Wealthy was different from being rich. Rich was a number, and as we saw in the Great Recession, one that did not equate to being financially secure. Wealthy could be a successful corporate attorney; it could also be a teacher who lived on her pension and savings. Rich was the guy in my town who drove the red Mercedes SL500 roadster, lived in a heavily mortgaged eighty- five- hundred- square- foot home, and had about a month to find a job before he— or his second wife— blew through what little savings he had.
Below the line were people, rich or not, who did not have the security of true wealth. They may have had a lot of money in the bank, but their lifestyles were so extravagant that their finances were fragile, at best.
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“Parents make the mistake of wanting to be the provider of money,” Grubman said. “It goes all the way back to childhood and allowances. If a child wants to go off to Guatemala or wherever, they need to have some skin in the game. The mistake many wealthy families make is to subsidize it.”
Channeling your good fortune to help your children get a good education is laudable, but using it to make sure they do not fail is a path to future failure.
Most people can imagine how much better their life would be with some sum of money, how it would free them and allow them to travel and be all-around happier people. What such thinking misses is that money without some purpose in life is soul-sapping.
When I think of problems with inheritance I don’t limit it to the rich or the wealthy, nor do I associate it with money alone. The problem is the sense of entitlement that puts you at the center of the world—either as a Falstaffian bon vivant or a brilliant but conscience-wracked do-gooder. It can rob you of motivation whatever the sum involved.
Carlos Slim Helú, the Mexican telecommunications mogul and the only man in the world richer than Bill Gates, had a more nuanced view on not being charitable. “The only way to fight poverty is with employment,” he said according to a Wall Street Journal report. “Trillions of dollars have been given to charity in the last fifty years, and they don’t solve anything.”
The wealthy possess the contentment that comes from having enough, whether it is $ 100,000, $ 1 million, $ 100 million, or more. The rich person, whatever he or she does, is going to struggle often with balance and could end up in financial situations that force unpleasant choices.