The Paradox of Generational Wealth

What is Generational Wealth? It’s as simple as it sounds. Wealth that gets transferred from one generation of a family to the next.

We were choosing slogans for my school’s investment club and we landed on “Creating generational wealth!”

It got me thinking; society in general has very contradictory viewpoints on it. Let me elaborate. Look at these two posts below:

Look at the photo from Instagram. I don’t think it’s only my social media that’s constantly berated with these billionaire-mindset entrepreneurship posts preaching financial success. Even if your own feed is clean, you’re probably going to see people repost something related on their stories. A lot of times, the topic of “Generational Wealth” comes up when talking about business success or entrepreneurship online.

In this same spirit of hard-work and “hustle culture”, you can see in the second photo (tweet) that people tend to look down upon those who leverage opportunities and resources from their family to get ahead. “Trust-fund baby” is a term associated with the stereotype of a spoiled young adult who doesn’t work because their wealthy parents provide for them.

Granted, two posts can’t sum up the attitude of the general public, but I felt they reflected the narrative.

Whether you call it creating generational wealth or starting a trust fund, this innate desire to provide for descendants is deeply intertwined with mankind’s three most primal needs.

Any species has three consecutive goals: survival, reproduction and ensuring survival of their offspring. In an overpopulated world where having kids is increasingly frowned upon, it’s easy to overlook the significance of continuing a bloodline.

For humans, especially in today’s day and age, survival is guaranteed, (unless you’re born into an area of conflict or extreme poverty). Regardless, we are far ahead from every other species, and even our own hunter-gatherer days. So, when your child’s survival (food/shelter/clothing) is a given, it becomes a game of status. Parents obviously want the better things for their child. BETTER food, BETTER shelter and BETTER clothing than most. This is achieved through money.

I myself come from a humble background but I’ve met a lot of kids from incredibly wealthy backgrounds. I’ve been friends with children of hedge fund managers to owners of NFL teams. One thing I noticed is that their rich parents are hardworking and rich for a reason, and they’ve raised them to be like them as well. Of course some of them are spoilt with no ambition, but the majority transcend the stereotype. To the contrary, they work the hardest in school. Their parents put them into top schools which may be a big leg up, but it takes initiative and drive to utilize their resources.

So where is the line? When society praises the hustle in creating generational wealth, but abhors the benefits it affords its recipients, it’s tough to have a clear stance. Personally, I think that to threading the needle we must change our definition of generational wealth. Although it’s often manifested in outright fiat ways like inheritances, wealth is not only cash. Its connections, networks, and just an overall knowledge of the system that’s been passed down from generation to generation.

Unknowingly, previously marginalized portions of society are creating generational wealth as more and more of them go to better schools, and get better jobs, and better utilize financial opportunities etc…

All in all, the recipients of generational wealth are not guilty, nor are their parents. Even from the other perspective, its difficult to see others get a better shot at life, through no merit of their own. Ultimately, I just think we should focus on the opportunities that we DO have and work from there.

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Amen

Amen

The Culture | Ethiopia | Finance