Dear Grandparenting: My daughter’s husband started a little company six years ago to make security stuff to protect computers against hackers. Last month he agreed to sell it for seriously big money. My grandchildren are set for life and that worries me to death.
I have met some people who inherited more than enough to live high on the hog without ever working. They never figured out what to do with themselves except try to buy happiness. I raised my daughter to work hard and live within her means. My late husband Bill and I had one credit card between us that we seldom used.
Maybe I worry too much, but sudden wealth has a way of changing people for the worse. If you don’t believe me, ask all those lottery winners who blew it. What’s to say I don’t wind up with a couple of lazy, materialistic underachievers for grandchildren? Roberta Scales, New York, New York
Dear Roberta: In this day and age of economic uncertainty, we can assure you that plenty of families would love to have your problem.
That said, a financial windfall cuts both ways. It can change the thinking and behavior of the lucky ones for the worse, in ways they may be unaware of. There’s even a name for it—the sudden wealth syndrome.
Researchers have uncovered a multitude of troubles that can plague children who seem to have it all. Wealthier kids tend to be more anxious than peers from lower-income families, and are at higher risk for depression, substance abuse, eating disorders, cheating and stealing.
Issues may arise from changes in brain chemistry resulting from the pleasurable sensation of receiving money or possessions—a “high” that can become an addiction. Others buckle under pressure to achieve, or isolation from preoccupied parents.
Rich kids frequently encounter envy and resentment, and are often presumed to be “cold” and out of touch. Studies show that people of lower socioeconomic status are better at reading others’ facial expressions—an important marker for empathy.
A proactive family plan, say wealth management advisors, helps put youngsters on the road toward becoming fiscally and socially responsible adults.
Start talking to children about money early on, like monthly costs for food, housing, clothing, insurance, etc. Limit allowances to a fixed amount and make them stick to a budget. Requiring children to do household chores or some other work for money given helps them learn the value of money and develops their work ethic. Volunteering teaches charity for others and gratitude for what they have.
Grand remark of the week
Jilly Stern from Everett, Washington defines grandchildren as “my reward for not strangling my kids when they were teenagers. There were times I honestly thought I would not get through all the stuff I had to put up with.”
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.