Making Allowance for Wealth

I read an article in a local newspaper the other day that said a 10-year-old pupil in Shanghai had saved more 200,000 yuan ($30,000) in her bank account. What’s more, a couple of her class-mates got allowances from their parents that were in the tens of thousands of yuan.

Maybe her parents are rich enough to give her anything she wants, or maybe they are just middle-class but don’t want their child to have to grow up poor like they did. Regardless, I think an allowance that large exceeds a child’s ability to manage.

When I was a pupil, I had a few classmates from rich family, but they got nowhere that much. My parents only gave me 20 yuan just in case I got hungry.

It’s not the girl’s fault that she is richer than many adults. Her parents think of the money as an emotional investment in her, but it will likely cause her to pick up some bad spending habits. She won’t have any idea about the value of money.

I heard a different story from one of my expat friends, who’s a personable business-man. I was surprised when I noticed the calluses on his hands. He told me that he came from a rich family, but his parents didn’t hand over money lightly; instead, he and his brothers had to work on the farms that their parents owned. No pain, no gain. That’s where the calluses came from. He said he was working for his parents when he was 8 years old.

That’s the difference between Chinese and Western parents. My friend is grateful to his parents. They taught him how to earn money with his own hands. It taught him independence. “My parents are wealthy but it’s their money. If I want to be like them, I will have to work hard,” he said. I think this attitude has contributed to his current success.

I watched a documentary on ICS last week. It was about a British millionaire named Paul who took his son to experience how poor people lived in Middlesbough. His son, Ben had been living lavishly off his money for 20 years and Paul thought it was time for him to experience the real world. After working at a shelter for a week, Ben realized the huge gap between the wealthy and poor.

Paul made a right decision, but wouldn’t it had been better if he had done this when Ben was younger? I talked to the father of one of my students about how he taught his daughter about money. He said he will only buy things for her if they’re good for her. He keeps telling her that it’s not easy for dad and mom to earn money so she shouldn’t take it for granted.

However, some of her classmates haven’t got that message from their parents. As he recalled, one of her classmates paid the daughter 5 yuan to do the cleaning that the class members take turns doing. She took the money and told her dad afterwards. He was shocked but had a heart-to-heart talk with her. Not everything can be bought, he told her.

Parents, especially those born in the 1980s, take as an example how Westerners edu-cate their children. If we fail to teach our children about the value of money, they will have no idea what it’s worth.

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