To leave the kids an inheritance – or not?

‘Bugger the kids! Spend the inheritance!’ is a catch cry from some of my friends. It is often yelled with great gusto, perhaps said in defiance of ageing and an antidote to the concept of shuffling off this mortal coil.

It’s part retort – we’ve reached an age where we can do as we please, don’t have to go to work and can wallow in our good fortune. Sometimes the catch cry is uttered as a throwaway line, an attention-getter, an expectation that that is what should be said, rather than what they will actually do.

I’ve noticed that several famous celebrities have joined in a version of this chorus, claiming that they’re not leaving their vast wealth to their children. Daniel Craig, aka James Bond, declared as such the other day, as has Warren Buffett.

READ: Boomers spending kids’ inheritance

Fair enough, I thought for a moment. They have enormous wealth measured in the millions, if not the billions, not in the thousands like the rest of us, and their concern is that they will create wastrels of their children – an entitled group of spoilt brats who would never need to work or forge their own careers.

An American, Andrew Carnegie, famous for the expansion of the steel industry in the US back in the 1800 to 1900s, amassed a fortune worth billions of dollars in today’s terms. He made the decision to leave his vast fortune to a series of charities and trusts he had set up. He pushed the concept of philanthropy, claiming in a book he wrote that the rich “have a moral obligation to distribute their money in ways that promote the welfare and happiness of the common man”.

Mind you, he did leave his daughter a regular living allowance that probably translated into today’s money to be equivalent to a salary. But his point was not to leave enough so that it would destroy his child’s life and be a disincentive to make something of her life.

Bill Gates has followed through with this philanthropic concept as have many wealthy Americans.

READ: Calls for inheritance tax and GST hike to fix broken tax system

But then, as I continued to ponder money and entitlement, I felt other considerations were at play. Surely, the way you bring them up, the values you try to instil and the example you set are important in this discussion. If you convey the values of hard work and kindness, then you could trust your children to do good deeds and not waste their life.

And there is another consideration. What message are you sending if you leave them nothing? I don’t love you? I don’t care about your future and your struggles? Some of any inheritance left is symbolic rather than actually material in nature. And, of course, you cannot take any wealth you have to the grave.

The irony, of course, is that in this pandemic, even if old folk want to spend all their  money, there is limited chance to do so at the moment! Borders are shut, cities are shut down and many of us can’t get to the shops. So maybe a rethink to that throwaway line is needed.

Are you hopeful of leaving your children an inheritance? Do you think that will make them complacent? Why not share your experience in the comments section below?

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Written by Dianne Motton



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