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What’s the matter with kids today?

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After doing my best to encourage baby boomer parents to stick it to their Gen Y and Gen X kids — finance-wise — I was hauled over the coals by at least two of my ‘devoted’ readers. Now, I will set my argument for money leadership more eloquently, if not more grammatically correct.

Shrink, shrank, shrunk…

One wonderful reader loved the finance lesson, which could be summed up as: make younger family members pay their way. It probably means they should eventually move out and build their own wealth. It definitely means they shouldn’t sponge off their parents.

The article was called ‘Honey I Shrunk Your Inheritance’ and apparently I should have used ‘shrank’, not ‘shrunk’. Thanks Rhys. I’m always up for learning, though it is a case of forgetting but a gentle reminder is great. Maybe I was playing off a movie title. 

Don’t leave home without us

Another guy, Michael, ripped into me for breaking up the modern family and encouraging the insular pursuit of individuals buying residences and growing wealthy. He recommended I read some history but he doubted my ability to learn suggesting my photo indicated I was at an age where I was beyond learning!

Extend the family

It would be the height of double standards for someone like me, who spends his entire business life trying to teach others, to be closed to good ideas. Looking for and finding new ideas is what I do and so I have pondered the suggestions of my rude reader, Michael.

He likes the idea of families staying together. By quoting him you will get where he is coming from:

The idea of 'mum, dad and the two kids' is a very recent phenomenon created following the industrial revolution when mum and dad had to be mobile factory fodder prepared to move to do whatever,” he pointed out. “This era has gone forever and the refusal of X and Y Gen to move out is an excellent trend which, over several generations, may lead to the re-establishment of multi-generational households and the extended family.”

Check out my history!

He also advised me to study some history.

I have a Masters in Economic History, I taught at UNSW for over 13 years and I worked for Triple M until I was in my 40s. The history I have studied has shown me that extended families are great in principal but they need leadership. In the old days when families were extended and less nuclear, a matriarch or patriarch called the shots. 

The indulged generation

Younger family members worked their butts off on farms or in businesses and there were conventions of respect and obedience. It was artificial on one level but it worked where lots of people worked and lived together.

Unfortunately, modern parents are accused by sociologists of over-parenting, which has resulted in excessive indulgence. At the same time us ‘oldies’ have not become great role models and we lack leadership. This is coming back to bite many of us.

Stand and deliver

The example I used which provoked me to suggest to parents that they make their Gen Ys and Xs stand on their own two feet was a sad one.

A single mum had two daughters at home and they were bleeding her dry, bludging while she worked for $40,000 a year. To help them to holiday overseas, she sold shares and was shrinking her retirement nest egg.

Her super was small, and after she became a deserted mum her own parents left her shares, which she still sells to make ends meet.

If her daughters weren’t selfish and short-sighted, her ends would meet!

Can you lend mum a dime?

I fear she, like others, will hit the 60s and run out of money. She will then end up opting for a reverse mortgage and then the house inheritance will start to disappear.

I don’t absolve the mum from her role in her own disaster — she can’t lead — but her kids should care about her financial future.

Setting ground rules

Out of respect of Michael’s passion for the extended family, I suggest that families living together is a good idea in principle. In practice, there needs to be ground rules.

Young adults living at home and not paying their way and shrinking their own potential inheritance is not good for their parents nor themselves. Just because you live at home shouldn’t mean you keep up childish ways.

Too many young people who take the ‘at home’ option line the pockets of pubs, departments stores and others flogging products. Living at home should not mean they don’t save, invest and prepare for their own future.

Michael, I only learned this recently: to be a successful leader you first need to lead yourself. You also have to be willing to love out of your comfort zone and face the hard truth about yourself.

Parents need to step up to the plate and be prepared to lead their young adult children. And while living at home has its advantages, many children might never grow up.

I go back before the Industrial Revolution and think of the animal kingdom which has been casting cubs out and dropping young birds from nests since the start of biological time.

It has something to do with maturity Michael.

It’s something we all can do with, at any age!

Published on: Wednesday, November 02, 2011

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