Old Money and Raising Children

A few weeks ago, David, one of our regular readers and contributors in the comments section, inquired about how Old Money families raise their children. I responded, and David suggested that the response might make a good blog post.  Rereading what I’d written, I think he has a point.

So, below is the response in full. Thank you, David, for the excellent suggestion. I hope it’s beneficial.

Hi David, thank you for your kind words about the book and for recommending it to your friends. Even though I briefly cover the subject of raising children in “The Old Money Guide To Marriage”, I am reluctant to write about the subject in depth. The reason is that I don’t have any children, and I’d prefer not to be an ‘armchair quarterback’ on the subject.

That said, Old Money families do have some common practices that I think warrant mentioning.

First, there’s love. When you marry and have children that you’ve (probably) planned for and prepared for (as much as is possible), you welcome them into your life and love them. When you develop that bond, it’s possible to guide, educate, and inspire them to live fully, do well, and be good people. If you don’t love them, it’s tough sledding all around.

Second, there’s discipline and structure. Children need boundaries and definition, even if they don’t always welcome them. This has to start early and be maintained. It’s work, but it’s an investment that pays off. I’m not talking about squashing a child’s natural joy and curiosity, but it is necessary for them to learn manners and understand that they’re part of a family unit and a larger social structure.

Third, there’s education. This starts at home with reading to a child, limiting the TV and internet time, and exposing them to the vast wealth of knowledge that resides in libraries and museums. A lot of emphasis is put on private schools, but the priorities set at home may be an even larger influence on a child’s educational development than getting into Choate.

Members of the Tribe - In Training

Those are the fundamentals. The reasons New Money drops the ball are legion. As I’ve said before, New Money parents may be so focused on giving their children what they never had that they forget to give their children what they did have: namely, a challenge, motivation, and an opportunity to success and fail. It’s also important that the parents get a firm grip and new perspective on what role money plays in the life of the family. You have to know what money can and can’t do for you. And you have to have a sense of who you are outside your financial net worth. Tricky business when you’ve gone from rags to riches, or, more likely, working class to rich in a matter of just a few years.

To preserve wealth, my opinion is that you’ve got to first drill into your children’s heads the Core Values I detail in The Old Money Book. Not a delicate way to put it, but perhaps the imagery will help with the execution. (Wink, nod.) Second, you’ve got to structure you finances with wills, trusts, insurance, etc. to ensure the smooth transfer of wealth from one generation to the next (minimizing taxes and family feuds is key). Third, you’ve got to clearly articulate, while you are alive and healthy, what you expect your heirs to do with the money once you’re gone. That is, they are to preserve it and make it grow in order to provide security, health, education, and opportunity for themselves and generations to come. This is the long view, and they need to adopt it early on. Finally, it helps to have a CPA, family attorney, and perhaps an investment advisor who can ‘circle the wagons’ when the time comes and keep things on an even keel.

I hope this provides an overview of Old Money’s attitudes and protocols for the preservation of family wealth. It’s been suggested that I provide a consulting service for New Money, but I’m sure I’d get too angry when I gave advice and people didn’t listen.

So I’ll just stick to writing.

  • BGT

14 thoughts on “Old Money and Raising Children

  1. These are great points, and you cover great topics in your book, as well. I think raising any child in an “old money
    way is beneficial, even if the family is not old money. It is a good mindset to have and wonderful values for a child. Conspicuous consumption is unattractive for everyone. Great post!

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  2. I love checking in to see what you are writing about and this truly is where I am at as a mother. Being a military family, our children started school in a state that had terrible (bottom five in the nation) schools. I homeschool now because of it and a solid foundation in the classics is the backbone of our children’s education. Heidi, Uncle Toms Cabin, Black Beauty…the classics….teach our children empathy, something sorely lacking today. Also…I keep leaning on “experiences” to fill in gaps…museums, theater, etc. My husband and I are not old money but we know you all when we see and meet you! Keep writing!

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  3. Some very good points your readers made, Byron. These are excellent lessons to teach any child, old money or not. Agree with Stephanie…keep writing.

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  4. As usual, you’re on target here Byron. I would point out, though, that although there is tremendous emphasis on education, not all old money families send their children to private school. Many old money families live in towns with excellent public schools (usually paid for with sky high property taxes) that their children attend. Also, as noted elsewhere in this blog, money is spent on experiences, not things. For the children this may mean things like piano lessons, horseback riding lessons or trips to Europe, but not cars, clothes or jewelry.

    Reading and cultivating a life of the mind and an appreciation of the arts are strongly encouraged. One thing that I have noticed consistently in old money families is that dinner table conversation, which is an important part of raising children, tends to be about ideas and not about personal gossip or the latest TV shows. And nobody is impressed with consumerism and materialism.

    Thanks for another good blog post!

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  5. I think my parents did a fabulous job of ‘hiding’ information. We were the 4th generation to live in a cottage my great-grandfather built when they moved to Missouri from Virginia (I would eventually return the family to Virginia, and my grandson is 15th generation.) We drove ‘regular’ cars and drove them forever. I didn’t really know we ‘had anything’ until I was older and out of the house. About 20 years my mother and father decided to build their ‘dream’ home. Funny. They built in the field a few yards away from the family cottage where I used to ride my horses, and it was only a couple hundred square feet bigger than what I grew up in and very plain. I think we did a great job with our children in that respect, as well. My husband was a politico in Washington DC and so we had a fairly formal lifestyle. They knew they had to mind their ‘p’s’ and q’s’. And we never, ever lavished them with monetary things. But they have a lifestyle of absolutely wonderful experiences.

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