If our films and stories caricatured the heirs that fought for their parents’ wealth, or those that wasted their lives in the privileges offered by their parents’ income, the stories of the righteous and ethical group should also be told. These are children of first generation nuclear families, where both parents went to work, and growing up meant being independent and being inspired by the hard work of parents. This is not a generalisation, but an illustrative slice of a new generation with a refreshingly generous attitude towards other people’s money. Not everyone is an entitled brat.
How should parents deal with such a situation? What happens when children argue that they would not accept the parents’ wealth as theirs?
First, review the large chunky assets that you may have built with the intention of passing it on to the children. This can typically be in the form of land, property or jewellery. Talk about these assets with the children to find out if they are willing to take care of these inheritances. Your investment in housing and property may not be used by children who no longer live in the same city. Taking care of it and maintaining it may be seen as burdensome. There is no harm in selling off and converting these into financial assets. Money invested in financial instruments is easily accessed, is divisible, and can be liquidated without much effort or cost.
Second, consider spending the money you earned and saved. Many parents are too harsh on themselves. In the fear of an uncertainty in the future, they deny themselves many pleasures of the present. They put money aside for children, while leading a frugal life themselves. If the children don’t need the money, ask yourself how you would like to spend the money. Find out if there are small indulgences you can now spend on. Such as upgrading your home; allocating money to your interests and hobbies; traveling as you may wish to; investing in causes you care about and so on.
Third, discuss with your child to find out if a laddered inheritance might make sense to them. There are chunky expenses they would incur at various stages of their lives, when their inheritance might lighten the burden. In their 30s they may buy a house; in their 40s they may contemplate an entrepreneurial venture; in their 50s they may consider an early retirement and so on. Arrive at understanding that you won’t be the helicopter parent in their adult lives, but you would transfer once in 10 years, an amount of wealth that might be of some use. You may be able to arrive at a solution that lets them retain their pride while also enabling you to share your wealth.
Fourth, there may still be work that you have to do, even if you see yourself as retired. That your child does not demand your wealth frees you to consider ventures, plans and new opportunities you did not consider earlier. You can now begin the library and book club; start the music school you dreamt of; donate to rural schools as you wish; support the cause of rehabilitating the dying arts. Many of these pursuits require serious allocation of money which you now have.
Fifth, there may be communities of near and dear ones that can benefit from your wealth. You can take on the responsibilities of paying for higher education; medical care and home care after illnesses; monthly allowance for the destitute without income and so on. These may be people around you, found in your extended families, or in your immediate community where you live and work. If you have money that hasn’t been earmarked for a specific use, if you have surplus that is now not needed for the purpose you set it aside, you can find many alternative productive uses for the money.
In our earnestness about providing for the children, we many times forget that they are also entitled to the joys of being self-made. We fail to see that they may want to own their successes without finding us at every threshold of major decision making in their lives. We already did a lot for them. They are quite aware of it. But they want us to stop. So that they can live their lives on their terms and make their decisions about using our wealth and assets. We may have to let go.
While my son argued about allowing him to own the consequences of his decisions, I was unable to appreciate what he was saying. At that time, I was newly driving the car in the US, still getting familiar with the left turn at the traffic signal. I have to yield to oncoming traffic and turn left when I find a gap. As I contemplated one of such turns, he nudged me after looking out for me, and said “now.” After we took the turn, he asked me—how did that feel? I hated it, I told him. I would have taken the turn anyway and he spoilt the joy for me. Backseat driving is annoying. There you go, he said. Your trying to make my life better also results in something similar, he said. Point taken.
(The writer is Chairperson, Centre for Investment Education and Learning)
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