Will I raise my future kids as spoiled brats?

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Is it really fair that I have a special number I call to get impossible-to-get reservations and concert tickets?

Or that I get to cut in line at the airport and Vegas clubs?

Or look at this email I got from my bookkeeper:

Hi Ramit,

I am in the process of setting up an appt for you and XYZ at XXX BANK for Monday at 5pm. The bank does close at 5pm, but they will be happy to stay open for you to open this account. I will give them as much information as I can, so you won’t have to do too much when you get there.

I will give you more information as soon as I have it.

Apparently now banks stay open late for me.

I’ve been thinking about this a lot.

When I have kids one day, do I want them to get used to living a life of privilege? I joke around with my friends that I’m going to sit in the front of the plane and they can sit in the back (“Oh, you want to sit up here? LEARN HOW TO START A BLOG”). That’s right. Learn from daddy.

But seriously, how do you prevent your kids from being spoiled brats? And do we even want to live in a society where there’s so much stratification?

Think about it.

On one hand, this special treatment isn’t because I’m a better person. They’re just giving me elite service because I spend more with them. I do the same thing with my students! I recently brought a group of 20 elite students to New York and taught them advanced consulting strategies. I paid for their food, their drinks, even their night out. But they were more than worth it to me.

On the other hand, do we really want to go to amusements parks and watch people going in a special line they paid for…instead of standing with everyone else? Isn’t that part of life?

When I was a kid, I remember my parents stopping at a bank to get a money order. They came out laughing. I asked what happened, and they said, “The bank said we could get this money order free if we had $10,000 in our bank account.” Then they laughed. It was LAUGHABLE that they would ever have $10,000 in their account…ever.

And that idea made me HUNGRY as I grew up. I wanted to dominate in academics, business, and tons of other areas. The entire idea of my parents having 4 kids on one income made us make tough choices all the time. We hardly ever ate out. We nervously asked my dad for 2 quarters to play video games…but never more. “That’s too much,” we’d say to each other.

Yet if we ever had any educational expenses — trips, sports teams, SAT classes — somehow, my parents would find the money.

And now…everything is different. Not just for me individually, but even for society.

This isn’t as simple as complaining that things have gotten worse. Here’s a great article, “Roller Coasters for the Rich,” that illustrates the tension:

“…more people are living a fast pass Life. Getting a special queue with special service isn’t a rare treat, something to indulge in on your first vacation in three years. It’s a permanent condition. Jump the security queue at the airport because you’re a frequent flyer. Walk straight into your rental car because you’re a Hertz#1 Club Gold member. Don’t like the kids your children are hanging around with? Push them into an elite program, or buy a house in a more exclusive school district. Join a gated community so the wrong people can’t even walk near you.

The economic elite used to just buy more of the things we all enjoyed. Now they have access to a different set of experiences entirely. No, that’s not quite true — of course the rich used to be able to afford better vacations and nicer cars. But increasingly they’re enjoying an exclusive version of the things we all do — right there in front of us, where we can resent them for it.

The other problem with fast passes is that once you have tasted the delights of line-free roller-coaster riding, it’s hard to give them up. No one wants to throw their lot in with the entitled jerks of the world. But no one wants to spend hours in line, either.

I want to know what you think.

By the way, I’m looking for real debate, not bloviating nonsense. it’s too easy to accuse “rich jerks” of taking advantage of these perks. The truth is, if you could, you would, too!

If you could get these perks, would you use them?

What do you think of other people using them?

What kind of society do we want to live in?

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90 Comments

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  1. Yes, I would use them. Doesn’t it fall under the same category of seeing the game being played around you? Learning to play that game has been a focus of Ramit for awhile now.

    As to the spoiled kids, if they have the special privileges because of daddy, then that will probably spoil them. Of you teach them the game and its rules, you explain how to get it, then I think you can give them access. As they get older, make them work for it and they’ll appreciate it.

  2. I am confident that I will sufficient for my families needs. What this means though is that at times we will need to not spend money even though we have it so we have it later. I also figure sometimes we will skip lines. If we go to Disney World every year, we won’t skip lines every time, but if we think we will only go once, then indulge ourselves so we get the most from that trip. Enjoy the fact you are able to be privileged once in a while. If you do it every time though you create in yourself and your family an entitled mindset that can really screw your kids up. Skipping lines in the airport for business trips doesn’t count though. Your time is more important than lines in most these cases. When it is for leisure though, allow yourself to relax and wait in lines.

  3. My wife and I are both successful consultants. We have a family income that puts us in the top 5%. I got to an income of ~$200K per year around age 28. We’re expecting our first kid in December. This is a great topic, and I’m glad that you bring it up not just because it’s important, but because it also says something important about you, Ramit.

    What I mean by that is that one of the problems with our current society is pure, blinding ambition. The reason for all of these “shortcuts” for the well-to-do is because people with money lack the most key resource of all – time. That’s mostly due to choices they’ve made, over time, in pursuit of ambition, without considering any of the trade-offs.

    When you travel for work all the time you don’t get to see your family, so when you take them to Disney you want to compensate by maximizing the awesome. And when you work all the time you have to reclaim SOME of it however you can.

    The problem is that the stakes are constantly ratcheted up. At some point you (the generic “you”, not you, Ramit) stop pursuing the rat race for yourself (hopefully) and start doing it because you want more for your kids. But it balloons so quickly to try to out-compete the rest of TriBeCa in terms of private schools, tutors, international trips to stretch their language skills, whatever. Really the best thing your your kids – no matter what income level you may be at – is your time.

    But the wealthy voluntarily give up their time with their family in order to be able to provide more and more and more, just as the working poor have to give up their time to work three jobs just to pay the basic bills. In my opinion, it’s a different version of the same losing proposition. Your kids will pick up on the fact that you’re never around and that you throw money at the problem.

    My wife and I rented in Manhattan for years and when our place got wrecked by a hurricane we decided, since we had to move, to proactively think about these things. We opted to move to the Boston area, where the rat race is a bit less intense. We found a community that matches the values that we want our kids to absorb and a place with a real community of people who we would trust to watch our kids. It’s a horrible cliche but to a certain degree, it takes a village. And most people of means don’t have that, they just try to buy it with a small army of nannies, drivers, baby-sitters, etc. Don’t think that I am disparaging any of those people because there are plenty of awesome nannies who will instill solid values in children. But it’s also not the same.

    The richest have pursued the privatization of everything. Crap public schools? We’ll send them to the best private schools. Underfunded police force? Private security detail. Air travel sucks? How about a private jet share? If it were possible to build a private Disney, it would happen, but in the meantime we have fast passes.

    The big problem with privatizing everything is that it leaves you in a weirdly lonely bubble. That is the type of things that kids are sensitive to. Add that to the parental time crunch, and it’s a challenge.

    So, our solution was to use our market leverage to step things town a notch. Yes, we leave money on the table, but we also need less money. We found a “real” place to live and we really like it. The challenge is to face your ambitions straight in the face and admit the compromised that they force upon you.

    I think every young person should work full-throttle in their 20s to build the skills necessary to be successful and the market power to have some leverage. If you want to start a family, however, it’s time to start getting creative about the best ways to USE the leverage that you’ve got. The real challenge is that after 15 years or so of doubling down for more money it can be a difficult decision to prioritize other things, especially when you continue to compare yourself to peers who continue to follow their ambitions alone. It can be hard to ignore the Joneses. When we made our decision to move away from “the center of the world” people looked at us as if we were crazy!

    Overall, I don’t think fast-passes and Hertz Gold Member benefits are the problem. They are a symptom of a larger problem. Using some of them to your advantage is not an issue. As long as you don’t buy into the broader paradigm and have the courage to be your own person and raise your own kids, things will be fine.

    On a side note, I think that there is a certain Gresham’s dynamic going on with my generation in the business community (I’m 35). Those with great success tampered with some level of self-awareness are, to varying degrees, opting out more and more. This leaves the purest sociopaths to climb the rest of the way to the top. I think that this has been going on for a while but the cycle has been getting more refined and more pointed. As the ambitious ratchet up the expectations for everyone else, and the best of them enter the sr. executive levels themselves, it nudges people like me to self-select out earlier and earlier. It’s an interesting and scary dynamic to watch.

    • I agree with pretty much completely. As someone in their 20s, I am working my ass off now so that I will hopefully have enough money and ‘leverage’ to balance work and family later in life.

      Its all about priorities. I see wealth as a means to an end. Money itself is not the overall goal.

    • I just thought of a concise way of saying what I was trying to say above:

      Most self-aware people vaguely plan on getting “out” at some point. However, it’s often a matter of having a number set for “$%#& you money”. The problem is, as the years go by, that number gets higher and higher. The treadmill accelerates.

      The key is to have one eye on the exit the whole time and not to buy into the lifestyle, the material things, etc. While you’re young and have the money take amazing vacations. Have great experiences. Don’t buy the “step-up” house or apartment. Be comfortable living with less. Have a small, solid group of friends with whom you can share your perspective. For the most part, your peers will never even know the degree to which you are actively opting out of the “wealth game” as you go. Then, have plan and the guts to execute it when it is time to shift gears.

      Go client-side. Become an independent contractor. Start your own small business. Whatever gives you control and flexibility in your life, even if it means less money. Shift your nest-egg building to earlier in life, if you can, then take advantage of the time that buys you to raise your family.

      My hope is that, if I pull this off right, I won’t be worrying about retiring so much when the time comes because I have built a sustainably livable life by that time. I also won’t need to rent a handicapped person for a week to come with us to Disney!

    • I pretty much agree with you.

      It’s way way more important to spend time with your kids than than anything else. For example, public and private schools. I don’t think, given the right parents, a public school education is bad for kids (well, sort of, I have really complicated vies on this that are counter to most people’s views), no worse than a typical private school, anyway. BUT the problem lies when you have two parents working crappy jobs spending all of their time away from their kids. They can provide neither time nor money.

      I think it is extremely important to teach your children the value of work and that “nothing is free.” I see a lot of entitled kids not really realizing how much work goes into life and money maintenance. Personally, I grew up in a low income family and am still very low income myself. But seriously, I can’t think of much I would do with more money. In all honesty, I find it kind of preposterous when people who make over 100K complain and worry about money. What in the world do you even do with that much money?

      To me, having money is about being able to use it responsibly. I spend a lot of money on my food. I buy organic foods, do most of my shopping at the farmer’s market, animal products are naturally raised. The milk I buy is at least $10/gallon (and that is in states that the dairy is ultra cheap, where I live it’s $21). To me, that is money well spent because it is something that I believe in (sustainable agriculture and not destroying our precious resources as well as my own health and the health of ay future kids), but I wouldn’t ever buy a house bigger than my needs (which is currently a studio), I don’t buy stuff I don’t need.. What I waste! I will spend money on a well made product that is long lasting and hopefully ethically made.

      So for my life and my kids, I would first off be funneling any extra money that I made beyond my immediate needs to either innovative business that had similar values with enough to live a comfortable life in that I had a nice, but small home with the few quality products I needed and lots of delicious food to fill my kitchen. I would make sure that I had enough to help my kids pursue any dreams they had (if they wanted to start a business, play sports, play an instrument, learn news skills, etc.), which is something I never had as a kid, but I would teach them the value of hard work, that nothing is free, and hopefully having them working as early as possible and managing themselves and their lives.

      I should also mention that part of the reason I want to work for myself is due to being concerned about being there for my eventual kids, and not having to slave away at a terrible job that would take away my nice mommy energy.

    • Erik,

      Outstanding post. In regards to your last paragraph, I notice the same phenomenon occurring at my job. There is a huge amount of talent that seems to peak out around the 100-150K range and middle management range (myself included)…while we watch our more driven (sociopathic might be a good term as well) peers employ every trick in the book to get that extra promotion. Pretty disgusting.

    • Well said, the interesting thing about your solution is if the village you went looking for to raise your kids will really exist. We are trying a similar track and active in our church ministry and neighborhood because of it. What we are finding are several people in a similar boat looking for help and willing to help but in general not used to the time commitment.

  4. What a great article, Ramit! I see this happen all the time and the kids turn out to be rotten. I think it’s important to make sure they know the value of money. When you go on vacation, there’s no problem to use these perks to enjoy yourselves. But when you’re not on vacation, make sure they realize how much things actually cost. For example, If they want the newest electronic and don’t have the money for it, try not to give in and just buy it for them. Or if your child is the social butterfly and likes to go out with their friends, don’t give them your Amex and make them pay. As for concert tickets, use the perks to get the exclusive tickets, but only for special occasions and not just for any old Friday night.

  5. Yes, I would use these perks if I could get them. My goal isn’t to be treated as “elite” and jump through all of the lines, but I’m more than happy to take advantage of time savers when they’re available.

    I’m fine with other people using perks. If you are investing a lot into a service, you should get certain rewards. It’s good customer service.

    However, I don’t like the sense of entitlement that is so common in our culture. I don’t want to be handed the golden key and have access to all of the fast lanes in life. I want to learn to work more efficiently than everyone else and reap the rewards in the form of a successful lifestyle, which to me means healthy living and spending time where is enjoyable to me.

    I want to live in a society where instead of complaining how unfair it is that others have an “elite” lifestyle, we go out and put in the effort it takes to create it for ourselves, if that’s what we want. Taking action over daydreaming.

  6. I didn’t know it at the time, but after meeting and marrying my husband, I found out I grew up rich. We had maids clean our house once a week and we took annual vacations to Disney. We took limos to the airport and I flew first class as a little girl. At the time, I thought most people grew up like that. I think that experience definitely made me more spoiled than my husband, who grew up with much less.

    But I also think financial circumstances impact kids less than we think. Research shows genetics plays a far, far larger role in how kids turn out than you think; Ramit – you were probably born with a drive that would have found its way out regardless of your parent’s circumstances, though certainly they informed your goals and worldview.

    Maybe it’s because my family’s circumstances changed somewhat drastically as I got older, but I think just being a generous, considerate, thoughtful role model to your kids is what sticks no matter how many perks they are able to take advantage of growing up.

    If you use money and privilege as a way to express your love for your kids (and I’m not saying my parents didn’t do this, they liked to just spend money to try to solve my problems, but maybe we weren’t quite rich enough for it to have impact) instead of, you know, spending time with them, yelling at them when they screw up, and stuff like that then they are going to be spoiled jerks, but not because of the money per se.

  7. Ramit,

    I’m glad you brought this topic up, because it’s one that my friends and I struggle with. On the one hand, you work hard trying to build the wealth and lifestyle that you want for yourself and your family. But once you, “make it”, you fear that your children aren’t going to realize how lucky they are compared 99% of the world. How we teach them to have perspective and honor hard work is definitely a challenge.

    I have no issues with “rich” people taking advantage of the perks like shorter lines, etc. especially if they have been earned. The problem comes when they lose perspective and become entitled.

    The entitlement makes them overestimate their own value and underestimate that of others. This has led to what I feel is a big problem: a much bigger disparity between rich and poor in this country as the rich have found more and more ways to collect almost all the wealth at the expense of the middle class and poor.

    Check out this website which has real data: http://inequality.is. The most powerful graph (for me) is the one that shows wages and productivity and how they diverged around 1979.

    I don’t want to live in a world where the rich profit almost exclusively and everyone else is left behind. (I’m also not a socialist either!). I just think the pendulum has swung too far. Too many loopholes for the rich and not enough people paying it forward and having the perspective to realize how truly lucky they are to be “rich” in the first place.

    • “at the expense of the middle class and poor.”
      There you have the hidden script and the assumption. If someone does well providing affordable housing, is it at the expense of the poor.
      The thinking is that the size of the pie is set, so for someone to have more, someone else has less. Just not true.

  8. Great thoughts as always – and you won’t be the first to have your kids sit in the back of the plane. In October I was on the same commercial flight from Denver to Charlotte as Gary Busey – he was in first class, and his manager was sitting next to me in coach, and Busey’s son was a couple rows behind us. It was such a weird dynamic. But, you know, it was Gary Busey, so it all kind of made sense.

  9. I worry about this too. I spent my childhood working. I don’t want my children to work as much during their childhood as I did. At the same time, will they have the same work ethic I do?

  10. Adam Ultraberg Link to this comment

    Wealthy vs poor isn’t a binary, it’s a paradigm. The rich life is only valuable in that it compares to something else — whether it’s the poverty of never having 10k in the bank or eating rice and beans for 5 years after college.

    But like anything else (beauty, health, a good sex life), you only have it when it’s as contrast. If you want your kids not to be spoiled, make sure they give back to the community. Clean up the park with them. Visit an Audubon society, go out for a five buck pizza, have them rake and bag the leaves. Have a no-spend summer and take part in the civic life.

    If you’re worried about becoming more exclusive, it’s the perfect time to join back in.

  11. I now have 2 children, and I grew up without a father so I have had the advantage of making 100% of my own decisions when it comes to being a Dad. Not that I think that I am making 100% of the RIGHT decisions- but at least they are my own.

    Anyways, I grew up poor, and I am still working to get away from the poor mentality when it comes to money. I have always been frugal, but at the same time I believe in enjoying life. I just don’t feel that material possessions really represent true enjoyment.

    That is what I try to teach my kids. The “stuff” is always secondary to the experience- and that applies to everything.

    I think that this keeps myself and my family from falling into entitlement and materialistic traps.

    Another thing I really try to both live and teach my kids is the idea that we don’t make the rules, but we do choose how we want to play the game. Every choice has advantages and disadvantages, but you can always work things in your favor if you find the opportunity. Some of the funnest moments with your kids happen while you are waiting in line.

    The bottom line is, whether you wait in line or fast pass it, you are still at an amusement park- life is good!

  12. Great topic! I believe that businesses are having a hard time separating elite experiences for higher paying customers because in our “buy now pay later” world, folks are willing to pay for the upgraded experience. This forces the businesses to come up with more advanced, creative experiences for their highest paying customers.

    I personally think it is great for all involved. It serves as a motivator for those that cannot afford it (as it did for you Ramit). We all want to be able to provide MORE for our kids and their kids. To me, that is what it means to be a parent. To bring that next generation to the next level. Our parents did it for us and so on.

    A good example is the competition for college admissions. Advanced placement courses, extra tutoring, networking, etc all tilt the playing field when it comes to two equal applicants (in terms of intelligence/qualifications).

    It is not like these services are not being offered to a certain income class, it’s just that it costs more. The plane still gets to the location.

    Love the post Ramit.

    • It’s funny, I came from a poor family, but I did end up doing that stuff, you would be surprised the resources out there for those who don’t have! Sure it’s harder, but I remember filling out applications to get admissions waived, and I went to a public school and had free resources associated with that, anyway.

      The thing is, I don’t really think money is what kids need more of.

  13. If you could get these perks, would you use them?
    I’ve used them and foregone them

    What do you think of other people using them?
    I’m fine with it, I think it is up to the enterprise to manage all of their customers experiences, both those in and out of such programs.

    What kind of society do we want to live in?
    A society that values individual freedom.
    A society that rewards producers of value.
    A society that is compassionate and cares about all of it’s members.

  14. I do have many perks, and I think many of us have more than we realize just by having access to paved roads, public police departments, school systems, etc. paid for by taxes (in the US at least). That said, I was “lucky” enough to be exposed to many different economic/social levels when I was growing up and that taught me to 1) appreciate what I have, 2) realize that wealth is not only financial. My travels around the world helped me to see that most of people living outside the US are much happier than those living here despite not having as much money. I think spoiled rich kids get into trouble in their teen years because they rebel against their parents’ wealth and pride… however if the kids get a chance to work at soup kitchens and homeless shelters, travel the world (not just in the Ritz Carlton’s and resorts for the super rich – but really see all walks of life) they can choose their own path – with less of a need to rebel.

  15. For a period I was a bartender in one of the richest towns in the eastern US. The wealth was astonishing and pretty much everyone gave their kids the best of educations, vacations abroad, clothing, leisure activities and so on. A lot of the mothers stayed at home so they got a lot of attention too. Many of the families had kids who were polite, worked hard, tried in sporting activities and turned out as contributing members of society (or, y’know, hedge fund managers) and others had kids who turned into rude, entitled bums who were biding their time on hobbies until they could marry someone as rich as daddy. I always wondered what the differences were between these families, the parents seemed similar superficially, but I guess those analyses only happened behind the closed doors of the golf clubs or something.

    • Part of it is just going to be the individual. I have 5 brothers and I wish I could say they were all as driven as I am. Definitely NOT the case.

      I think in my family, I am the odd one out, as we were NOT taught to be driven, but it’s not just how someone is raised, though it is a big contributor.

  16. Another thought-provoking post from Ramit! To me, this is pretty cut-and-dried: Absolutely, you use your money for whatever perks and goodies you want your family to enjoy.

    But – and this is huge – you make it very clear to your children that having more money than other people does not, in any way, shape, or form, make you *better* than anyone else. Lack of understanding of this fundamental point is where the spoiling process begins.

    You also need to make it clear to your kids that their having landed in a family with money (through birth or adoption or whatever) is the result of complete blind luck on their part. Again, it does not make them better than other people.

    Now, unless Mommy and Daddy inherited their vast wealth, you then get into the issue of *why* the family has more money than others do, and that’s a more nuanced discussion. Sure, there is probably some luck involved, and probably also more than a little hard work – but there are plenty of very hard-working people who never earn much money in their lives, so you don’t want your kids to assume that less affluent people are just lazy. On the other hand, some people (again, not all) do remain poor for precisely this reason.

    To a large extent, entrepreneurs make money in direct proportion to the value we provide others, but this is not always true of other jobs (teachers, for example, provide a great deal of value yet never make millions doing so). And that’s when you start getting into the perception of uniqueness, the value of effective marketing, the rewards that come from a well-targeted hustle, etc.

    Complicated stuff – and hugely important.

    • It’s definitely about that not making them better, but also about what they can do as an influential person. How are they choosing to use that wealth? For the greater good or to just completely drown themselves in “stuff” that isn’t going to make their lives any better?

  17. We live in one of the wealthiest areas in the country and the kids here are VERY, VERY spoiled, so this is an issue I worry about a lot. Here’s how I address it:

    First, I monitor their friends and try to make sure my kids spend time with kids whose parents’ values reflect ours and limit play dates with the most spoiled or their classmates.

    Second, I try to teach them three key lessons:

    a) You can learn anything you need to know to accomplish your goals. Whether it’s how to build a tower in Minecraft or how to make cute Minion cupcakes, there is a way to learn the right techniques and apply them to your own projects. It takes effort, but you can do it.

    b) You can have anything you want if you are willing to work and save hard enough to get it. And the way you earn more is to provide value for other people. Save your allowance for X weeks or help with extra chores to increase your income.

    c) The choices you make have a direct impact on outcomes in your life. If you want a new video game, but you waste your allowance on some bit of crap at the dollar store, the result is that you have to wait longer for what you really wanted. If you choose to work hard and weed the garden, you can earn the video game faster. If you choose not to learn the right skills, you will be less efficient and less effective in what you want to accomplish.

    We also emphasize gratitude as a value, and teach the kids that we should be grateful to have many advantages that people in other circumstances don’t have. i.e., We worked hard and made good choices, but were also fortunate enough to have favorable opportunities.

    Yes, they’re still a little spoiled, but overall are nicely behaved, curious, and empathetic kids who seem to be learning the value of hard work and smart choices.

  18. Since you’re asking the question “Will I raise my future kids as spoiled brats?”, the answer is probably “No.”

    We just had a real-life example of this exact issue. We took a vacation to Alaska, and on one of our stops, we were in an American Airlines lounge with our 4 y.o. daughter. I was looking at the flight status board when an older guy said something to the effect that “you don’t want to let the kid get used to this”. I asked the guy what he meant, and he said he had been taking his daughter into lounges since she was a kid. Now the guy’s daughter is 24, and she wants him to buy her a lifetime pass to the AA Admiral’s Club for around $4000.

    So how do we keep our innocent 4 y.o. moppet from turning into the other guy’s 24 y.o (apparently) entitled young adult? That’s a tough question, and there probably isn’t a single magic answer that will work for everyone. We have tried to explain that we work for the things we have, and save money on some things (cars, clothes) so we can spend money on other things (travel, food). She’s at the age where she’s asking things like “Why don’t homeless people have homes”, which gives us a chance to touch on issues of fairness, inequality, etc., but it’s kinda tough to explain all of this to a 4-y.o., so who knows how much will sink in. And at some point, maybe she’ll fall in with a pack of Mean Girls who will ruin everything we have tried to teach her.

    • This post sounds sweet and I feel like your 4y.o. will do well :)

      One thing that came to mind for me is:

      MONEY DOES NOT EQUAL SPOILED!

      I used to work at a yogurt shop, for way too many years of my life, and I can’t even begin to tell you the amount of people who came in (who were almost definitely not high income based on geographical location as well as where they were) with kids and told them what size they were getting. The kids throw a fit and the parent says “If you keep acting like that you don’t get any.” The kid throws a bigger fit and storms outside because they aren’t getting what they want. The parent goes out and gets them, and gets them the size they said they weren’t getting them. Countless times.

      It’s more about setting boundaries, not giving in, being clear on why you want something for them (or why you don’t), letting them give you their opinion in a respectful way and honestly respecting it, but at the same time being firm.

  19. Ramit,

    I believe that we should be able to spend the money that we earn how we choose to spend it. When the wealthy spend the extra money to have an experience that fits within their budget and life style, it is their choice as it is their money that they are spending. The additional money that is paid to the theme parks, the airlines or wherever certainly helps the business and the economy.

    My personal opinion is that we can raise spoiled brats whether we are “rich” or financially challenged. It is all relative. In all honesty, just because the parents are “rich” doesn’t mean that the children will be able to live the same life style when they are grown. After all, it is the parent’s money and not the child’s. I think that if the child is taught responsibility and if a since of humility is laid as a foundation during the younger years, a child that has experienced all of the pleasures of wealth can mature into a lovely, unspoiled and responsible adult. That being said, I believe that a child that is raised in a home where none of the pleasures bought by wealth have been experienced, including skipped lines and first class seats, can easily become a spoiled brat, within their own right.

    We are not a family that has experienced all of the luxuries of the wealthy, except on the occasion when our very wealthy friends have treated us to something wonderful. However, I see no problem with living life to it’s fullest, which in my opinion includes experiencing all that one can while living within your financial means. Heck, who wouldn’t enjoy skipping the lines with their family at Disney during the brutal hot months in Florida? If one has the money to pay for it then good for them!

    Tlb

  20. Raising your kids with morals (or without, for that matter), has nothing to do with being privileged or not. You’re damn right I would use those perks. And use them for friends and family as well. And those few colleagues who really work their asses off for me or others but don’t necessarily know how to play the game. There’s been a recent scandal in the paper about how the uber rich are using the handicapped to bypass lines at Disney and other parks. Everyone is up in arms–the outrage! Why? the girl these families are using are paying her nicely (though still too little as far as I’m concerned–but to each their own) for a service. Services cost money. Convenience costs money. Skill costs money. If you value the service, you pay. If you don’t, you wait with the rest of us riff raff who know better but just can’t pay. Get over it. If you don’t want to pay for something, don’t bitch because someone else is willing to.

    And as far as raising your kids as brats… it’s just like dog training. You teach rules, make them earn rewards, and teach them politeness. In my field, I’ve met people who are entitled douches on both financial ends. I’ve also seen people who plunk down a credit card and pay thousands of dollars to save a stranger’s pet because the owners couldn’t afford it. And asked for nothing in return. Decency and regard for others is a learned behavior. If your kids are brats, it’s because you let them be that way.

  21. I guess, first things first, I don’t care what other people think of me and the choices I’m making. I just don’t have the time to worry about that.

    Here are the answers to your questions:

    If you could get these perks, would you use them?

    Yes, but not for the reasons that anyone here has really stated yet. The fast pass, banking after hours, first class, the hertz line, and all of these are a reflection of one thing to me – my time is valuable and I’m willing to pay more to keep and do with it what I want.

    I think about it like this, what is an hour of my time worth? Though I’d like it some day to be about $50,000, right now it’s probably closer to $500. That means if I waste an hour of my time that’s essentially $500 out of my pocket. I could have used that time to make $500 or have an experience worth at least $500 to me.

    When opportunities present themselves for me to save time I do some simple math – is the price of the time savings more or less than my effective hourly rate. If the price is less ($50 for the fast pass is an easy example – instead of doing the rides all day you could go for half a day and then use the other half for another experience if you wanted to) then it’s a no brainer – do it. If it’s more ($10,000 to charter a plane to see my parents vs. commercial) then I typically pass.

    What do you think of other people using them?

    I’m fine with other people using them.

    What kind of society do we want to live in?

    The problem we have now is that people aren’t taught the concept of value at any point in their educational lives. They are taught discount, sale, cost, etc., but very few people are taught to explore the cost of something in terms of the value received from what they are getting.

    For example, the people waiting in line shouldn’t be pissed at me for getting the fastpass because they’ve made an internal decision that the value of their time isn’t worth $50 for the last pass, just like I don’t call them stupid for making such a wrongheaded decision.

    Finally, when it comes raising kids, there are poor kids that are stinkers and rich kids that are stinkers. I think it has less to do with the amount of money you have than the way you show your kids what the purpose of money is (i.e. money is a tool that works for you vs. money is something you can use to make other people feel little and jealous of you).

  22. This post is particularly amusing coming from Ramit, whom is the advocate for learning secret motivators behind what we do and caring about money as a means to achieve the style of life we want.

    As long as they are loved, fed, and feel physically secure, kids will be happy. It isn’t until we teach them (or culture teaches them) that they are rich, poor, smart, successful, failures, etc. that they learn to be better or worse than other people. Same for how to treat their fellow man. So as other posters commented, as long as they are taught (a) to be happy being themselves in spite of everyone else, (b) that they are no better or worse than anyone else, just different, and (c) the “why” behind your and their actions, then it doesn’t matter how much money the parents have because it is all just a means to an end.

    As for the worrying about special treatment if you can buy it, that question is a symptom of where we are as humans right now. The inequalities are stark, and we as the rich country/class/etc. feel bad about that. If no one saw you jump to the front of the line, would you feel as bad about doing it? Would you feel your kids were being spoiled if you never knew that there were so many people that can’t pay rent let alone afford go to an amusement park? Would you feel better about going on the trip if you paid into a “scholarship” that would give those people less fortunate the chance to go to the amusement park for free? You worked hard to get where you are financially so you deserve the perks, right? Or do you feel that you were just the lucky one, so you shouldn’t enjoy it? That really is the crux of the argument, isn’t it?

  23. Ramit,
    I love this post as I just had a son and will be struggling with these questions now and in the future. In order to tackle this question I think one needs to take a step back and look at the bigger picture first. Influenced by those who have gone before us, my wife and I have decided to raise our children to be fully autonomous adults. We will do this by striving to implement the values, skills and knowledge that they need to function in the world around us. I would argue that as a culture this is no longer practiced. We let those around us raise our children and in a sense subcontract their raising to those around us and hope that they instill the values, knowledge and skills that we esteem.

    As adults we have privileges that children do not. Just because as adults we can do something does not mean our children should also be allowed to follow in the same behavior/privileges. There needs to be a strong distinction between child and adult. I will go to bed around midnight, but put my son down around 8 is an example of this. I think the healthy establishment of these roles are appropriate and would do much to prevent spoiled children. To teach the values that I hold to there would have to be some restriction of the privileges of adulthood, but the values behind not acting like a spoiled brat (gratitude) must be modeled by the parents.
    Just my two cents.

  24. Ramit – per our email conversation, here are my answers, your comments/questions with a “*” in front:

    *The truth is, if you could, you would, too!

    As an Officer in the Navy I get head of line privileges in the small ship’s store. In a hot, busy environment, I can jump in front of all of the sailors who have spent hours turning wrenches on the steam plant, sweating their asses off and getting no sleep, while I’ve been shuffling paperwork in my office, and probably enjoying a more comfortable life than them. Is that fair?

    I didn’t know that to be the case last week when I first showed up to my ship. As I stood in line, a Sailor looked back at me and straightforwardly said, “Sir, go on in, you don’t need to wait in line here.” So I did, but not after chuckling and laughing about how it felt awkward, and why do I get to go in first.

    One of my own success principles is to always assume the best in people. In changes how we behave towards them, and in turn, how they behave towards us. The best sailors assume, right off the bat, that you are a good Officer, and give you the benefit of the doubt (unless you’ve proven them wrong), which is a pretty honorable feeling. They trust you’re using your position of authority to look after them, to make smart decisions on their behalf, and to contribute to the command the same way they are. They realize that, on the whole, your decisions (due to your authority) have a larger effect on the command (either positive or negative) and so, in a way, your time may be considered more valuable than there’s. It’s nuanced, but I appreciate working with those kinds of sailors rather than feeling resented for my status. No one wants to feel resented. And in assuming the best in me, I assume the best in them, etc, etc – it’s an upward spiral that builds teamwork and trust.

    A Master Chief Navy SEAL (highest enlisted rank in the Navy, some seriously experienced dudes) elaborated on this. He said Officers don’t get paid more because they are smarter, stronger, or more talented than their enlisted counterparts. They get paid more because their position of authority demands it; they are to use their extra pay for the benefit of the mission, their sailors, and their gear. They get a larger stateroom to plan missions more effectively. In the old days, Captains with the huge stateroom in the back of the ship were given that room because it was absolutely commensurate with their responsibility: in the back of the ship, they felt the waves least and could work best on their voyage planning. They had a huge desk upon which to lay the charts for the same purpose (when the enlisted sailors only got a hammock for personal space). They ate dinner alone and had a lot of free time *explicitly* so they could take a step back and make the best “big picture” decisions for the ship and her crew. Such decisions require the time and space they were afforded.

    *If you could get these perks, would you use them?

    Yes, on the big wins. I want to ride the roller coasters! Sign me up for the speed pass. No for the airport rush line or the rental car place. Waiting in line there doesn’t bother me.

    *What do you think of other people using them?

    It doesn’t bother me. I strive hard not to judge people. Yes – gut instinct is resentment – but then I realize how is that my place to judge? If it bothers me, I should make enough money to earn that place as well. Complaining gets me nowhere.

    *What kind of society do we want to live in?

    I believe strongly in “sufficing.” I was talking to Ethan Mayers of Synthenai, a startup consultancy, and he crystallized that idea which I had heard before. Do you have a problem? Find the solution that exactly suffices the problem, nothing more. Do you have a goal? Come up with a plan that suffices the problem, nothing more. CEO’s looking for the “perfect” solution make poor decisions; those that find the “sufficient” solution that truly solves the problem (but nothing more) get ahead.

    At the airport, I’m in no rush. I need to get to my airplane, I’m probably by myself and I am happy waiting in line. The free, slow line is sufficient for my goals.

    At the car rental place, same thing. Not in a rush (usually), usually by myself. I save some bucks and wait for my car.

    At the amusement park? I’m probably with friends, whose time is precious. I want to spend as much time upside down going 80 miles an hour as possible. I will pay for the premium service to find a “sufficient” answer to wanting to have a damn good time with people I value.

    This applies to thoughts about ourselves, too. Awhile ago you posted on Facebook asking for inputs for your next RBT Interview. (Incidentally, will you announce who you chose?) Myself and a few others answered the survey, and commented on Facebook, that you should interview Brene Brown. She is awesome, and ends her most well known talk with a picture of a woman who has written on her chest in magic marker, “I am enough.”

    We need to know simply that we are /enough/. We don’t need to be perfect or extravagant or amazing, but we DO need to be enough and to know that we are enough. Smart/beautiful/strong/talented/charming/witty enough. We need to make others feel that they are enough, too, or we’re in for serious relationship trouble.

    It’s all about sufficing -> our problems, our bank accounts, our hearts and self-worth, self-respect, and self-esteem.

    I want to live in a society where we all believe that we are enough and that we validate in others that they are enough, too.

  25. Does that mean you’ve met a ladyfriend, Ramit!? Oh, your mother and I sure hope so. Get to it, already. That next chapter of your life is sure to be awesome.

  26. I think there is a balance to be found. Just like parents that don’t have a lot, they can still have spoiled brats.

    Just because you could get them tickets to every concert, are you going to? You could take them to Disney several times a year, but will you? If they answer is “yes” then you’ll probably get spoiled kids :)

    But how do you make them earn these rewards. And I mean EARN, cleaning their room does not earn a concert, that gets them food and a place to live!

    When kids get older, I’ve always been a big supporter of earning larger allowances, but with that, they choose how much to spend on food, clothes, lunch, movies, concerts, etc. (This isn’t for all their normal clothes, it’s for all the “Mom can I get this shirt? these shoes? these earrings?” they end up bugging the parents with.) If the kids have some control, they’ll realize if they spend it all now that they don’t have it for later.

    Make them realize the difference between going to the theme park and how much more they have to spend to get jump the line passes (and make them realize what else that money could be spent on).

    Some random thoughts (above) but I think it’s doable, BUT I think most parents do end up spoiling their kids too much…

  27. As a father of two (going on three!) I think a lot about the way I want to teach my kids to view the world. About how I want them to view the success of others, as well as the failure of even more. In life, there will always be those who have more success and privilege than you, and always those with less. The pitfall, as I see it, does lie in the iniquity of their privilege as it relates to mine. The real pitfall is envy. I want my kids to be skilled in the art of having AND having not. And I want them to treat others with the same amount of dignity, regardless of position or privilege. May I quote an old dead guy? Yes? Cool.

    “There are no ordinary people. You have never talked to a mere mortal. Nations, cultures, arts, civilizations – these are mortal, and their life is to ours as the life of a gnat. But it is immortals whom we joke with, work with, marry, snub and exploit – immortal horrors or everlasting splendors. This does not mean that we are to be perpetually solemn. We must play. But our merriment must be of that kind (and it is, in fact, the merriest kind) which exists between people who have, from the outset, taken each other seriously – no flippancy, no superiority, no presumption.” – C.S. Lewis

    You could say that that is the kind of world I want to live in. I want to model taking others seriously for my kids.

  28. I have to agree with the thoughtful comments of some of the other posters. If you do not have an ‘entitled’ attitude, you will probably try to raise your future children the same way that you were raised. I have two children, and for the most part, so far they are good kids (ages 9 and 11). However, they do get used to situations, even when they are explained. Case in point, I work for an airline, and have had the opportunity to travel in Executive class on some flights with the children. Although they of course would like every flight to be at that level, it doesn’t happen. When there is space, I take the upgrade, and they sit in economy. It’s all part of explaining how things work, and why they are the way they are.

    I have found schools and sports to be ridiculously competitive for some parents. I try to avoid the type of people who feel they are ‘special’ because they went to ‘such and such’. If someone has worked hard, by providing service and value, or solving problems for others, they deserve the fruits of their success. If they want to jump the line, go for it. I just go in offseason, or don’t worry about it. It’s all relative to the values that someone has.

    Some of the most successful people that I’ve met are kind and thoughtful. They do not brag about what they have, or where they have been. I used to work at an airport, and can tell you that the people who fly the most–ie 100,000+miles per year do not carry on the way that people who are just at the first level of ‘status’.

    As long as the children realize the effort it required to get to that level, hopefully it sinks in. Repetition, kindness and gratitude are required.

    Society is fairly divided now, however people still have the opportunity to go as far as they want with effort. Unfortunately, that is not popularized in media. I want to live in a society that rewards people for their efforts, and values independence, interdependence, freedom and kindness.

  29. You have less control over what your kids interperet from the “fast pass” life than you think you do.

    For example, the founder/CEO at my asset management firm is massively wealthy–houses across the globe, a yacht, private plane service, and all the “fast pass” manifestations of a rich life.

    His oldest son grew up, went to a mediocre university, got a mediocre MBA, works in middle management at one of his dad’s firms, and blows every cent he gets on upgrading his BMW every year, buying comically obscene “Hamptons” outfits, dining out at the fanciest restaurants, and is a Grade A prick. He feels very entitled to live the life he grew up in without earning it.

    My boss’s younger son went to an Ivy League school, got his BS/MS in 4 years, started his own IT company in his twenties, is kind, humble and funny, and you can just sense that he wants to earn that life for himself.

    Same parental upbringing. Same “fast-pass” access to life. 100% different attitudes resulting from it. At the end of the day, all you can do is hope for the best.

  30. The perks are fine- I can see myself choosing to purchase them if the value is correct.

    These kid-spoiling parents are failing to teach their offspring compassion.

    Compassion is independent of wealth. It doesn’t take any money to teach someone to take care of others and treat them as human beings who deserve respect.

    As my family grows and as our wealth grows, a major goal of mine is to show my kids that money is a lever- and you can use that lever to do awesome things. And I will show them that doing awesome things for other people is a great way to use your money.

    It’s OK to treat yourself to special experiences with your hard-earned money. Show your kids how to put their resources to work for others’ benefit too- it’s a privilege to be able to do that.

  31. This topic concerns me as well. I definitely think that the attitudes we have about what we feel entitled to (whether it’s things, privileges, reputation, etc) or how hard we should have to work are shaped by our experiences growing up.

    My husband and I both grew up without much financial certainty; that’s probably what made us work our butts off in school (perhaps to the point of paranoia) to avoid the same worries that our parents have. I think it also made us pragmatic and strategic about our career paths. Since we finished school, our families have given us moral support and subsidized housing at times, but it’s not like there was anyone to support us financially while we “figured out what we wanted to do.” I think we’re both lucky we get a kick out of what we do (we’re engineers), but I recognize that’s a privilege, it comes after much dues-paying, and it’s not something the world owes you when you enter the working world.

    When we have kids, I certainly want them to grow up secure and having what they need, but I also don’t want them to believe Mom and Dad owe them everything they want (because it’s not like I got whatever I wanted as a kid). I think we do appreciate things (and privileges) more when we’ve worked hard to get them. I know that sounds like a total cliche, but it’s true. What I’m curious about is how we can instill in our kids a strong work ethic and appreciation for the hard work it takes to get the rewards.

  32. My issue is with the people who let their privilege go to their heads. I worked customer service at a place where many affluent people came in. Some were amazing. Others treated me like dirt.

    I got fired because a man came in and REFUSED to check in, which is a requirement. I wasn’t rude. I didn’t do anything wrong. In fact, I had co-workers and other members wonder what his problem was, and they were all there to back me up.

    He complained to the right people, probably donated a lot of money – I got fired.

    The real kicker: not only did I need him to card in for regular security purposes, he was coming to pick up a CHILD. I am positive that if anything had happened to the children, he’d be one of the people screaming about more security, etc.

    I understand privilege. I just don’t understand the people who treat others like dirt. If you’re worried your children are going to become spoiled rotten, teach them respect and discipline. Teach them that not everything they have is guaranteed, that life could change in an instant. Teach them to be grateful. Teach them to give back. Teach them their roots.

    Ramit, I’m assuming your parents were immigrants. Reading this, I know that times weren’t always easy when you were growing up. I’m sure things were harder for your parents growing up.

    Parents want their children to have better lives than they did. I understand giving to them. Just teach them hard work and appreciation like you have learned.

  33. Ramit, dare I ask of we’re looking at the glass as half empty? I would argue that these “perks” and the people who take advantage of them are actually drivers of social progress.

    Let’s face it. Today’s luxuries invariably become tomorrow’s commodities. During the Roman Empire, things like salt and purple cloth were high-status items. During the Middle Ages, books cost the equivalent of many thousands of dollars to produce by hand for the educated elite. Just a few decades ago, cell phones were owned only by masters of the universe like Gordon Gekko.

    Does anyone consider any of those things high-status today?

    The reason they’re not is because the upper classes are willing to pay premium prices for these things, subsidizing their development for everyone else. So, I say God bless the bank that’s willing to stay open after 5pm for its well-heeled customers, the airline that’s willing to treat its passengers more humanely than freight cargo, and the call center that won’t keep us in automated-message hell for hours at a time. That’s the standard all of us will expect in ten years or twenty years, and the upper classes are democratizing those things every time they open their wallets.

    So, lighten up, man! Enjoy your success, and know that it’s greasing the wheels of social progress for everyone else…

    Cheers,

    –Scott

  34. Ramit,
    I have to say I enjoy the fast pass lifestyle. When I take my kids to disneyland we like to splurge a bit and spend less time waiting in line. That means we spend more money at the park. Basically, we’re PAYING for additional services. How is paying for a shorter line different than getting a full service car wash as opposed to the basic wash? Or supersizing instead of the regular size meal.

    You’ve said in your classes that we’re going to work harder than the other 99% and that because we do that we’ll get results that seem out of proportion. Shouldn’t you be allowed to enjoy the fruits of that labor.

    As for kids, I have 2 and my wife and I struggle everyday to find the balance to give them a great life but also teach them that nothing is free. We can easily afford to go an buy our kids the latest video game but we have them earn it. They’re not working in their uncles child labor camp (ranch) like I did as a kid but they do know they they have to work to earn enough money to buy the things they want. Its still a great struggle but well worth it.

    Anyway, I think you get the services you pay for. It would be different if you were getting additional perks and spending the same amount as those standing in line. If that were the case then its pure favoritism and then people should get angry.

    My .02

    - Jack

  35. ” The truth is, if you could, you would, too!” Actually, that is not my truth. I’m not sure if I would use the perk in Disneyland. I can’t see myself walking past children who are waiting in line and to jump ahead.

    We teach children fairness and equality and then they get to witness how this is not really true if you have money. Imagine you are the parent whom has to explain why his child has to wait in line while someone gets to go ahead because of money.

    I wouldn’t want to place any parent in that position just because I have the money to get ahead. I wouldn’t want to rob another family’s joy by forcing them to explain the world isn’t fair. Not a lesson I would want to contribute to a child learning while he or she is on a family vacation in Disneyland.

  36. Anyone who has seen poor parents take out loans/use credit cards to buy their children the latest gadgets and toys for Christmas “because they deserve it” should know that ‘spoiled’ is not something that only happens to rich children.

    Regardless of how much money you have, if you raise your children to expect unfettered access to the fruits of other people’s labor (in this case, your money) or give them the idea that they are better than others because of what they have (or worse than others because of what they don’t have) you are likely to end up with a kid that exhibits at least some ‘spoiled’ behaviors.

  37. Hi Ramit … I’ve been lurking in the background for a while on your mailing list, because I’m a bit older than you, and whereas I have learned a lot from you, I feel that this is a topic about which I feel knowledgeable.
    Ramit … these are all material THINGS!!! Not important to happiness. now don’t get me wrong, I like materal things a LOT, but they are not as important as the intangibles in life, such as love, health, integrity, world peace, and an all-consuming self confidence.

    First, I’d like to thank you for your articles. They have helped me double my income in the past year, and I am currently on my way to doubling it again this year. You have reminded me to negotiate and take risks, and that has really paid off for me.

    I have reared a child who has had it easy for 21 years of her life compared to me. And yes, she is a spoiled brat. She knows nothing of the incredible sense of accomplishment I felt by moving from the inner city where I grew up in as an immigrant child reared by a widowed mother barely making minimum wage, to a moderately successful engineering consultant. I accomplished that through hard work and a lot of ambition, and I do feel a lot of satisfaction and pride in that. I paid my own way through college, bought my own cars, earned a decent income, and retired for 10 years to be a stay-at-home mom. Then I got divorced and had to restart my career, which took a few years, but now I’m earning enough money to make me happy, and having a fantastic time. I enjoy myself everyday at work. I used your negotiating suggestions to get paid more than the male engineers at my current assignment, because after all, money is how we keep score in this game. I regret NONE of my experiences.

    However, my spoiled brat is showing NONE of the same ambition that I had. I pay for her tuition, her living expenses, her car, etc … and she is not driving herself to succeed. while her grades are good, she does not have a part time job, and thus is not experiencng the sense of satisfaction that I derived from making my own money. I’ve coached her on job hunting, the necessity of getting a good internship, etc … and she whines that she needs a new car. I’m afraid I really screwed up by giving her too much. She has not the same sense of accomplishment I got from making my own way since the age of 17. I may not have liked the poverty I experienced in my childhood, but I LOVED the climb up. In fact, I believe it made my life BETTER than if I had grown up middle class, because I know that not only can I survive any economic setback, I can also thrive.

    I feel bad that I have denied her this experience thus far … but I’m about to change that soon. She’s been in the privileged queue long enough. I know that whenever I fall out of the fast pass line, I know what I have to do to get myself back in, but she does not. I think I was the one to grow up more “fortunate” than her. She needs to know how to survive and thrive without her mom supporting her.

    • Right on! This is so great that you realize that you can have influence over her entitlement at ANY age. It’s so so hard for most parents to remove what they have been pampering their children with, even when they are old enough to be making their own money and are completely careless with money.

    • Good luck, in my view it’s better they learn to sink or swim earlier than later so don’t wait for the right time.

  38. You know what, I would use them, im only human. But there is something to be said for taking the time to smell the roses too. For instance Ramit is a busy guy…is it conceivable that along with the staying late for him it would be hard for him to get there at any other time? possibly. And by keeping Ramit happy they have a more secure chance of gaining or keeping his business than if they did not.

    I dont consider myself special or above other people, and if say there was a line of 10 people waiting to see one teller and no one in the other line to see the “special treatment” teller id politely suggest they serve thier customers.

    I like the idea, and live by the idea that everyone who comes through my business is served in a first come first served basis, But if someone does want a rush job you better believe that they are charged ridiculously for it to the cum of about $120 an hour and I do it in my own time. That way i can only take one rush job at a time and all my other customers are kept happy as well.

    just my few little thoughts on the subject

  39. I think the values you instill in a child are what determine if they come out rotten. If a child feels entitled it will be a monster. If it sees the world as full of opportunity and understands that consequences come from actions, he/she may stand a chance.

    Interestingly the most well-behaved, intelligent, engaging and all around awesome kids I’ve met have been the children of the very wealthy (top 0.0001%). Whereas many of the upper middle class children I meet make we want to drop kick them. I seriously doubt money and privilege itself is the problem, but it still scares the crap out of me when I think of having babies.

  40. You know, I really don’t care. I’ve had the experience you describe, of seeing the “privileged” enjoy perks that the rest of us don’t have access to, though I wasn’t watching a stranger. Instead, it was the general manager of a store I used to work at*. It didn’t really bother me that all the managers got a meal when they worked more than x number of hours. What bothered me was that this guy chose to take this meal when the store was closed & we were all trying to get it cleaned up and he was about to go home. If he ate his lunch during the day, I probably wouldn’t ever have noticed. … unfortunately he chose to do the former and I’m still left griping about this & other forms of dbaggery** he liked to do. I don’t know why it’s so hard to let go sometimes.

    Anyway, this does have a lesson buried in there: If people taking advantages of those priveleges bugs you so much, go somewhere else. or sometimes, you can get the same ones with some extra cash. I know for example there’s a card where you can pay a monthly fee and when you show it to the staff at certain (ie partnered) airlines they put you on the express track to your flight. There are smartphones that include complimentary butler service for a couple years when you buy the phone. Credit cards with the same if you can afford the monthly fees. Take a job at Google, and they’ll pay someone to change your oil every few months (and do your dry cleaning and so on). Make friends with any one of 50 people at any one of your 5-10 local radio stations and you have a connection to get some free tickets to concerts or football/baseball/basketball games.

    Point is, to get those things, there’s something you have to put into it. and sometimes they’re worth more than what you pay*** for them even if that amount is occasionally a lot more than I can afford right now. When I see someone living in a nice community or getting exclusive services like that, I think to myself, now this is what I’m working towards. Or if it’s a club that frequently lets people like Ramit cut in line and it actually gets bad enough that it pisses me (or others in my group) off, I go somewhere else, or get there early; no point ruining my night just because that other guy makes their other patrons come back more often****.

    ——————————————————
    footnotes:
    *for like, 2 days because I realized he wasted so much of my time making me be there unpaid for hours a week so I left. I have better things to do than be yelled at for checking my email and especially if I’m not even getting paid for it

    **I guess it was his way of taking this out on everyone else: the fact that he was still just as miserable as when he was a lowly employee despite the shiny new title

    ***and it’s not always money

    **** if they let people, who don’t make their patrons want to come back, cut in line; that means it’s a crappy club anyway full of a-holes who spend way too much at the bar and ruin it for everyone else by drunkenly creeping on every single woman at the club at the same time.

    *****Whee wall of text only 1 person will ever read.***** Yes, this is a footnote that is only referenced recursively and therefore completely redundant.

  41. I got some good advice from an older friend: A man must provide for his family, but a man must also see his family.

  42. I am a mom of 3 kids. From the age of 2 our children have jobs around the home. They are in charge of taking care of themselves. They are responsible for their actions. We follow through on every consequence we make. We only make consequences that we will follow through on as well. The money my husband and I earn will be spent how we decide to spend it. If they would like to earn some money outside our home, then they can decide how to spend it. My kids are not spoiled brats because we do not allow it at home. How you daily live life will be how your kids will turn out, not from taking fast passes at Disneyland on a vacation.

  43. This is really thought-provoking. I will definitely share my privilege with my children on the foundations of growth, eg, quality education, excellent nutrition and a peaceful environment. Beyond that, what I will help them with in terms of mindset and life experiences will be most valuable.

    So yes, they will fly at the back of the plane ;-) I am grateful for my own ‘unspoilt’ childhood, although it was rich in love. This fuelled the fire of success, and allowed me to understand the importance of service.

    The society I want? Compassionate, healthy and abundant. I’ll bring up my future children with the hope they’ll cherish the same values.

  44. Of course I would use the ‘free pass’ if offered. I know, as I have. To claim otherwise is pious at best and pure BS at worst.

    So, what do you do? A fair number of posts have rightfully pointed out that you HAVE to make your children earn something towards the reward. Sure, there are times when they ride the coat tails, but LOOK for the 100′s of ways they can be taught to be contributors. Little things like their turn to wash/clean around the house. Even when you have a housekeeper, there are plenty of tasks they can be given “As contributors to the family”.

    A wise person once pointed out: if something has no COST it has no VALUE. There are many ways, other than simply money that children are taught the cost and value model.

    Second Point, also raised a few times is the value of UNCONDITIONAL LOVE. This gift you give your children (and way too many do not) has an immense ability to cut through the noise of “stuff” and “Privilege”. Knowing that they are loved grounds your children in a permenant way, and gives them a platform from which to jump and reach.

    Third, and most critical point. I didn’t really see this in previous posts…. being a member of a faith community (no, I do not see any difference which faith it is, so don’t fall into that trap) is probably the greatest path to teach your children the difference between having stuff, and entitlement. When instilled in the basic values of working for a greater good, knowing a power/being/deity/whatever that reminds me that I am not the center of the universe, children grow to know that we are in fact interdependent. No man is an Island. I may have more stuff than someone, but knowing that there is something bigger than all of us, helps me see that i am not better than others. I VERY STRONGLY see that faith communities are where we learn this. And where we teach it.
    My expectation is that you will reject this as a ‘crutch’ or ‘opiate’, but I challenge you to really look at the essential good in a faith community, not simply point to the failings we mortals have made. Religion is the window through which we see deity. Do not be confused. Do not worship the window, nor blame the deity for the dirt on the window.

    As a 50 year old father, and one who came to faith as an adult, I have spent a LOT of time pondering…

    Good Luck.

  45. This just comes down to 1 thing:

    1. Evolution.

    We evolved to want power and to feel superior to others. Survival of the fittest and all that. Just look at the studies done on social hierarchy of bonobos as a perfect example. Heck, look at OUR culture!

    Hard stuff to deny.

    As humans we are literally DYING for power and superiority. So, naturally we devised the financial system to reflect that exact same mentality. The perfect system with which to dominate others and to feel superior at the same time.

    Now, nobody is going to deny how awesome commerce is and how much it can improve the lives of other people, but it’s equally hard to deny that those on the extreme low end of the wealth spectrum are unapologetically crushed by it.

    So now we’re left with a system that we KNOW is cruel (on a conscious level) but also one that deeply fulfils us on a genetic/evolutionary/subconscious level.

    Nobody ever said life is fair…

    So the only way we will EVER change this as a race is to overcome our genetic programming with social conditioning. We’ve done it before with things like religion and marriage, so we can easily do it again.

    But it will take some time.

    PS: Ramit, do you know any good books on this topic? It’s pretty fascinating and I know you think about this stuff a lot like I do.

    Do you think the financial system is a zero-sum game?

  46. Ramit,

    Great points.

    I am a strength coach and was working a college baseball showcase for high school athletes this past weekend. These families spend hundreds of dollars to get the opportunity to be evaluated by college coaches from all levels and academic backgrounds. I’d say at least ¼ of the athletes didn’t hustle, didn’t smile/look like they were having fun, and showed complete lack of ability.

    I’m not one to think everyone has to be gifted or even good at sports, but for Christ’s sake fn hustle and show some pride!

    Back to your question, these perks you speak of are fine to use with our kids, but we need to have them understand and respect it’s a luxury, just like going to an expensive showcase.

    I spoke to one of the coaches at the camp and we both agreed that when our children ask to do a camp like this I’m going to have some qualifying rules; mainly, if you want to play at the college level you need to prepare as if you are that athlete already. This means multiple hours of sport skill training, weight training, and good study habits every week for months before I’ll spend the money for you to go to a showcase.

    I’d be curious to hear your thoughts about this.

  47. Forgive me but it’s early. I just read some of the replies and scanned through the rest. I’m older than a lot of you and frankly, was bemused at all the folks who would grab the fast pass. One of the big problems we have now-a-days is the sense of entitlement many people have. And, guess what folks, we are all the same. No one is better than anyone else. If you want to raise a spoiled child, just wait until life smacks them hard in the face. And, it will. Will they have the courage and character to handle it well? Probably not. Do you want that for your children?

    Think about it. If you love your children, prepare them for life, don’t indulge them.

  48. Great debate going on here. I think many of us in the 40-50 year old range were raised by parents that prided themselves on working hard and “waiting your turn”.

    For some reason there was perceived value and morals in that. Probably because that was what you were “supposed” to do. By that logic, is it fair that someone making $30k per year pays the same for gas as someone making $150k? If people have the means, why can’t they pay for that upgraded experience.

    For those waiting in lines at the amusement park, there are also those that cannot afford to go to the amusement park. Is that fair?

    It’s all about perspective.

  49. NewEnglandDevil Link to this comment

    Enjoyed the post! and the many thoughtful responses.

    Wanted to chime in with a thought or two and an example. 1) Our current polity focuses on stratification and demonizes “haves” for having. This is explicitly contra the 10th commandment and is only purposeful for sowing discord. It ultimately drags everyone down to the LCD. (Yea! Let’s all be poor together! See also, results of communism.) 2) Stratification is not a problem. What is morally repugnant is permanence of stratification. Whether it is by law (slavery), birth (patents of nobility, hereditary titles), or social engineering circumstance (generational welfare). 3) There’s a reason for the existence of the hashtag #FirstWorldProblems. Teach your kids to be thankful for EVERYTHING they have because so many in this world don’t even have the basics, let alone the luxuries. If they are truly THANKFUL for what they have, it is not possibe for them to feel entitled to it.

    Lastly, I was flying with my wife down to the Florida Keys for a wedding. We decided to wait to board to see if they would have room to store the bridesmaid’s dress in hanging storage in first class (which they were happy to do for us). The next-to-last person to board the plane was Tom Brady. He didn’t have to wait in line and wasn’t forced into a “cattle-car” situation. Sometimes it helps to retain perspective: the plane ain’t gonna take off till EVERYONE is on board, so what is the point of being on board FIRST?

  50. If you could get these perks, would you use them?

    Yes but I’d try to enjoy them without attaching to them. One thing I am afraid of is that the exclusive experiences might become a need instead of a want, and I am unable to distinguish the two. I was reading somewhere that every time someone gets a dopamine release from a repeated activity, the brain makes this action into a habit. As a result, not doing that can lead to distress. I think it’s easy for luxurious activities to become my new baseline to be comfortable and I don’t want my entitlement to make my unhappy because I’ll become a slave to my need for these types of consumption experiences.

    What do you think of other people using them? I’m sure there’s many different types of people who use them so I’m going to categorize some at the risk of over generalizing.

    Some of them don’t really think about it; usually they are born privilege, don’t know any other way, don’t think about it, and probably have little empathy or sympathy for the poor since it’s a foreign concept.

    Some use it just because they like it and they have access and nothing more.

    Some people use it to reinforce the idea that they are intrinsically better because they made money, were born into money or just plain have more money to blow on consumption experiences. For some people, it is psychologically satisfying to be part of the elite and have other people see the superior social status. It’s tied to mental health in some ape societies and some research shows it’s tied human hierarchies.

    What kind of society do we want to live in?
    Overall, I’d like to live in a society in which every child, whether they are from a poor or rich family has a baseline of great educational opportunities, security, health care, and comfort. Education and career skills is a great platform for social mobility, but the access to great education is not always available to poorer students in America. The educational opportunities for a rich kid, who has access to successful career driven parents, the expensive pre-schools and high schools staffed with teachers with masters degrees and phds who love teaching and are paid well, is just totally different from a poor kid who goes to a low ranking public school. Unfortunately I think the educational opportunities between rich and poor kids can be worlds apart, especially when the parents are uneducated themselves because they might not be able to tutor, mentor, or direct the child to educational success, especially if they don’t put education as a priority as a high ranking value.
    How to prevent spoiled brats when the family is super rich?
    Instill gratitude by allowing the kid to volunteer and help the under privileged to understand how lucky they are. Explain that everyone has basic human dignity and worth and that their birth into privilege and wealth itself doesn’t make them superior to others. People can also reinforce that materialism including “consumption experiences” are great but values like integrity, hard work, contribution, and purpose driven life matter more. A hedonic life is only one definition of happiness whereas a meaningful life is another.

  51. My children are living the life you speak of. They have flown around the world multiple times and stay in fancy places not small hotel rooms. They have flown first class and cut the lines. They have been to Disney more times than I can count. They have had a nanny. They eat at expensive restaurants. Attend private schools. Ski all winter long. I will use the perks!

    However these things don’t matter. Raising children is about teaching them to be men and woman. They eat at fancy places to learn to eat in such a place. They see the world to learn about other cultures and the privilege they have. They also realize that much is expected of them. They understand that they have to work hard to be able to have the things they want. My 13 year old daughter is mowing the neighbor’s lawn so she can earn money to buy a car when she is older. They have been taught since the age of 5 how to automate their savings and about spending. We have conversations about scalable business and she is working on creating an etsy account to sell the things she makes.

    I will admit too many rich people do not raise their children, they outsource that task to others and that is where failure come from. You need to take responsibility to raise your children and spend time doing so. That has to be a priority, otherwise you end up with spoiled brats as adults. You need to teach them values, and then live those values for them to see how to do it themselves.

    I will close with this letter of advice I was asked to write for my son’s friends 13th birthday.

    The world your parents and I grew up in has changed dramatically. The old advice of go to school, go to college and get a good job doesn’t work the way it did. Technology has dramatically changed the world and the need for people to do work. The workforce of the future will be smaller than today and many jobs that existed in the past are gone and will continue to disappear. That means you have to prepare for a world of global competition. I can assure you there are kids studying twice as hard as you in other parts of the world.
    I can’t tell you what jobs will be needed in the future, but I can tell you that building relationships with people and creating a network will provide you a strong foundation and access to many opportunities that others will never have. Successful people like to help others, including kids your age. They want impart wisdom and opportunities upon you. You need to connect with different adults and learn about their stories and success. Learn what advice they can provide to you and reward them by following that advice.
    Remember the first ski instructor you had when you went to the weekend ski program at Roundtop? He was a great skier but he could not connect with you and teach. If you can’t connect then you create no value to others even though you are great. Learning that skill is more important than any other skill and will allow people with even moderate skills to soar. Practice connecting with other people as it will take years to master. You didn’t want the first ski instructor, and you would have paid extra to be with Joey.

    As you decide what you want to do in life, you need to determine what you love to do and what natural talents God has given you and find a way to make that your life’s passion. Don’t worry it takes years to figure these things out, as many adults still don’t know.

    Life is 10% what happens to you and 90% how you react to it. Your decision to limit yourself is yours alone, and not the circumstances that are dealt to you. The biggest hindrance in life is most often the person in the mirror. Learn to never let that person prevent you from going forward. The easiest way is to change your dialogue from “I can’t do that”, to “how can I do that?”
    Money – people spend their entire lives either preparing to earn money or earning it but most people spend hardly any time on learning how to use money. If you think money is just to buy stuff you will have soon given all your money away to others for what is sure to be temporary happiness. Smart people use money as a tool and use it to buy assets that create more money. If you look at people who win the lottery you will see most of them are broke and divorced within 10 years. Learning how to use money as a tool is an important skill, and one you should already be learning. Geeta already has thousands of dollars saved through automating her finances.

    Surround yourself with smart and successful people. Focus on them and their needs, and they will reward you with your needs. If you volunteer a lot, you meet a lot of great people. Adults will be more than happy to talk to teenagers that have a purpose and goals.

    The rest of this letter is going to describe this soccer season and the lessons imbedded in to teach you about life. You may not realize all that has occurred behind the scenes, but it’s all been laid out in the emails and presentations you have seen.

    First, the entire program is built on a simple premise of honoring God. You see that in the R for Reverence to God, the movie we showed, and you will see it in action throughout our season as you watch the way we play on the field. The bible has all the answers to life’s questions. Many times they are hidden or are not clear until afterward. Whenever you are unsure just look there for you answers.

    Set goals, set them high, state them publicly, and be daring. Dream big! We set the goal as an undefeated season, it’s so high not a single player on the survey thought we could achieve it or even come close, except you who then said Just Kidding ;) I have had conversations and heard so many reasons why we can’t, most of which don’t even exist anymore. The main hurdle in all the issues is the 90% reaction to the problem, in other words the person in the mirror, not the reality of the situation.

    It’s good to fail. If you haven’t failed then you have not tried. Every great person has a string of failures behind them. So even if we don’t win every game this season it’s okay. We tried, we hopefully have learned to improve practices and skills and what we need to do to have an undefeated season next year. Giving up is never an option.

    Become an expert in something, especially something new, that doesn’t already have experts. Take action and step out of your comfort zone. Coaching sports fits that quite well for me as so many parents are unwilling or unable to do it. It allows me an opportunity to fill a need and work toward becoming an expert. It also required me to step out my comfort zone over the many seasons because I didn’t know what was expected not having experienced it before.

    Life is not easy. But having the right support group with you during your journey goes a long, long way. I surrounded myself with people better than me to help coach. I will find their skills and get there input to help me perform. In addition we put in the video program so that a real expert can help fill the gaps of what I can’t teach, or don’t have the time to. You will notice he uses stories throughout the videos to connect. If you watched the commercial for the video program you can really see that displayed.

    Plan your life, look at where you want to be in the future, and work backward. Everything in life can be put into a system that makes it easy. We planned our season and put it into a system. First we decided on what we need to accomplish and then decide how to achieve that. If you remember, I met your Dad back in April to begin to lay out what we were going to achieve and how.
    Take action toward your goals. The 15 minutes a day we asked you to practice on your own sets up action. It requires you to take action everyday toward a goal. It’s simple, it’s flexible and it’s doable. We then set up a system of accountability by utilizing a calendar to mark our progress. Did we do what we agreed to do? Remember that you signed and agreed to do it in that survey you took. This same type of system can applied to any goals you have in life, the key is to take action.

    Read and study and much as you can on as many different subjects are you can and listen to other people. Prior to ever having that first meeting I have talked to everyone I knew who had coached soccer, had kids who played soccer and asked many questions about what works and what doesn’t. In other words: how can I learn from their mistakes, and how can I benefit from their success. They now all have connections to me and want to help me succeed at helping the team.

    Spend more time listening and thinking then talking. Many times the truth is hidden in plain sight, and you need to listen to what people say and see what they do. As I talked to so many people about soccer I listed to their frustrations. We even asked every player about their frustrations and how they wanted to be coached. I had follow up conversations with your classmates and asked them to clarify what they meant in their statements on the survey. The answers were different from what we originally thought they meant.
    Exercise regularly. A strong body leads to a strong mind and a strong life. Throughout this season we will run to make you stronger.
    Learn to tell stories. Much of this portion of the letter was originally a list, and quite frankly probably would have been boring or not something you could easily apply. So I wrote a story about out soccer season. Hopefully I did well, but regardless – I took action, and would love to hear your thoughts on the story.

    In closing, you are not alone, everyone else your age is going through the same issues and thoughts you are. Some people make it look easy but many times things are not what they seem on the surface. Most of the cool, athletic kids in high school peaked their senior year. That was the best life had to offer them and it was downhill from there on out. Don’t follow the crowd that peaks at 18 but the one that soars throughout their lives. Enjoy your teenage years, let someone else hold your worries, and have fun!
    Best Wishes,

  52. If you could get these perks, would you use them?
    — Yes. Absolutely. Unapologetically. Because I can’t afford such perks now, being able to afford them in the future will mean I’ve earned my way into them.

    What do you think of other people using them?
    — Pre-Ramit: “Man, I wish I could do that.” (I’ve never been a jealous type, just a ‘wisher.’)
    — Post-Ramit: “I wonder who that is. What do they do to be able to afford first-class? I wonder who I know who could introduce me. Maybe I should just go say hi myself. Let’s see — what value can I offer them in return for a conversation? If I play my cards right, I just might end up with a new mentor.”

    What kind of society do we want to live in?
    — I have no problem with economic “inequality”. As long as it’s through honest trade, the rich can get as rich as they please, and enjoy the resulting perks. They’ve earned it. Wealth *can* be created — the idea that one person having more is taking away from the rest is hogwash.

    The rich truly are *entitled* to better treatment than the rest of us. Perks aren’t free. There is a very real cost for those first-class tickets and box seats. The rich willingly pay the cost. Good for them. I’m going to do that someday too.

    Let people with money spend it as they wish.

    All that said, I do take great offense at any situation that limits one’s opportunity to reach a higher economic level. To me, it’s all about freedom.

    And there are plenty of examples in today’s world of economic freedom being limited. Some are fully economic, some more cultural. Monopolistic corporations can mercilessly squash competition. Caste systems, like that still alive in India, create their own barriers. On the political side, set-ups like communism and dictatorship are obvious freedom-limiters. “Compassionate” Western-style governments also sap many of their people’s desire to work through high taxation and over-wrought entitlement programs.

    Now, as for not raising spoiled kids –
    I really couldn’t say. I’ve never had enough money to worry about it. My kids already complain of not having many of the same things as their friends at school. That Ramit is worried about it even before having kids of his own is a testament to his character.

    I do remember from growing up one family in my neighborhood that had money. Other than buying a lot of motorized toys (snowmobiles, jeeps, go-carts, boats), they never flaunted it much. Their house wasn’t any better than anyone else’s, and the kids never seemed to see much of the money either. One time a group of us planned to go to a movie, and the girl from the rich family had all of $0.75 in her pocket. She wasn’t about to ask her parents for more and was making to leave before we all pitched in for her ticket. It was kind of impressive.

  53. Eliot W. Collins Link to this comment

    I have not been to an airport in over 10 years. I do not go to movies, clubs, concerts or restaurants. As the wise sage said, “The man is the richest who pleasures are the cheapest.” As always, “Money you don’t have to spend is money you don’t have to make.”

  54. The book entitled, “The Millionaire Next Door” had lots to say about the mindset imparted to children by their parents. The book used empirical evidence to explain why some of the children of the wealthy were not as successful as their parents. Those children who had more ‘perks’ were less likely to be striving, ambitious adults.
    I don’t think line jumpers at Disney had this outcome in mind.

    Another, even more disturbing phenomena is that the wealthy are more likely to commit suicide than the poor. An explanation of that would make a truly interesting post.

  55. I like this question.

    My Grandfather was first generation money. His hard work, discipline and drive surmounted the poverty mindset and lack he had growing up and as a direct result, I grew up more privileged than most. We would go skiing, to all inclusive resorts, I attended private schools and lessons, our family went out to eat often, etc. I would always notice the “members” on our vacations with the black bands, gold cards and platinum passes and all the sudden it wasn’t good enough that I was just there. I wanted VIP access, I wanted an unlimited pass, consierge and beverage service, I wanted free upgrades and other exclusive membership benefits! I knew that I wanted this when I was just a kid. I was an entitled, spoiled brat. Unfortunately, conversely, I was also ill prepared to map out my life, manage money and I still have a hard time getting out of and giving up my own way for the greater good.

    What I also should have been exposed to were the episodes where the family of 8 rides on a scooter to get to work (yes even the 5 year old works). The family lives in one bedroom and draws straws for who gets the warm water that day at bath time- not simply exposed to but maybe lived with the family for the three weeks of vacation- And experienced how much they loved each other and how happy they were because of or in spite of their circumstances. Even less extreme and possibly just as effective, I should have been more interested in or had my Grandfather’s roots and family life more impressed upon me. He wanted to get so far away from there he neglected to offer us this type of experiential education which may have provided me more balance and a sense of humility.

    Formal education did not teach me the financial and personal responsibility I needed (until just now – thanks student loans) while mere experience does not formerly educate. My grandfather neglected to realize that the innate drive, ambition and discipline he had that got him out of poverty for good and opened the doors for his family to live very well, were not passed down in the process nor was the ability to sustain the lifestyle we had not earned once he passed. He had the ingredients: hard work and discipline, but he didn’t have the proper medium to duplicate the formula.

    Since my initiation into the real world, I’m not longer under the illusion that I have to be a platinum member, or VIP participant (nor am I entitled to such status) in order to enjoy an event or experience, and those are no longer the ONLY types of vacations or experiences I desire to participate in. I now have children with whom I am madly in love, I am not as selfish as I used to be. Wanting to give them the world and being able to provide it (with my privileged mis-education and no real foundation or anything to back it up with) are two different things. Thank God for personal growth and evolution! Since there is no real substitute for time and service or experience- my children and I are all learning how to do this right now, together. The benefit is that they are participating in helping to build this life for themselves so they’ll know how to do it and sustain it, and I will ensure they understand that the process must be passed down with the tradition!

    The way I think works best, which I have derived from my own personal story: Offer children BALANCE in their experiential education. Ensure they have formal education that also includes processes, and management of self and finances. Let them participate in the process of building their lives or at least explaining WHY we do or don’t do certain things. Don’t let them just reap the fruits of your labor or expect them to just do what you’re telling them to do, blindly. I think Donald Trump does that for his kids and I like that.

  56. You have to teach your kids to work hard and be honest. Raise them to also be smart and have morals. Teach your kids to live like Jesus lived in the bible. Do all this and you will have successful children that make great money.

  57. I think the best thing to do is to let your child explore the world.Let them work for the things that they want to have.For example,they want to have a new phone.Explain to them that you will only give them what they want if they got good grades in school.This is one way of disciplining our kids.

  58. See, the problem with things like private schools is that the people who can afford them are the very people with the resources (e.g. time and networks) to effectively campaign for improvements in PUBLIC schools. If your response to your kid’s school not being good enough is to put them in a special school rather than lobbying the government to spend money on textbooks or improve the curriculum, you’re actively contributing to the economic stratification of society.

    And yet, that kind of change can take a long time. Do you leave your kid in a situation that might be harming them out of solidarity with the kids who don’t have a choice for the time it takes you to fix it? Objectively you can see that that’s fair, but I think for most people there’s a visceral emotional reaction when it’s YOUR kids. Caveman logic wins out.

    Still, it’s something to think about – just knowing you have the option to privilege your way out of a problem might be preventing you from coming up with ideas that make it better for everyone. And of course, resenting the rich jerks in the special line distracts the rest of us proles from thinking “hey, if the airline hired a couple extra people and built a couple extra desks, NOBODY’s line would be this long…”

  59. Before I say any more, I want to point out that when we flew as kids, my parents would often be in business or first class and we would sit in economy. The only time we got to sit in business/first was when we were on a plane for 12 hours. Yeah, we got a little annoyed, but it really wasn’t a big deal. So yes, you can absolutely send your kids to the back of the plane.

    Perks I see a little differently though (I don’t consider a business/first class ticket a perk since you generally pay for it). My dad has always traveled a lot for work, so he generally had priority access to most things travel-related when we were growing up. Whenever we traveled with him, we were able to take advantage of those things too, but the key point is that we realized it was because he had special access (i.e. we realized this wasn’t “normal”). When I traveled alone or with my sister, we didn’t get those perks, and it was no big deal.

    I think as long as the kids realize that the perks are a result of some behaviour (e.g. flying often with a carrier) or an additional financial investment, they will do ok. Really it just gives you an appreciation for nice things. It’s when kids (or anyone for that matter) start to see it as their right to have these perks that you get into trouble. Honestly, I think the early exposure to perks/special treatment/whatever you want to call it, helped push me and my sister to want to earn more because we remember how nice some of those were.

    In college my sister and I obviously didn’t have a lot of those things, and when we were kids we often took trips that included washed out roads, no hot water or electricity, and eating the same thing for days/weeks on end (often these situations weren’t planned, but they also weren’t unexpected given where we were traveling). To some extent you need a balance so kids can decide where on the spectrum they want to live.

    Long story short, I think a taste of these perks can be really helpful for kids to know if they want to strive for that as well. If not, great. If so, also great. At least they know what it’s all about. I do think it’s important for kids to know what they’re striving for though. So many people have unrealistic views of what certain financial levels or certain perks are like, so the more exposure kids can get to it at a young age, the more educated their decisions can be later on.

    There are some perks that I definitely want access to, and others that I just don’t care about either way. At least I have realistic ideas of what they are, and those memories give me an extra push to get to a point where I can enjoy them again.

    Granted, I can’t be entirely objective about this, since I basically grew up with what you’re referring to in the post, but I think most people would agree that I turned out ok. I’m more philanthropically oriented than most of the people I grew up with, and part of my objective in attaining personal wealth is so that I can give more money (and time) to causes that are important to me. I’m perfectly happy waiting in long lines, and do just fine with my regular day-to-day life that doesn’t include a lot of the things I grew up. Yes, I like nice things but I don’t buy things just to have them (I’d rather have fewer, nicer things than lots of “disposable” things). And while I certainly enjoy being bumped up to business/first class, I usually fly economy. The one area I think I am really spoiled is with hotels. I like nice hotels, and will happily pay more for a nice hotel. If I can’t do that, I’ll camp out instead.

    Very long response. I really think it’s an interesting question and am enjoying reading what others have to say.

  60. Yep, I would use the privileges of fast-cutting the line (in fact, last weekend i did when a family member in super-frequent-flyer status got me a ticket and cut me through all the airport lines… to get upgraded to 1st class). But I am unsure of what I would do with kids in that scenario.

    The one thing that comes to mind? When I was a kid I really loved those historical American Girl Dolls – and my family never knew what to get me for Christmas, so my big gift one year was one of the dolls. And then I wanted another. I wanted it really badly, and mom said I could save up for it if I wanted. So I did – and for a 7 year old to save up $80 at a $5/week allowance, yeah, I’m pretty sure I wanted it. And mom was really sweet – $80 got you the doll, $100 got you the welcome kit (dress, book, accessories, the works. It was Felicity Merriman, if that matters to anyone here), so she sweetly kicked in the $20 on the order to top it off. And it was the best thing ever. She was my favorite doll, I treasured it, because I worked for it after I learned how much I wanted it.

    So that’s the lesson I’ll hope to impart – you see this thing you want to enjoy? Well now you get to work for it. Because providing it for yourself is awesome.

  61. I think the fast passes are of a piece with the greater stratification of wealth. They’re nice to have, but not a must have. To the extent they corrode the “we’re all in this together” notion that is central to life in these United States, I’m against them.

    I don’t recall where the study was taken, but I do recall a recent study showing that in previous generations people mixed more across educational and income lines than they do currently. You would have the big executive with the college education married to a high school-educated spouse, for example. And they would often live in the same neighborhood with said executive’s workers.

    By contrast, now we sort ourselves far more according to wealth and education — college-educated marry primarily other college-educated people, and live in neighborhoods with people of similar background.

    I have family in Germany — my mother was born there, and still has seven siblings and their attendant families there. So I have, by virtue of being able to visit family there, a direct comparison between our society and a so-called peer nation.

    One of the things that disturbs me about Germany is how reflexively it rejects new people and new ideas. Thirty years after the fact, it was a scandal in my mother’s hometown, which was a small city, that her German cousin had married an Italian husband. And this was but one example of that small-mindedness. The other was that all my cousins, from far-left Greens to right-of-center Christian Democrats, blamed ALL of Germany’s problems on the tiny Turkish community, who constituted a whole 1 million out of Germany’s 90 million population.

    The contrast with my experiences as an American could not be more profound.
    And yet I see a similar inflexibility creeping into American attitudes along income lines, as opposed to the dividing lines I saw in Germany.

    To the extent that fast passes and Hertz gold cards and gated communities for the wealthy enhance that growing divide in American society, I am against it. Those things, especially walls and gates and private security, belong in feudal societies where the tiny elite fear and hate the masses below them, not in a democratic nation such as our own.

  62. It’s important to make sure you aren’t a spoiled brat first. Children learn entitlement from their parents being d-bags. Look for opportunities to give and be kind, even if you aren’t giving money. I would constantly remind myself and my kids how lucky we are. Like Claudia mentions, you don’t have to do everything the privileged way just because you can; spend the money/take advantage based on the things you value.

    When I was in 5th grade the Principal visited our class & reminded us of how lucky we were. Lucky to be able to walk, lucky to be in such a good school, lucky to be born in the US.

    That talk was very impactful to me. An awareness of ones status and a community with folks of various stripes goes a long way (rather than an isolation from those less fortunate, like Eric mentions).

    I would also make a huge effort to spend time with my kids and not let my ego and drive for more wealth soak up all of my time. Oh, and camping. For sure camping.

  63. Ramit — Doubt you’ll read this. It’s simple really. Life is a game we all play. Some choose to play and others sit on the sidelines and complain. Businesses have tiered pricing models for different levels of service; some people value them and others don’t. I wouldn’t call them perks when you actually pay for them. I’ve used the perks and will continue. AA miles, Hertz Gold, Disney Fastpass, etc. I earned it with my cash! I don’t care what other people do with their money. Why do we care so much about what other people are doing? I don’t. Go, have fun enjoy yourself! We all need to stop listening to the complainers!

  64. When I used to assist with sales, and specifically upselling, I used value a lot of the time. People who want the best don’t usually worry about the cost, and people who want the lowest cost don’t usually worry about having the best. That said, would I use the perks? Probably not. Some of my best memories, as a child and even now, are of standing in lines (or other lower class curses, like staying in hostels instead of all-inclusives, or eating in cafeterias, drinking at happy-hours, and waiting outside the theatre for wait-list or student tickets), being forced to meet new people, existing outside your element. These experiences, even as a child, influenced what kind of person I wanted to be.

    Having been raised between two families, one very poor and the other very solidly upper middle class, I can honestly say that money doesn’t have a whole lot to do with becoming a spoiled brat. That “sense of entitlement” that everyone wants to talk about can come from having been entitiled to things instead of having to work for them, but the appropriately frustrated reaction to promises being made and not kept can read the same way.

  65. “Spoiled kids” means different things to different people. In some places it means having an iPad and phone at age 7 and in others it means having shoes. Other people in this thread have defined it in terms of how you treat or interact with others.

    Like any investment, you define what you want to get out of your children and work accordingly. Unlike any investment, they have free will to reject you and drive you crazy. My three have both impressed me and disappointed me.

    As for fast pass/line saving, I don’t think I would use those perks, but it’s probably because I don’t plan on being rich enough to where I’d feel comfortable spending money on such a device.

  66. It’s possible to raise children in a life of privilege without making them into entitled assholes. Reward them when they earn it rather than to shut them up, just like you would with a dog, and they will be more likely to strive for success.

    Put them in a good school and give them the benefits of what you can afford. Spend family vacations together how you want to – and sure, let vacations include EXTRA privileges (shopping sprees, gifts, etc) but a routine of school/homework/extra curricular will create a more balanced human who is accustomed to working (at least somewhat) for what they have.

    I am pro time saving/hassle avoiding perks. I think how you treat those perks is an individual thing, and if you act like a fucking prick about it everyone will hate you but it’s possible to skip the line and also be gracious about it.

  67. ……Coach

  68. To me the term spoiled deals more with a sense of entitlement than having material wealth. There are plenty of fortunate folks out there who have material wealth and success but also possess humility. They eagerly live a modest lifestyle, give generously to charity, and appreciate the values associated with the hard work and effort involved in creating the wealth that they have. They also pass along these values on to their children by not over indulging their every whim and teach them the value of a dollar. Parents should teach children to value hard work and to help others who are less fortunate with their financial resources as well as the enjoyment of delayed gratification. Doing so will produce well-rounded, financially aware children who are good stewards of the blessings bestowed upon them.

  69. I rarely if ever post on blogs, but after reading your post, felt I needed to do so.
    I believe there is a total imbalance in the way the wealth/education/health in our society has been divided. As an immigrant myself, and an adoptive New Yorker, I’ve experienced the bad/ugly and best. I believe it s really easy to get carried away by the need to have, but my question is, what is that person looking for.
    I can t really believe at the end of the day, being a platinum frequent flier or traveling always first class makes you happier. May be more comfortable, but not happier. And also, the question is, what did you have to do in order to get there.
    I’m a true believer in values and hard work. Even though I come from middle class my parents never let me take things for granted, and I plan to do the same with my future kids.
    Also, I plan to instill in them the importance of contentment with what you have, and how things are not the source of happiness but just merely accessories in life.
    I’m all about ambition but at the end of the day,driving a Mercedes, or a Honda fit, doesn’t really make much difference.
    Those are my two cents.

  70. I honestly can say there are many I would reject, but there are some I’m certain I couldn’t resist. I would love to get almost all the hours back of my life that I’ve sat at airports, waited in security lines, sat on planes while passengers took too long to put luggage into overhead bins. Groan. I’ve always hated the chore of waiting and feeling cramped. (God bless the poor sucker who sits in seat B between two snoring slugs — and that’s been me before!) And yes, I recall a few interesting conversations with strangers on planes. And yes, I have gotten good reading done. But if someone gave me a perk of skipping this reality — the dreaded waiting at airports — I’d take it.

    But I do want you to know that as a kid, I ironed my school uniform daily and to this day, I love the peace of ironing. It reminds me of preparation and responsibility. Perhaps my ironing time is better spent and I could certainly outsource the task but there’s something about this chore that reminds me of my teenaged self learning about self reliance. Kids need to love doing some mundane things. If you don’t know how to accept the mundane, you’ll never be satisfied with something called “enough.” “Enough” is spiritual, higher than “financial.”

  71. Hello Ramit,
    I assume you described the situation in the US. I`m from Romania (though I was there 2 times in the last 5 years), but I guess things are not much different here in terms of basic human nature.
    Regarding privilege, I would argue that it is not enough for one to benefit from privilege if the ones around him somehow don`t envy him/her. Sounds pretty basic but I guess it`s true.
    So for the guy will less access to privilege, the best way to deal with it is to turn resentment into motivation and to realize that probably the “rich guy” has a lot of things to work on, just like you. In fact, it is probably “wise” (whatever that means) to show the privilege guy some real love (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7xhuSxyHWRw).

    Have a nice day!

    P.S. I must be morning in the U.S.

  72. I have one idea: take public transit. Make your kids take public transit, even if you can afford not to. You will see a great cross section of society, and that helps develop empathy. You don’t need take public transit all the time, but I’ve done it on vacations here and there and to school about once a week. Oh, and I have no problems going first class WITH the kid. Because coach is HELL. And no problems with paying extra to park near the entrance at amusement parks with a toddler. Hey, she still naps, so time is money!!

  73. Would I use the perks? of course. I think a good majority of people would. I think what irritates us is not that some get privileges and others don’t, but more that when priviledged people use perks, they make a big show of it. So essentially bringing the focus on their vulgar behaviour and not perhaps of the years of hard work they had to endure to get there. We all want good role models to asprire to. I only fully realized this distinction when I lived in Saudia Arabia for 2 years. With not much else for distraction (ie: entertainment), I watched the people and their behaviour. With both men and women being covered head to toe, you couldn’t judge them by what they wore (all black and white), and I couldn’t understand the language, and so I was left to gauage them by their behaviour. I won’t speak for all Saudis, but without exception everyone that I had met during my stay had one thing in common: they did not flaunt their money or their charity (which they did with utter discretion). For me that speaks volumes. As a society we are so focused on defining and measuring richness–and we all know that definition is constantly changing and there is no finish line to the ‘are we rich yet?’ game. My son is 4 and his first awareness of the concept of being rich came in daycare when one of his playmates announced proudly that her family was rich. Not knowing what it mean’t he came home and asked if we were rich too. I simply told him that if he had enough money that he could share some of it with those who needed it then it made him rich. He’s been giving a quarter a week from his allowence to the homeless people he sees for the past year and he’s unquestionably secure in the knowledge that he too is rich.

  74. Getting exceptional service because you are a gold card member or able to live in an affluent area doesn’t bother me as much as getting service at the bank or anywhere else after regular business hours.

    When anyone goes to a business after hours, what ramifications does this have on the person waiting on them? Maybe the bank associate has a family or other duties after 5 but is required to stay. He/she may be making one fifth of what the client is making but does that make he/she less of a person without duties and obligations? If the bank associates are salaried, they aren’t even getting paid for after hour services.

    Not everyone is going to make a 6+ figure salary. Faster service for everyone? Hire more people and pay them better. Last time I checked, I can’t rent a car, run a business, go to a retail store without associates to assist me. Use some of that financial clout to encourage businesses to hire people instead of glomming onto perks.

    And yes, getting special services such as conducting business after hours will make for spoiled children and adults. How are you going to be able to explain (if you care) to your child that people should be treated the same regardless of their position in life and then traipse into the bank on your time schedule after closing hours? We are all busy people regardless of income.

    To say, well, these companies offered me these benefits so I accept them. We’ll be offered a lot of things in our lifetime; doesn’t mean we have to accept.

    (My reference to “you” is meant generically not personally.)

  75. The fact that you say this:
    “it’s too easy to accuse “rich jerks” of taking advantage of these perks. The truth is, if you could, you would, too!”

    Shows that you WILL raise entitled brats, because you assume 1. everyone would want to be first first first and 2. that others are envying them for being first.

    Some of us are altruistic. You are not, apparently.