Enabling or Empowering?

Don’t Stop Short of “The Dream” for Your Family

If you’ve ever built a home, you know the countless hours, days, and months it takes to go from an empty piece of land to a house bustling with activity. Each of the stages takes an enormous amount of attention—from finding just the right lot, to meetings with architects and contractors, to site visits, to deciding carpet and paint, and at last, to the final move-in. It’s a lot of labor, but in the end it’s a labor of love. Because this is where you’ll create memories with your family, maybe even welcome grandchildren someday.

Entitlement Abolition

Now what if you got partway through the process, and stopped? Maybe the footings and foundations were done, but that’s as far as things went? Or perhaps you made it all the way through framing and roofing, but never finished the drywall, electricity or plumbing? It would be tragic, right? All too often I’ve seen wonderful people with the best-laid plans for retirement suffer a similar fate. The joy, shelter, and memories they should have enjoyed with the help of their financial strategies all come to screeching halt.

I’ll never forget the moment. I was meeting with clients—a couple we had been working with for a few years—and we were assessing the progress on their retirement plans. We had built a relationship, and as always happens with clients, I had grown to care about them, their hopes for the future, and their family.

A few years earlier, they had initiated a strategy that they had planned on funding with $500,000 over the course of a few years. They had started off right, putting in over $100,000 early on, but had stalled out there.

They explained the funding deficit by sharing how their adult children had run into trouble. One child had gotten divorced and wanted financial support. Another had seen the assistance going toward the divorced sibling, and asked for money to help with a business investment. Still another had demanded equal help, and before long, the nearly $400,000 this couple had earmarked to finish funding their account had disappeared. Spent by their children. Nothing else was left. As in nada. Zilch.

As they looked ahead to the years when they would need the money the most, they realized the handouts they’d given their children might just put them in a position to be forced to ask for a handout themselves down the road. Their golden years were already looking like they might tarnish to a dull brass, and they were scared.

This couple isn’t alone. During my over forty years as a financial strategist, I have seen countless clients work hard to manage and grow their wealth, enjoy a life of abundance, and foster a similar dream of prosperity for their posterity. But that dream can turn to a nightmare when well-meaning parents chronically step in and pick up the slack for their children. This parental overreach can come in many forms:

  • Covering for children’s mistakes at school, work, etc.
  • Protecting children from the uncomfortable consequences of their own poor choices
  • Buying children things like expensive cars, clothing and luxuries without involving them in the responsibility to pay for those things
  • Paying for children’s education without including them in the process (earning scholarships, paying parents back at a low interest rate, etc.)
  • Bailing children out of unwise financial decisions / debt
  • Giving children something for nothing

If you were to ask parents why they step in to save their children, they will undoubtedly say, “Because I love my children!” But I would ask, is love something that should enable our children … or empower them?

These are the issues I raise in my latest book, Entitlement Abolition. Its mission is to help well-meaning families turn the tide of entitlement that is drowning our society today. It offers specific, practical tools that can be implemented to help families not only practice the habits of abundance, but pass them on to their children and grandchildren. Its valuable content can help families anywhere on the Entitlement to Empowerment Spectrum get past the challenges that can cause them to stop short of their “dream home”, and enjoy a “house” (family life) filled with joy and empowerment that can last for generations.

To learn how you can better empower your family and get access to the introduction of our book Entitlement Abolition click here.