family to successfully manage life’s challenges requires dedication and discipline.
Children watch our every step.
If you lead, they will follow…maybe not right away, but they will.
When you have your well-thought-out vision of a better life, stride confidently towards it…and you’ll see that money can be the root of all good for your family.
Editor, The Rum Rebellion