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A post discussing whether it is more advantageous to grow up wealthy in an affluent family or not grow up wealthy but with a drive to succeed in life.

A thought had always crossed my mind as I was growing up, especially during my formative high school years, during when I often pondered my existence and direction in life.  This prevalent thought was whether, if I had a choice, I would want to grow up rich and affluent compared to my peers, or whether I would want to grow up less affluent.

I know the thought might seem like a no-brainer, OF COURSE one would want to grow up wealthy and affluent, but there are some downsides to this, even though it might not seem apparent at first.  However, these downsides might not happen to everyone who is born wealthier than the rest.

So like I always do here on youngandthrifty.ca, I think I’m going to do a blatant pros and cons list:

Pros For Growing Up Wealthy

  • As offspring of a well-to-do family, you may be well rounded as you have access to every course or extra-curricular activity available.  You are enrolled in hockey, soccer, basketball, golf lessons, expensive piano classes, French lessons, or figure skating- the list goes on.
  • You are taught to be more of an advocate for yourself, you can speak your mind (even if the audience likely isn’t interested in what you say, you say it anyway)
  • Because your parents have connections, you are given more opportunity, much like what is mentioned in the excellent book by Malcolm Gladwell “The Outliers: The Story of Success”

Cons For Growing Up Wealthy

  • Your parents gave you anything and everything that you ever wanted, the latest gadget, the latest car, and even a shiny new Mercedes Benz on your 16th birthday.  Some may argue that this is not a “con” but the expectation of instant gratification (an unfortunate trait that us Generation Y possess and is a prime reason why Generation Y’s can’t save $) is ten-fold compared to this trait in regular old Generation Ys.
  • Wealthy children may not know the “value of a dollar” as they did not need to work through high school or university, their parents funded their education and made sure they “focused on their studies” (as we all know this can be detrimental later in life, as money sense and learning about saving, investing, and spending responsibly doesn’t necessarily come intuitively).
  • Not being taught about saving and investing, silver spoon kids can easily burn through the money given to them
  • If your parents are really successful, it is likely that you will have a difficult time exceeding their success.  Doctor parents try and get their children into medical school, but they can’t, and having “doctors in the family” just doesn’t cut it any more.  Having a silver spoon in your mouth doesn’t necessarily guarantee success.
  • Because silver spoon children have everything they could possibly ask for, they often don’t have the drive to succeed.  It doesn’t matter to them whether they are successful or not because they haven’t ever seen what it was like to live without.  Success isn’t measured in how much money you make or how much you are worth (although many would definitely argue otherwise), to me, it is measured by how you reach your personal life goals and how motivated you are to reach those goals

That being said, there are many families that are successful in a monetary sense who have children that grow up to be very well rounded individuals.  These children are taught to value discipline, hard work, and money sense.  I suppose it could really just boil down to good parenting, but that’s another topic entirely!

I thought about this question often because I grew up very frugally in a nice part of town.  I didn’t realize this until I went to high school, and I saw all these sixteen year old peers driving up in their fancy cars with the top down.  It made me realize that all the kids around me were a) spoiled b) very wealthy and c) didn’t realize how lucky they were.  When I was in my self-conscious anxiety-ridden and low self-esteem (not to mention SELF ABSORBED) teenage years, I wished nothing more than to be “just like them” to fit in with the wealthy crew and to have the same brand name clothes that they had.

As I reach my late twenties and realize that I was being very superficial and immature in my teenage years (er…who’s NOT superficial and immature as teenagers?), I am very happy that I had this opportunity to be different and grateful for my perspective on success and wealth.

Readers, what do you think? Would you rather grow up wealthy or grow up less wealthy… but with a determination and drive to succeed?

Article comments

kyle says:

My parents are very very wealthy and it has not helped me in anyway. I have not recieved a single dime since i was 18 and i was essentially shown the door to make it on my own at 18. That works really well when you have not ever been taught how to manage money or the concept that money does run out.

If i could go back to an average house i would happily. I barely talk to my parents now and the only thing i would think if i heard one of them died is i need to call my lawyer to contest the will.

Ethan Brovold says:

I had the gift of growing up in a well above average house in a very nice part of town. I agree with this article 100%. It really does come down to parenting. My best friend drove a 2012 corvette while I had to buy my own car, (1998 civic). Even though money was not a problem my parents made me learn what it was like to have to work for your own things not given to you. This was the best gift that my parents could have given me.

Although money does not bring hapiness, wealth brings security, which is one of our most basic needs.

Would You Rather says:

Yeah agreed The Herp is fo life.

Interesting topic! I often imagine rich kids like playing a game with knowing the cheats – whatever activity they engage themselves in, if they encounter an obstacle, they type in the cheat “Show me the money” and then gets their job done.

Those people are not motivated by almost anything. One thing that I approve for them is the tremendous amount of free time they have. Common people pay with their life time (by having a job) so that they can survive.

young says:

@Get happy Life- lol bitter much? Yeah, that’s an interesting way to look at it. They have the “cheat” or “hack” for the game called life!

Henway says:

I’d love to grow up wealthy, so I at least have an option to use the money if I screwed up big-time in life. But I’d want to not use the money and attempt to be successful on my own first.

Would You Rather says:

I kind of feel as though neither one would be preferable to be honest. There are pros and cons to each.

I also grew up in an affluent neighbourhood frugally which is a funny mix.

I do know that if I am wealthy when I have kids, I will teach them the value of a dollar and not spoil them … too much he he he

young says:

@Would you Rather- lol I checked out your site. I would rather have acne than herpes. Herpes is for LyFE, yo! It is a funny mix- I think you get this weird complex when one grows up that way 🙂

Dd says:

Intense question… I have to say, as much as it pains me, that I see little benefit in growing up wealthy. I believe the only way to appreciate something is to understand it, and the only way you can understand something is to experience it.

If you have wealth I do not believe it is possible to understand the majority of life and the world, simply because you do not need to deal with the same problems they do.

I also believe there is an emptiness that money can not fulfill which drives us to be destructive… I would rather have little if it would push me to seek God rather then trying to buy him as a rich man.

Great post–I am going to link to this for my weekend reading list. Thanks for sharing!

young says:

@Dd- You guys are all so insightful!!

I also believe there is an emptiness that money can not fulfill which drives us to be destructive

I went through many phases…
Being a little kid, I didn’t know we didn’t have money.

As a teen, I learned we didn’t have money, and I hated and resented it.

As an adult, I appreciate the strength I have from struggling and finding my own way. I was fortunate in that not having money made me appreciate it more than those that always had it, so I am more sparing with it. (I do give generously, but for myself, I mostly focus solely on needs.)

So, my younger self would have preferred to have been born with a silver spoon. My older self is glad I was not.

young says:

@Everyday Tips- You hit the nail on the head. 🙂 “So, my younger self would have preferred to have been born with a silver spoon. My older self is glad I was not.” I think when we are younger we probably don’t appreciate the wisdom and lessons learned in life so much as we do when we mature and get older.

I wish I were wealthy to give my kids the option to grow up wealthy…

I say, if you are wealthy, why not raise your kids with middle class values or upper middle class values (depending on your peers in the community that you live in).

So instead of that mercedes, why not an slightly used honda something-or-other!

There are a few big bloggers in the pond that are wealthy from their day job, but their kids have no idea how successful their family is. I think this is they way I would like to go about it. Keep it a secret, but still give my kids advantages in a stealthy way…

Great article Young!!!

young says:

@Money Reasons- Yes- keep it a secret is the best tip, Money Reasons… and surprise them when they leave the nest or when they are older (young 20’s I’d say) so that they can appreciate it and not take it for granted. I like how you incorporated the Mercedes into this comment and into your comic! Are you dreaming of a Mercedes by any chance? =)

I can say that although I wished at times my parents were loaded and I never had to worry about loans or money, I can see the effects it had on my friends who grew up wealthy.

Lack of ambition, not much saving done on their own because they get a lot of money from inheritances, a knowledge of what a dollar means, but not really and kind of floundering around, half traveling, half working, mostly goofing off.

This is not something I think EVERY rich kid ends up being, but the majority of them don’t seem to have the same outlook or values, not that it’s bad.. but it’s just different. I’d prefer being exactly the way I am now, having gone through the debt and having done everything exactly the same way that I had before.

young says:

@FB- Very true- not EVERY rich kid ends up goofing around and not really working, but I know a few who are doing just that. I’m sure that they’re definitely not unhappy with the way their life turned out or the opportunities they have, so maybe me commenting on this is just me expressing my “haterade” as my BF likes to put it. Grass is always greener on the other side?

leslie says:

For some reason I can’t reply to direct comments. So here are my replies.

Reply to @leslie- that

young says:

@leslie- Sorry Leslie, I think I accidentally checked “unthreaded” comments when I first started the blog. I’ll go try and fix that. Thanks for your input. Hmmm… well those that grew up not as wealthy as their peers may be more in debt because they don’t have the wealthy family to bail them out and pay for college, down payment etc., right? Though again, it really boils down the parenting… if the parents taught them and talked openly about finances, then perhaps they would be good with their money. In my small sample size (I’ll take my family), my sisters are not very savvy with their money but I would say that I am. My parents treated us the same, I would say…

Well, given the best of all possible worlds, I’d prefer to have grown up wealthy but still be the same person I am today. That way I’d be good with money while having started with a considerable sum instead of having started out mired in student debt.

But realistically, I think growing up in a fairly poor environment is what sparked my interest in building wealth. Growing up with less lead me to acknowledge that in many ways, less is more.

young says:

@Dividend Monk- Me too Dividend Monk, me too =) I guess the majority of PF bloggers (maybe an assumption, not sure) probably have the drive to succeed and be ambitious about their money. I doubt any well-off children even wanting to bother documenting their PF life on a blog? Can you imagine?!?! “oh today, I ate caviar for lunch. I was actually craving fois grois instead, but c’est la vie, right?”

To me, success is measured by what you do with what you’ve been given. People who are provided so little often achieve so much, to me, that’s MAJOR success. Children from wealthier families no doubt have a head start financially, but that doesn’t mean those kids end up being successful. As much as I enjoy personal finance and want to be successful at it, financial well-being is just one small part of a much bigger “life-equation”.
Cheers Y&T!

young says:

@Financial Cents- That’s a really good perspective you have, that people who have little and achieve so much are successful. Again, it dwells on the idea of success and its definition =) Thanks for sharing your always wise input!

MisFitz says:

Like you I grew up in a wealthier area with parents who were frugal enough to afford the better area. While not rich, they were able to still give me the experiences that helped me grow, and I consider the fact that my brother and I are able to stand on our own two feet doing what we love as success. At times as a teen I wondered why I wasn’t given a car at 16 and instead rode the bus, but I’m so thankful they made me work for everything I have, because I know its worth.

young says:

@MisFitz- Thanks for visiting! Glad to see a fellow Vancouverite reading my blog =) I am thankful for the perspective that I received growing up too, it definitely changes your outlook on life to appreciate things that much more.

Evan says:

I think it is impossible to answer this question. How you grew up makes up who you are today so its like saying you don’t like yourself, today.

That being said I grew up comfortable not wealthy compared to neighbors, but then again I grew up in one of the most expensive areas in the country (North Shore Long Island)

young says:

@Evan- That’s very true- how you grew up makes you who you are today. But at the same time, I think people can be more aware of their upbringing, right?

Slava says:

Well, looking at all those rich kids and the way they behave… Sometimes I think about their future. Their parents will not be always there for them and at some point those kids would have to be on their own. But they don’t know anything about real life. They don’t know how to work, they don’t really have professional skills, especially not the ones to support the way of life they lead while young. It’s a scary path for them when the money from from rich parents stop. Very scary!

young says:

@Slava- Thanks for commenting Slava. I hear that some rich parents are sending their children to professional counselors/ psychologists because of the way their children are behaving. It sounds very difficult to be a parent, especially this day and age where instant gratification is so paramount.

Whether wealthy or not, I would hope that my parents would give me the most productive environment in order for me to think on my own and be independently successful. I think the true measure of the success of any parent is whether their children grow up to be strong, independent, and full of passion for something that they love doing. The last thing you want to do is raise dependents or spoiled fruits.

young says:

@Invest It Wisely- Raise dependents or spoiled fruits- beautiful quote! I suppose it’s hard to, as a parent, see whether you are raising spoiled fruits or not. Every parent wants the best for their children, and I suppose if children are saying “I want I want I want!” then it’s hard for some parents to say no to that. Especially when they are saying their peers have a cell phone or the best new jeans or ipod etc.

I would love to grow up wealthy, so I could have the opportunities that money offers, but I would want the values that not being wealthy offers. It’s really up to the parents – so I guess I’d want parents who’s make the best choices either way.

young says:

@Khaleef- Yes, I came to the same realization. It’s all about the parenting…not so much about the money opportunities offer. I guess multiple factors come into play, really.

leslie says:

Unfortunately, I have seen more often than not, those raised in a less wealthy environment do not learn to have the drive and ambition seen in wealthier environments.

young says:

@leslie- that’s true, perhaps because they aren’t encouraged or expected to be ambitious as much as children raised in wealthy environments?