An inheritance for your children……REALLY???

leaving something for your children

by Kenneth Justice

~On National Public Radio (NPR) yesterday, a lot of time was spent discussing a serious problem many young people are facing here in the States; graduating college with massive student loan debt and no job prospects.

What’s a young person to do? You spend all of your young life doing what your told;

–) You graduate high school with good grades

–) You don’t smoke dope

–) You don’t wear baggy jeans

–) You go to college and earn a four year degree

Then as soon as you take the cap and gown off and step out into the adult world……..all of that schooling has hurt you! You’re now overwhelmed in student loan debt and the only job you can find is serving coffee at Tim Hortons.

But, this post isn’t about young people….its about their parents, its about their uncles and aunts, its about you and me.

If we are going to be honest about the economic situation all across Europe and the America’s then I believe we need to begin looking at life a little bit differently than we used to.

I’ve mentioned before my admiration for various ethnic groups who have immigrated to here in the U.S. and who work together in building a future for their families. And I’m wondering……perhaps its time that we begin doing that for each other.

A good person leaves an inheritance for their children’s children – Proverbs 13:22

When most of us think about inheritances I suspect we think of rich people. We think of men and women who have storehouses of money and leave oodles of it to their undeserving child named Chaz or Tatum……

But an inheritance doesn’t have to be an outrageous amount…does it?

–) Perhaps it is teaching our children a trade that they could fall back on if college doesn’t work out (electrician, carpenter, etc)

–) Perhaps it means letting our adult children live at home with us and pooling our money together until we all save up enough money together to buy them a house

–) Perhaps it means helping out our nephews and nieces

–) Perhaps it means letting our younger adult siblings move in with us so we can help them save money

I know of a couple people who let their younger siblings move in with them and haven’t charged them rent because they want to help their siblings get a good start on life.

I know of an uncle who let his 22 year old  nephew move in and doesn’t charge him rent; he encourages the nephew to save as much money to buy a house.

I’m not a crazy capitalist and I’m also not a crazy communist. I’m a moderate that falls in the middle of many economic and political issues. But I am a firm believer in working together and searching for solutions because I believe its up to you and me to make our lives better.

Last week a kind reader used a phrase I’ve been thinking about quite a bit; “The Cult of Individualism” We who live in the Western World became so used to the affluence that many of us experienced in varying forms that individualism was a central tenant of our lives; “we don’t need anyone else we just need ourselves and we will succeed in the world” is what many of us thought.

But when our whole economic world came crashing down in 2008 the tables turned……it no longer matters if you have a college degree, it no longer matters if you are a hard worker, it no longer matters if you are an honest person……..

As a Christian who has children, I think about that verse from Proverbs quite a bit. What kind of inheritance can I leave my children? I’m not a millionaire, I don’t have gold and silver buried in my backyard. Yet nonetheless, I want to do what I can to help them have the best chance at a successful, peaceful, and joyful life.

I don’t want to put my faith in a the college system because their is no guarantee that young men and women who graduate college will have a job waiting for them…… doesn’t mean we should shirk of college entirely. But it does mean we should have a proper perspective to this new world we are all living in.

I don’t want to subscribe to the cult of individualism.

I don’t want to teach my children that its entirely up to them to forge their way through this world.

I don’t want to live on my little island and pretend that everything is wonderful on the main land.

Ultimately, I want to embrace the things I love about our culture, and set aside the things I don’t care for; and I believe its time to slowly begin moving away from the cult of individualism.

Time for another coffee,






Categories: Culture & Society

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39 replies

  1. In all honesty . . . I believe that college is a sucker bet unless your kid has a solid goal and knows what he/she wants, otherwise it is just too expensive.

  2. Excellent post. I personally think the best thing a parent can do for their children is to instill good values, money management skills, to be generous (not necessarily financial), and to be kind. That’s a great inheritance right there!

  3. This was a very honest and touching post. I agreed with everything you said, it was well-said. Unfortunately some of us out here do not have that sort of family to depend on. After I turned 18, in many ways my parents just turned a blind eye. Now that I am married, my father has pretty much washed his hands of me entirely. However, the family you describe is much closer to the one I married into. When I first met my husband he lived with his parents still and so did I. We were both 26. Now 13 years later, we still live with his Mother but now we are the ones taking care of her. They taught me that that is what families do-take care of one another. Thank you for this excellent post.,

    • If the immediate family unit fails….then perhaps it’s time for the extended family…or even friends of the family to step in, glad it worked out you 🙂

    • Thank you. It has worked out well to a point-but I struggle with issues of mental illness, disability, unable to find work since obtaining a masters degree in Art Therapy. I should have researched better before going to graduate school. Now I owe more in student loans then what most folks owe on a house. Right now I am able to defer them-but someday I will need to find a way to pay them. It’s a very scary thing. My own family never taught me about how to handle money issues and having bipolar disorder compounds all of that. But I have many blessings, a good marriage, a loving husband, a roof over our heads, food to eat, a extended large family of loving relatives and wonderful pets. Life is not so bad.

  4. My wife and I don’t have children, but we enjoyed the company of one nephew who stayed with us when he attended school here in Madison a few years ago. A niece will start school here in January and we offered to let her stay with us (which she is going to do). While it is definitely a little disruptive to have a new person in the house (we are both in our late 50s), we feel it is important to do what we can to help these kids start out without being buried in debt.

    My wife and I post have postgraduate degrees and we both graduated from school with close to no debt through a combination of very hard work, a little financial aid and controlling our expenses. However, college expenses have risen so fast and the opportunities to work during school and over the summer at a job that pays reasonably well have been so diminished by economic developments over the last dozen+ years that what my wife and I were able to do is now impossible for most students.

  5. I love this approach – working together to help, not just harboring someone who isn’t willing to do his part. Collaboration can yield such great rewards, both for our kids or nieces and nephews, and for those of us who can help. The key, I think, is for the lucky recipient of this helping hand to not only take full advantage of it, but to learn from it, try and return the favor somehow (doing yardwork, shopping, etc.) and not forget that when they have the opportunity to help someone else out down the line, they do their part then, too.

    • Absolutely…..the younger generation needs to be helped….but they also need to be taught that it’s going to take hard work on their part as well

    • That is the issue I see with some of the younger generation. When I was young I was always told I needed to find my own way to pay for college and to help out my relatives got me and my sibling/cousins savings bonds since the time of our birth to help us out a little when we got to our college years. While my oldest cousins and I all used ours towards education, my sibling and younger cousins blew theirs on frivilous purchases. I lived with my parents through most of my college until I felt I could adequately pay for my own apartment while I finished my BA degree. While I lived at home I paid no rent but did chores and made dinners. When I had to temporarily move back in with my parents due to mold in my house (then the house burning down) I again contributed to housework and made meals. My brother is now an adult himself with a young daughter and he still lives with my parents. He does not pay rent, he does not contribute to housework, he does not make meals for anyone but himself or his daughter. He no longer has a job and has been unemployed for about a year now which means my parents have been supporting his daughter’s expenses as well. I think that if he didn’t have his daughter my parents would have already kicked him out despite them being wonderful, supportive generous people. Brother and I were raised in the same house with the same lessons and expressions. I do not understand how he can go about his life and not feel guilty about mooching off my parents. I saw a similar thing happen with my best friend and her family. There has to be a limit to helping. I have no issues with living in a multi-generational family household to pool resources and guard against the crumbling economy (plan on moving in my in-laws soon to do just that), but I don’t want to enable someone who is ungrateful, lazy and unwilling to do anything to improve their own situation. I am genuinely concerned that there is a definite disconnect with reality when it comes to the youngest generations. For all our attempts to make life better/easier for the next generation I think we may have overlooked the value that hard work, struggling and loss can bring to someone’s perspective on life in general.

  6. My in-law family here in Austria is amazing at helping each other out in big ways and small. It’s not even thought about, it’s just the way it is. Totally fab. My family back home was the same.

    That said, I will be asking my children WHY they want to go to university. What do they want to study, what will they look to do afterwards.

    Why go to university just to get a degree? Go with the goal in mind and do something that furthers that goal. I know far too many people where going to uni was the goal, not part of the plan to get to the goal.

    But I really want to make sure I can put things aside for the children I hope to have. Doesn’t have to be much, but enough to have a wedding they’d like with out leaving them broke or in debt. Enough that they can study comfortably. Maybe even a good start on a deposit, or enough to help furnish a rented place.

  7. What a great post! I’ve taught baking on occasion (a class here or there) and want to build it into my career plan. I was given some lessons in baking many years ago by a wonderful man named Bill. He was a WWII veteran, quiet as a mouse, but big on giving of himself.
    Thanks for reminding me how important it is to share our gifts.

  8. Not everyone has money to leave, and not everyone with money can leave the great sort of inheritance you are writing about. The student loan/no job problem has many aspects to it. We have a lot of college grads with degrees but no relevant skills. Essentially, they borrowed for four years of summer camp. There are about 50% more college grads than jobs that need the education. On the jobs side things remain tight because boomers are retiring a lot later than the previous generation, and government policies, especially on energy are killing jobs.

  9. Our inheritance is based on mistakes made (your good ol’ days post). What we leave behind should be a new way of thinking. Individualism was born from our ignorance, greed and taking things for granted. That has been taught to us By multiple occasions. Think of YOUR future, you have to do it ALONE. the most simple one used to make good grades. Parents pretty much pulling their hands off, of bringing up their children and letting an institute do it for them. Who is very theoretical.

  10. I really enjoyed your post. I live on Guam and that is sort of the way things are done here and in many places in the Pacific. When you turn 18 you are not pushed out of your parents’ home. You stay with them as long as you need. You help them and they help you. This is something that is both economically advantageous as well as part of the indigenous cultural norm. While we’ve seen many shifts towards western ways, this is something that hasn’t changed much. My aunts and uncles are extremely supportive of all my cousins and I and we in turn support all our nieces and nephews. I have a friend who was going to college and working and she was sending money to the Philippines to send her niece to a private school. She lived with her parents at the time so that made it possible for her to do that. Another interesting thing about this region is that children will call their parents’ friends Auntie or Uncle, creating an even larger family and support base. It’s something I hope we never lose.

    • My bro-law spent last year living in Guam but beyond that I know so little about the place…’s a shame that Americans like me are so uneducated about various places…..great comments though, thank you

  11. hey Kenneth, I am not a believer in inheritance (monetary or possessions) , I see it as a big stumbling block on the road to democracy. Democracy can only exist in the absence of inheritance and social class. the transferring of land and monies to the next generation allows for an elite class of people. in the future as debt swallows up more of middle class Americas ability to leave something behind for their children the gap between rich and poor will grow and the middle class itself will shrink to nil. Inheritance paves the road to servitude… we are not equal because we are not born on equal footing… I think the bible was referring to some of the things you mentioned regarding inheritance and that is passing on a trade, wisdom and learning’s…

    • As far as a physical inheritance is concerned, on Guam, the most important thing to leave your children was land. Land, so they can build a house and farm. After WW2 a lot of land was taken by the US military, so many families didn’t have enough to leave to their descendents. Families who were able to keep their land had an obviously easier time and in some cases are still better off now. So I can see what you’re saying. I’m just curious what you think should happen to one’s possessions after one dies, like land. Not criticizing, just trying to get the whole picture. I think in some cases skills and wisdom can tip the balance more than physical possessions. Land is nice, but if you don’t know how to manage it, it won’t really matter. 🙂

    • I think the money and land should be put back into the public coffers so everyone can benefit from it in ways such as free healthcare, education, building better roads etc…etc… I also believe no one should own more land than they can take care of themselves… I also think that land should be granted free to people who will work and produce on that land…

    • TJ…… ya probably could never get 100% of the
      People to support ya on that even though there may be a ton of common sense behind your idea…..but what about what they do in countries like Costa Rica; “squatters rights law” ….laws like that prevent rich people from amassing god awful amounts of land and the law seems to work there….

  12. I heard a disturbing twist on inheritance yesterday. This 65 year old woman was telling us that her ex husband had died and left his children lots of money. She was saying she took her daughter to help her look at cars to buy for herself. She was thinking after all her sacrifice to her kids they should see she needs a car and buy her one. Groan. Money matters always can be sticky emotionally. If they only were grateful enough.
    I am really hoping that my kids will continue to go for an education through grants. We have paid for a few semesters and my eldest just took out her first loan. I am torn of course between a well grounded BA and a training program. She made her decision and it is time for me to let her find out what careers suit her. Librarian is her idea. I can’t argue with that. Knowledge is Power.

  13. Good post, Kenneth. I think in many ways it’s spot on. I for one only achieved a stable position coming out of a education-intensive field (architecture) by way of help from my family. That being said, a real transition to more manageable times for the younger crowd might have to involve some edits to unspoken cultural edicts that define the outmoded American Dream.

    In the text above, some examples include helping younger souls get their feet under them long enough so that they can save up for a house, but why is home ownership a must? America has been trying to finance people into this image of owning their own home to the point of leading us into a massive correction due to too many people signing up for a lifestyle they can’t afford. Maybe some of the wisdom to pass on to the next generation is that it’s alright to challenge the cultural expectations of a former age.

    Maybe we don’t have to own a home with a yard and a white picket fence. Maybe we don’t have to aspire to having two cars (or any at all). Maybe you don’t need to be married by 25 (or ever) with kids on the way by 30 (or ever). The pressure to fit into these old cultural molds can be responsible for a lot of the financial stress encountered by young professionals. I’d offer that questioning some of those directional thoughts could play nicely into some of the tactics listed above.

    • Home ownership may not be the best for everyone, but no way am I going back to rent, and certainly not apartment life as I knew it. I gave a short version of my life story on Kenneth’s previous post: I struggle with a number of mental and physical health issues, and I have kids with special needs. I am a disabled SAHD, basically. I married at 24, by the way, but waited two years to have kids; my wife is 5 years older than me. It was right for us the way we did things.

      In our previous residence, we were in a low-income apartment complex on the Section 8 program. The neighborhood kids ran like wild dogs and would vandalize anything outside your door if you even dared to scold them. My father tried to give them the benefit of the doubt, but the apartment manager said, “Don’t. They’ll be nice to your face, but say ‘f*** you’ as soon as you turn your back.”

      We fought very hard for our house and even did all the paperwork for a federal program only to be told at the end we never qualified in the first place. This was not Habitat for Humanity; we couldn’t qualify for even that. My folks helped us out and without it, we couldn’t have closed the sale. It is an older house, built in 1977 during the area’s boom time. It is not well-made but we have done quite a few repairs ourselves, and others, we got more help on. Not everything turned out the way I hoped, but I was taught some homemaking skills and we work hard. I am grateful I get help from my family and… thankfully, none of my sisters or other family resents any of it. They graciously tell me they are OK with the help we get.

    • I definitely agree, homeownership is definitely not “for everyone” but as an additional aspect to my post; when I was writing the article I had in mind the idea that in many cultures throughout humanity’s history…paying a mortgage payment does not exist; communities build housing for young people (think various parts of Africa, colonial era America, etc) so young people don’t have to start out in life having to fork over a ton of money every month to a landlord or to a mortgage company

    • I’ve heard some talk about communal living– the kibbutz, co-op housing, and the like– working very well for some. I’d be interested in your take on it. But me, I need more personal space.

  14. Well I definitely need some coffee after this post! But on the serious side, I totally agree with you. It is that “self is everything” attitude which has gotten America into so much trouble, growing several generations who feel entitled to have everything, simply because they want, generations of people who are looking out for number 1. And let’s face it, a country is like a big team, if you don’t help the team (in your family, in your community, in whatever capacity your skills allow you), eventually the team suffers. It’s really hard, knowing that it’s not easy to just go out and get a job anymore. But I do want to leave an inheritance for my children, not necessarily of money, but of character, of life skills, of memories, of hope.

  15. There is an old saying in Greece, that I think sums it up pretty good. That we do not inherit the world to our children, but actually borrow it from them.And the rights to some things, especially with all these technoilogical advances, instead of being enhance, they have become weaker. We are not animals, we should help each other.Any ideology that turns our world into an arena where only the strongest survive, is an inhumane world. And our desires, are used in order to drive us into such thoughts. It might seem irrelevant, but think about it for a moment.

  16. Reblogged this on jonbliss and commented:
    Another Blog that Made Me Think

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