Some of us seem to believe in leaving a legacy – whether monetary or otherwise, to our children. Inheritance is an expected process of wealthy parents whose children usually assume that all of it will be passed on to them. Yet, there are others who believe that an inheritance can ruin the children – they believe that their money is better off being used to empower less fortunate people than being left in a fund for the children to indulge in. The world is too full of poor little rich kids who have never known the word no nor the weight of responsibility. They have never known the determination, the commitment that went into making the money and often take it for granted, leading to disastrous consequences, as history bears witness.
Before he hit 40, John Arnold has amassed a wealth of US $ 4 billion through his hedge fund Centaurus Energy, which he closed last year as he and his wife Laura decided on spending their fortune to empower the lives of others.
They certainly are not planning on leaving the money to their three children. Instead, they are giving away all that wealth to support innovative ideas that can solve society’s myriad problems. In an interview posted on givesmart.org, Laura Arnold said that given the background of both she and her husband and their own experiences, they did not believe in ‘dynastic wealth’.
“We don’t believe that our children should inherit vast amounts of money. We think that many people have been quite successful at creating dynasties that have been effective and where people are productive and terrific members of society but we just don’t want to run that risk. We want to give our children the opportunity and the ambition to create wealth themselves,” she said.
“We don’t want them to feel entitled. We don’t want them to feel life has been solved for them. We always talk amongst ourselves that wealth should allow the kids to be able to do anything they want but not to do nothing and it was very hard as a parent to figure out how to do this.”
Laura and John Arnold have established the Laura and John Arnold Foundation – both of them believe that it is a mistake to assume that leaving large amounts of money to the children will make them happy. Instead, they believe that the children would benefit more from the acts of philanthropy established by their parents.
“If you’re concerned about trying to make society a better place, then marginal utility of wealth would dictate that you should do things that try to spread around some of the benefits of that money rather than giving it all to one person and so we’ve always had that as a philosophy with our kids” says John.
Both of them believe that it is important to teach children the value of money and to make them understand that money is to be respected. The Arnolds feel that they should start charity early on in life and not wait until they hit old age to get into the act.
As the US Government shut down continued, Laura and John Arnold forked out US $ 10 million to pay for some of the poorest children in the US – they have re-opened seven Head Start program for children in six states. The ‘Head Start” program empowers the poorest of the poor children towards kindergarten and was forced to close recently as the Government shut down.
John and Laura Arnold have thrown light on a vital area that concerns the well being of children, whether rich or otherwise. Today’s children can be incredibly self –centred – it maybe something to do with all that technology available to them at the click of a button. They also love to indulge themselves, as the generation that can get a satellite picture of any place on earth with a mere mouse click. We as parents, successful men and women who sometimes strongly feel that the fruits of our success must be passed on to them as our heirs, too often over do it.
While there’s nothing wrong in letting the children enjoy the good life you can afford to give them and of course the inheritance, as a mother I strongly believe that we need to set limits. Such limits should be linked to achievements and responsibility, without which, the children can feel entitled and deserving. In the long term, such wrong values can be dangerous.
Not everyone has access to billions as the Arnolds do. But in our own way, we can try to pass on the value of doing good works to a generation who desperately need to see and experience charity as a tangible thing. They need to be hands-on on giving and sharing. Give your children the opportunities you wish you had but also give them the space they need to make in on their own.
“What’s done to children, they will do to society.” – Karl Menninger