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Kids, Wealth, and Consequences

I have just read Kids, Wealth and Consequences by Richard Morris and Jayne Pearl. Well researched, very well written, and sensible, this "how to" book will be helpful to those who advise wealthy families, as well as to wealthy parents, both those who made the money themselves, and also to those who are inheritors. The book is conversant with both what might be called "educated Wall Street money," and also with Main Street small business wealth. Each chapter has a wonderful survey of the reader's current opinions on a particular financial parenting topic. The reader then returns to the survey to see how his or her opinions have changed. Likewise, each chapter has practical exercises, success stories, cautionary tales, and the views of experts - chosen in part so that the reader will hear how the experts disagree. For many of the best practices, the author's provide a list of "unintendeded consequences." For example, giving kids great advice may lead them to be great listeners. But is obedience to the voice of authority the best we can hope for in an inheritor?

The book's subtle subtitle is, "Ensuring a Responsible Financial Future for the Next Generation." I suspect that line went to through many iterations to ensure that by responsibl ewe do not imply any moral obligation by the wealthy to others. While such responsibility may sort well with some families' values, it will not sort well with other's', and in the end morals, like merchandise, are freely chosen from the alternatives on offer in a pluralistic consumer society. The authors do not believe this, to their credit, and like good counselors come as close to plain-speaking as one responsibly can.

I did come away with enhanced respect for Jay Hughes who wrote the preface. His emphasis on dynastic, nearly feudal, seven or more generations of wealth at least provides some grounding in ancient aristocratic traditions, as well as in the legend of Hiawatha. (Hiawatha remains alive as spiritual capital in the elders of the tribe who invoke his name at turning points in the tribe's history.) That we, as a society, with our growing disparities of wealth are morally, intellectually, and spiritually bankrupt is not a conclusion one wishes to draw. Hughes does not. Nor do the authors here. Instead, we have handbooks, advisors, and workshops on raising great kids in the gilded ghetto.