I remember a conversation I had in my early teens about parents leaving an inheritance for their children. I had mentioned to a friend’s brother that the founder of the church I was born into recently made it known that he wasn’t leaving any money to his children.
Now the man in question had been born poor and had learnt hard work early. He was diligently working as a salesman at a leading shoe company and had put in 10 years of meritorious service when God called him into ministry. He started his mission work at a time when pastors were “church rats” and his faith was rewarded beyond what he could ever have imagined. So I could understand why he didn’t want to leave an inheritance to his children.
Like many parents, he wanted his children to learn the value of hard work, to understand from experience the dignity that is in labour. So he averred that he would give them the best education he could, but they would not become young millionaires. However, my friend’s brother did not understand this way of thinking and refused to agree that it was the right thing to do.
“E just wan put those children for suffer.”
The subject of leaving an inheritance to your children is a touchy one. Those who believe in it often quote King Solomon, “A good man leaves an inheritance to his children’s children.” (Proverbs 13:22a). Yet others distinguish between a financial inheritance and the inheritance that is in the form of a legacy.
In days of yore leaving money and property to your children was the expected thing, but in the last few decades, more and more parents are choosing not to.
Like the parents of CNN correspondent, Anderson Cooper, whose mother Gloria is the great-great-great granddaughter of shipping tycoon Cornelius Vanderbilt. In March 2016 the journalist revealed that from a young age, his parents told him he wouldn’t inherit any of the vast Vanderbilt fortune.
“I think my mom and dad both wanted to get across to me that… I obviously grew up with great privilege and was very lucky and was able to afford college and not have student loans and they would pay for college, but beyond that, it would be up to me to make a living,” he said.
Now 49, Cooper started working as early as his teens, as a child model for brands like Ralph Lauren and Calvin Klein. He also saved money from lemonade stands and worked as a waiter in high school. The best part is, he understands the reasoning behind his parents’ decision and actually appreciates it!
“It was important to me and I think important to my parents that I be on my own and figure things out on my own and kind of forge my own path, and I’m really grateful for that,” says Cooper.
Focus on the Family founders Dr James and Shirley Dobson have also been very vocal about the subject of leaving a financial inheritance to one’s offspring.
“We believe that giving large amounts of money to kids who haven’t earned it can be extremely destructive. It can make them unhappy, greedy, and cynical. It detracts from their motivation to trust in God and provides opportunities to give in to new temptations,” Dr Dobson says in his 1997 book, Solid Answers.
Many parents like them agree that leaving money to children is tantamount to digging their early graves, but must this always be the case? Isn’t there a way to allow your children learn hard work and financial prudence, and make their own way in life while enjoying the benefits of an inheritance?
Please share your thoughts in the comments.