Dear Grandparenting: America worships the almighty dollar and the top one percent club, the richest of the rich. It’s easy to think their grandchildren have it made. I’m on reasonably good terms with several people I will call wealthy. They are generous with their families. Now let me tell you what they talk about. Nobody in their family has to worry about money, but they seem to have complicated lives and plenty of problems, grandkids especially.
That was news to me. Maybe you can bring this grandfather up to date. Ben Cameron, New Haven, Connecticut
Dear Ben: Family wealth can cut both ways when it comes to grandchildren.
On the one hand, wealth is positively correlated with just about every aspect of childhood wellbeing that social scientists measure. And at a time when a majority of American workers live from paycheck to paycheck, it seems like a stretch to summon up sympathy for rich kids.
But according to growing numbers of child psychologists, children from affluent families are becoming increasingly “troubled, reckless and self-destructive.” Studies point to levels of delinquency that are comparable to inner city kids, in addition to generally greater drug and alcohol abuse. Call them entitled or narcissistic, but grandchildren born to wealth inherit a special set of problems — nagging worries friends are using them, guilt about their good fortune, fear of being disinherited, trying to make good on their own, and so on. When F. Scott Fitzgerald declared that the rich “are different than you and me,” Ernest Hemingway replied, “Yes, they have more money.” Not better, not happier — just richer. Kids growing up in wealthier households are more likely to suffer from anxiety and depression compared to the national average.
Here’s further proof money can’t buy happiness: According to a Princeton University study, an annual household income of $75,000 makes people about as happy as they’re ever going to get. Those earning $500,000 or $5 million are not measurably happier.
We like the game plan of famed investor Warren Buffett. America’s third richest individual intends to leave his children “enough so that they feel they can do anything, but not so much that they could do nothing.”
Grand remark of the week
As Madeline Willis from The Villages, Florida was chatting with her grandchildren about birds, five-year-old grandson Bradley asked why he never saw owls.
“That’s because owls are nocturnal,” said Madeline.
Not wanting to appear clueless, Bradley pretended he understood. “OK, so owls are not turtles,” he said.
Dee and Tom, married more than 50 years, have eight grandchildren. Together with Key, they welcome questions, suggestions and Grand Remarks of the Week. Send to P.O. Box 27454, Towson, MD, 21285. Call 410-963-4426.