How are you going to avoid raising shitty kids?– A friend
In April 2019, I sold a majority stake in my startup to private equity. The news made local headlines and our family’s financial situation changed overnight. Soon afterwards I had celebratory drinks with a friend who is a serial entrepreneur and has sold multiple companies. He said to me, “Now that people know you have wealth, be ready for all of the awkward things they are going to say to you.”
Several months later I met up with a friend I used to work with. I don’t remember if these were literally the first words out of his mouth or not, but they very well could have been: “So… how are you going to avoid raising shitty kids?”
The path to having rich kids
Wow. That caught me off guard.
(And to that friend — if you are reading this — I know you’re going to feel bad and reach out with a flood of apologies. Don’t. Only a true friend would feel comfortable saying something THAT awkward right out the gate!)
It was a valid question that I didn’t have a solid answer for in the moment. And I sort of brushed it off.
I told him the same concern would have probably existed even if I never ventured out as an entrepreneur. My wife and I are incredibly blessed that our parents and grandparents put us on a trajectory to live a much more comfortable and luxurious life than they did. Had I stayed put as a software engineer, we would now be two decades deep earning dual-incomes while climbing the ladder at large technology companies. By all measures I’m sure we would be living an extraordinarily privileged life. When I imagine the potential lifestyle in that scenario, I have to wonder: how much less would we need to worry about our kids being spoiled if we simply lived in a 4,500 square foot house and drove less expensive Teslas?
But I suspect my friend was imagining some particularly dramatic changes in our lifestyle.
And to a degree, he was right; there are some substantial privileges our kids have encountered these past five years– even in comparison to the other very successful, high-income families all around us. The house we live in, the travel experiences, the way we dine… Varsha and I no longer hesitate on experiencing the “best of” when it comes to the things that truly matter to us, and our kids are usually right there by our side.
Our change in wealth has certainly impacted many of the “big” purchases and “big” experiences in our lives. But, in all of the “little” ways, I like to think that we are exactly the same people as we were before. The kids still see us working our butts off morning through night — even if these days many of our hours are spent pro-bono or to help a non-profit, rather than worrying about our own retirement savings.
Ah, little vs big. I think I found the answer to my friend’s question. I’ve always operated by the belief that it’s the little things that make the most important difference. And how we raise our kids should be no exception.
Actually, there are no rich kids
A few months ago we were having lunch at home when our youngest, Asher, casually asked us, “Hey guys, are we a little rich?”
Our answer started with, “Well, Asher, you are certainly not rich. You’re just a kid!”
We then gave him a brief talk about why it’s important to always work hard in life, take chances when you truly believe in something, be grateful for things to work out (because they don’t always), recognize that many people don’t have what we have (but they still have every reason to be as happy as we are), and even when you have more money than you need, remain thoughtful about how you spend it.
I don’t know how much that one conversation will stick with him. But there are countless little opportunities to impart these same messages each and every day: the ongoing grind of household chores, the chance to save $3 on a purchase at Target, when something breaks in the house (which happens a LOT in a big house!) and we need to roll up our own sleeves, and of course, each and every time we interact with another human being.
These little interactions, little decisions, and little events are like the ongoing force of gravity; always present as an opportunity to keep our kids grounded.
I’ve certainly been far from perfect in many of these circumstances but to-date I could not be more proud of the character and values embodied by our kids. After all, it’s been five years since our financial picture dramatically changed…. and he’s just now starting to wonder, are we a little rich?