Raising Your Kids Right or Raising Them Wealthy? A Billionaire’s Conundrum

March 15, 2012  |  

by Marissa Ellis

One of the most emailed stories on The Wall Street Journal in the past few days has been “Billionaire Says Her Kids Aren’t Fit For Inheritance.” You can pretty much tease out the essence of the story just from the title, but for information’s sake, the article is about Australian mining billionaire Gina Rinehart, who herself inherited a “mining empire” from her father. As things usually go in the case of inheritance, the grandchildren (in this case, Gina’s children) were also left with ownership stakes in the business; however, Gina sought to block her children from their ownership stakes. Now, three of her four children are battling it out with her in a high stakes court case.

Why would a mother bar her children from an inheritance? In court papers, Rinehart said that “none of the plaintiffs (her children) has the requisite capacity or skill, nor the knowledge, experience, judgment or responsible work ethic to administer a trust in the nature of the trust in particular as part of the growing HPPL Group.” Basically, the kids who are all in their 20s and 30s, never even held jobs and have failed to act as responsible adults.

At first listen, it seems that Gina’s case stems from a good place – the sentiment being that she doesn’t want her children to be further corrupted by the spoils of money. But upon second thought, like many observers have pointed out, one has to wonder how Gina, who is said to be worth $17 billion, got to this point? Did she not raise her children to be the responsible adults she apparently wished them to become? If not, why is she now disciplining and condemning their spoiled ways in their adulthood?

One problem that wealthy people have is raising their kids to be humble and to have a work ethic. According to the Wall Street Journal, “most of today’s self-made rich didn’t grow up with money (surveys show 75% of millionaires didn’t inherit their wealth).” It’s funny that the qualities that many self-made millionaires (the public, celebrity ones at least) admire and extol about themselves are virtues that they pretty much discourage in their offspring. The MTV show My Super Sweet 16 provides a good example of wealthy parenting gone wrong for the most part.  How is it that a child whose whims are catered to and whose lavish desires are instantly fulfilled is expected to have a balanced perspective on the world?

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