Affluenza?

31 Dec

I came across this article written by Belinda Goldsmith, a Reuters journalist, and although it speaks to privileged kids/wealthy families, I believe the traits to prevent “affluenza” that James D’Amico provides in the article really applies to all families and economic classes to help us raise children who respect and value money/wealth and the hard work it takes to achieve it/be successful!

Privileged kids: How to deal with “affluenza”

Belinda Goldsmith is a Reuters journalist. The opinions expressed here are her own.

Paris Hilton arrives at the Carousel of Hope Ball in Beverly Hills, California October 23, 2010.  REUTERS/Fred Prouser After 35 years as a wealth manager, James D’Amico was used to dealing with rich families and their privileged lifestyles but he never lost his fascination for one aspect of their lives — their children.

While some wealthy families raise successful, well-adjusted children, others produce sons and daughters who seem incapable of functioning in the world outside their gilded gates and, with their parents watching, careen out of control.

“I was disappointed in the level of dysfunctionality in way too many of the families we dealt with,” D’Amico, retired president and CEO of Genesee Valley Trust Company in Rochester, says.

“They just could not meet the challenge of developing a value system in the next generation in the face of affluence and all the distractions that goes with it.”

To explore this, D’Amico spent a year interviewing several wealthy families who had raised successful children, as well as, studying findings by researchers, educators, psychologists and other wealth managers.

From his research he developed a list of traits to avert what he calls the devastating infection of “affluenza.” He explains these traits in his self-published book, The Affluenza Antidote: How Wealthy Families Can Raise Grounded Children in an Age of Apathy and Entitlement.

D’Amico, who says he wrote the book as an ode to his nine grandchildren, said it was frightening how many wealthy families were dysfunctional and the knock-on effect this had on the economy when family businesses failed.

Figures from the Family Business Review suggest that only one-third of family firms survive into the second generation, and just 12 percent survive into the third. A mere 3 percent of family businesses make it to the fourth generation or beyond.

“Unfortunately the media celebrates some of the worst cases — Lindsay Lohan and Paris Hilton — and we make them into role models,” he says.

“You never hear anything about Chelsea Clinton that makes you think she is anything but very well grounded. It can be done. The bottom line is that affluence affects more families than it ought to and it comes more from parental failure than child’s failure.”

Instilling values

From his book he cites the example of one family with three generations of substance abuse. When one of the younger generation flunked out of college due to too much partying and not enough studying, D’Amico advised the family to make him take a job and realize this was not acceptable.

But after one day working as a laborer he quit — and his father gave him work in one of the family’s liquor stores and bought him a brand new BMW.

“I called them and told them they had just legitimized his behavior. He was not a bad kid but he was at a point of life where he could go either direction and he needed some guidance,” says D’Amico.

D’Amico said the trend for children from wealthy families to go astray should concern business leaders as business visionaries were needed, particularly when economic times are tough, to create employment and rejuvenate communities.

“Instead we see far too many of today’s privileged young people yearning more for flashy cars than for pursuing the rewards that successful business ownership can offer,” he says.

So what are traits he found to beat off “affluenza”?:

  • Strong family role models, particularly grandparents. Regular contact with extended family tended to reinforce the value systems of earlier generations.
  • A commitment to family time  — meals together, house and yard work, school assignments, or vacations, present an opportunity to nourish a child’s identity and pass along values.
  • The role of a prosperous family business in instilling a work ethic in younger generations, and in keeping those young people close to home.
  • A healthy respect for money and hard work, and an awareness that pursuing an engaging occupation and achieving one’s goals are vital to well-being.
  • Emphasis on philanthropy, volunteerism and job creation. In almost every case, respondent families demonstrated a strong commitment to the welfare of others and worked to instill a social conscience in succeeding generations.
  • Detachment from the urge to keep up with the Gettys. Several families bucked societal trends, shunning video games, excess consumption and exclusivity linked to high-income people.
  • A willingness to let children find their own way, take responsibility, make their own choices regarding college and career, and learn life’s sometimes painful lessons.

D’Amico says there was no foolproof recipe for success as DNA and birth order also strongly influenced children’s personalities and there was also the unknown risk factors for alcoholism, drug abuse, mental illness and depression.

“Nevertheless, I feel strongly that today’s affluent parents — many of them key players in family businesses — can do a much better job of meting out tough love and raising responsible children,” he says.

“Those who are patient, mature and well-rounded enough to allow their offspring to identify and explore their own passions, free of the taint of excessive wealth, have a better chance of seeing the next generation — and our society — reach its full potential.”

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