The Fear Of Screwing Up Our Kids As FIRE Parents

There's a fear of screwing up our kids as FIRE parents (financially independent retired early parents). If kids grow up in a nice home and don't see their parents working, it becomes easier for kids to take money, life, and work for granted.

As a parent, the last thing you want to do is raise a spoiled and entitled brat who contributes nothing to society. Taking away a child's sense of purpose because he or she grew up on Easy Street is a terrible thing.

Unfortunately, I've observed a number of adult children end up aimless over the years.

The Fear Of Screwing Up Our Kids

Every other weekday, I walk by my 27-year-old neighbor playing catch in the middle of the street with his 20-something-year-old friend. He's a nice guy with an intricate tattoo of a dragon on his right throwing arm. I saved his beat up Subaru Outback from getting a $120 street cleaning ticket one day, so he's always super friendly.

Although Jake is a nice guy, it doesn't seem like he has a job or any ambition beyond just having fun. When he's not playing catch in the middle of the day, he's off to Tahoe with his buddies for a week at a time.

When he's not snowboarding, he's traveling for a softball match. It's a great life. I just wonder whether his parents deprived him of his potential because he's still living with them.

The truth is, I'm afraid my son will turn out to be like Jake or my other 26-yo neighbor who lives at home with his parents and wakes up the street every morning with the gurgle of his new motorbike.

When I asked his mom what he's doing now that he's graduated from college, she shrugged and told me, “he's still trying to find himself.” Fair enough. At least he's got a sweet sports car and motorbike to take him wherever he wants to go.

But come on. My neighbors is a prime example of screwing up our kids by giving them too much.

A FIRE Parent's Warped Reality

As two stay at home parents who live unconventional lives, we feel our financial independence may end up screwing up our son's life. After all, being raised by middle class and lower middle class parents, and going the traditional route ultimately led us to FIRE in our 30s.

I now approach life not caring about following the rules anymore. Don't want to go to college? No problem. Just take classes so you can be an expert in something. Want to try your hand at online entrepreneurship? Sounds good! Your old man can give you some good pointers. Don't want to get married? Wonderful. Use the annual $10,000 in marriage penalty tax savings to go see the world.

For those of you who've built some multi-generational wealth, who have FIREd, or who work non-traditional jobs, let's talk about what our lifestyles might do to our kids.

Educational Attainment And Screwing Up Our Kids

The fear of screwing up your kid as a FIRE parent

As a tennis coach for a private high school in SF, I've begun to learn about the intricacies of the private school system. You're supposed to apply to a feeder pre-school before your child is born in order to get on the track to one day get him/her into the very high school I'm coaching at.

But before applying to my high school, you've first got to get your kid into one of the selective K-8 private schools after completing pre-school. The admissions process includes an evaluation of how your kid plays with others as well as an aptitude test. Talk about putting your kid through the gauntlet early on!

The thing with going to an elite private high school is that not every alumni gets into a prestigious university. In fact, only the top 10% of kids get into the most selective universities. Everybody else gets into a top ~50 school, which is great. But so do many kids who go to free public high schools.

Further, I do wonder what if a kid goes to Harvard and ends up a nobody? That's one way of screwing up our kids, putting unreasonably high expectations on them.

Public School Seems Just Fine

As a public high school graduate who attended a public university and got a front office job at Goldman Sachs in NYC, I 100% believe in the value of a public school education – so much so that I have ZERO stress about trying to get my son on the private school track. If he doesn't get in, he'll go to public school, hooray!

But because I hang out with so many friends who do send their kids to private school, they give me stress about whether or not I'm doing the right thing being so lackadaisical. I think, Will not sending my kid to private school, even though I can afford it, deprive him of an opportunity to reach his full potential? This stress is part of the reason why I'm considering leaving San Francisco.

While at Goldman Sachs, we routinely rejected kids from Harvard, Princeton, Yale, Stanford, Columbia, Cornell, UPenn, Brown, and other great schools for various reasons. One consistent reason was that the rejects were all one dimensional, uncharismatic geeks who didn't know how to communicate. 

Higher Expectations Graduating From Private University

If you can't get a good job, what's the point of spending all that money, working so hard, and stressing all those years? The more prestigious your education, the higher the expectations.

I'd rather have my kid attend a lower tier school and surprise on the upside. Your mannerisms, communication skills, affability, work ethic, and connections are more important than where you went to college. You can work on all these things without ever attending a top ranked university.

Besides, in 18 years, how important will a traditional college degree really be if everything can be learned on the internet for free? There are speciality schools popping up everywhere now that teach kids hard skills. Over time college may eventually become a relic.

Career Choices And Screwing Up Your Kids

I firmly do not care if my son becomes a lawyer, banker, venture capitalist, private equity investor, strategy consultant or some other traditionally high paying occupation. I'll be proud of him, whatever he does. I just want him to be happy and find someone who cares about him as much as I care for him and my wife.

As someone who worked in finance for 13 years and has written about money for more than eight years, I clearly see how money and prestige does not automatically lead to happiness. I've written about this topic over and over again with examples such as:

Scraping By On $500,000 A Year: Why It's So Hard To Escape The Rat Race

Do You Want To Be Rich Or Do You Want To Be Free

The Unhealthy Desire For Prestige Is Ruining Your Life

Occupations That Help Others

The only professions I feel are incredibly honorable are those that help other people. Being a doctor or a teacher are two occupations that come to mind. Working at a non-profit that helps foster children is another.

I can't believe how much education doctors have to go through to be who they are. To be able to heal and provide solace are wonderful skills that cannot be over-appreciated.

Given there's nothing more precious than our children, I believe teachers aren't given enough credit for what they do. A good teacher can make all the difference in the world.

Mom and dad have already sacrificed themselves for money. Thus, after graduation we'd like to have our son focus on service to others.

It's sad to see that almost 60% of Harvard graduates and other Ivy League graduates pursue Finance, Consulting, or Tech upon graduation. See the chart below for 2022 graduating class.

What happened to saving the world? Instead, there is this pull to go into industries to make as much as possible and give up one's childhood dreams. Related: The Median Income Earned By Ivy League Graduates

post-graduate employment by Industry for Harvard graduates 20222

Give Our Kids A Sense Of Achievement

There's nothing better than working hard and then achieving your goals. We want to instill in our son a work ethic that allows him to appreciate the correlation between effort and reward. To give him everything would be an absolute travesty, because we never fully appreciate what we don't earn.

I fear we won't push our son hard enough to achieve his maximum potential. Instead of spending at least three hours a night on homework like his mother and I did in high school, let's just have fun since he's going to forget everything anyway!

If we were struggling, surely we'd like for him to go to a great school and get a high-paying job so he can not only take care of himself and his future family but also provide us some financial relief as well. But we don't have such anxiety.

We're going to try our best to raise a grounded kid who appreciates the value of a dollar. But I know it's going to be a challenge because our son will wonder why his parents are the only parents who never have to go to work. He'll wonder why his old man is at every soccer match, every orchestra recital, every play, and every debate. He'll see that all I do is type on a keyboard for several hours a day and that's it!

Inspired By My Mother's Hardship

I remember clearly as a 23-year-old wanting to make as much money as possible so my mother could retire earlier. She was often stressed at work and even consulted me on whether she should retire before the age of 60.

I told her to not waste one more second at a job she disliked. Her pain motivated me to aggressively save in order to let her be free sooner. When she retired before 60, it was a happy moment.

But for us, he will see no work pain. He won’t get to experience his mother coming home distraught after being passed over for a promotion for a less deserving male counterpart.

He won’t go without his father for a week at a time due to constant business trips to Asia. Instead, he will simply see the joy of not having to work for anybody. Our hope is that he finds some motivation in entrepreneurship. Screwing up our kids is definitely always on our minds.

Is It Time To Stealth Wealth Our Kids?

Deep down I find solace knowing that no matter what, our son will be fine because we'll always be there for him. But I wonder whether it's a good idea to Stealth Wealth our son before he understands what wealth means.

One of my friends lives in a $18 million mansion and flies private with his kids. How the heck are his kids going to be happy with anything less than the best once they get jobs? Will they be willing to live in a dumpy room in an overpriced SF apartment because they only make $50,000 a year? Hard to imagine.

We already live in a middle class neighborhood in a very humble home that's less than 2,000 sqft. All we'd really have to do is get rid of the SUV before he's seven five years old and drive a Honda Accord instead. Mom doesn't wear jewelry, and I just wear jeans and sports clothes.

We want our kids to have it better than us. And I'm sure our kids want to see if they can one up their parents. But if you retired in your 30s and live a life of leisure, that's going to be damn hard to beat.

Other Solutions To Help Our Kids Build Character

  • Make them earn by putting them to work around the house
  • Show them, don't just tell them what to do
  • Take them on trips to developing countries to see how good they have it
  • Encourage them to learn another language
  • Explain why things are
  • Continuously work on something of interest. It doesn't have to be work to make money. It could be practicing your guitar, singing, a sport, etc.

Maybe screwing up our kids is an inevitability. By screwing up our kids, they get to learn from their mistakes and become better people!

Now that I've been a father of two kids for over five years, I'm slowly beginning to realize that the fear of spoiling our kids is overblown. The more we spend time demonstrating our work ethic and teaching them the importance of hard work and saving, the less likely they will be spoiled.

If we decide to give our children financial assistance as adults, I don't think it will demotivate them. They will have gone through enough suffering and hardship to really appreciate any money we give them in their 20s and 30s.

By the time our adult kids turn 40, they will most certainly be set in their ways.

Related posts about financial independence and children:

No Wonder Why Millennials Don't Give A Damn About Money

A Massive Generational Wealth Transfer Is Why Everything Will Be OK

How To Get Your Parents To Pay For Everything Even After You Become An Adult

Confessions Of A Spoiled Rich Kid

Readers, anybody fear screwing up their kids' lives due to the lifestyle you lead today? How do we instill in our children an appreciation for hard work if they come from a financially well off family? What are some of the action steps you've taken to ensure your kids don't grow up to be deadbeat losers? How do you prevent screwing up our kids?

For more nuanced personal finance content, join 65,000+ others and sign up for the free Financial Samurai newsletter. Financial Samurai is one of the largest independently-owned personal finance sites that started in 2009. To get my posts in your inbox as soon as they are published, sign up here

About The Author

92 thoughts on “The Fear Of Screwing Up Our Kids As FIRE Parents”

  1. I’m really trying to teach my kids about good values that will hopefully help them throughout their entire life. Showing compassion, helping others, working hard, etc. I’m starting simple since my kids are young. For example, this year I’m going to celebrate Boxing Day with my 3 yo and have him gather old toys and books that he doesn’t play with anymore so that we can donate them to kids in need.

  2. its not hard i mean just have to set limits as parents. just dont buy your kids whatever they want. teach them the value of a dollar. when they turn 18 buy them an old used toyota to drive, pay for their basic essentials and tell them if want to buy nice clothes, shoes go on dates with their girlfriend to get a part time job to learn the value of a dollar.

    tell them when they get a full time career job they can buy any car they please because they will have the money to do so. its not hard you just have to be strict and set limits

    1. I’m going to make them do chores, lots and lots of chores. And, I plan to do the chores with them to show that nobody is beyond hard work and contributing around the house. Whoo hoo!

  3. My wife and I struggle with the very same questions. Our kids are 8 and 10. We for sure are taking the stealth wealth approach. Even though we are there for their activities after school, we make it very clear we are working during the day (and night sometimes), even though it’s moslty from home.

    Sam, you might show them you’re non-traditional approach has worked out great but it’s hard to convey the hard work (hustle) part during your first 10 or 15 years if they don’t see it first hand. Now that you’ve made it and are taking it easy (relative to before), how do you make sure that your kids understand it takes hard work to achieve anything meaningful?

    My kids have some sense that I still work hard, but when I tell them about my former 70 hour work weeks as a consultant, it might as well be a fairytale. They usually see both parents when they return from school and that’s normal for them. There are many stay at home moms and dads at their school. They don’t understand a world where both parents work and return home 7 pm or later, kids stuck I’m after school programs having to figure out homework on their own.

    I told them when I was a kid nobody helped me on my homework and I got it mostly right. For them, they regularly get easy questions wrong or forget to turn in their homework. We are always around to double check everything. Our affluence has become their crutch. They definitely don’t think we’re rich (mostly because I’m overtly frugal) but they clearly lack the sense of self-drive my wife and I had at their ages.

  4. I never thought about the ramifications on raising children of the FIRE lifestyle. Wanting to raise empathetic people is already quite a feat. Do you have a language in mind for him to learn? I’m excited that my newest nephew will be raised bilingual. Now that I’m his godmother, I need to become fluent in his other language. If he ever ends up needing to live with me, I want him to have access to both languages in his brain.

  5. I don’t think your son will be screwed up by the fact that you’re not doing “traditional work”. While you’re not subjecting him to the painful motivators that get a lot of people going, you’re also not spoiling him – you’re not teaching him that his actions don’t matter – you’re not showering him with unearned gifts and toys and shiny objects.

    One of the things we talk about regularly with our kids is the active choices we’re making and why we make them. It’s one thing to see a person achieve their dreams – it’s another to hear their thought process as they get there. As we work toward self-employment (currently) and eventually financial independence, we’re focusing on the core messages:

    – Money doesn’t buy happiness but it does buy food. You need enough but there’s a point of diminishing returns
    – Good things come from hard work. If you never put in hard work, you can’t expect much.
    – True joy in life comes from sharing love with others; in our case this comes via our religious faith, but I think anyone can share the sentiment. The happiest people tend to be those that live a life of service.
    – Life is short – you have to strike a balance between building for the future and living for today.

    My hope is that putting all of our decisions in this context and communicating openly and honestly about what we learn (and our mistakes along the way) will set them up with the right framework to define their own success, their own freedom, and claim it for themselves.

  6. I’m a pharmaceutical research scientist and I’d like to think what I do helps people. Developing medicines that affect many. While I don’t have an MD, I do have a PhD from a medical school and also went through a lot of schooling. With deadlines and detail, it’s not an easy job (despite what the press says about high prices, we certainly get decent salaries, but most of the money goes to the executives and their golden parachutes when they run the stock to the ground). I had a daughter about the same time you had your son, and an older daughter, and I think they’ll be fine.

  7. Kristy Clark

    I think whether we are FIRE or not we all fear we are screwing up our kids! lol. We opted for public school and to be involved with the school, despite both of us working. We both have flexibility and are able to help in our own way. I am PTO President, after spending years volunteering in the classroom and my husband volunteers in the classroom and also helps out with fundraising. Both kids (11 and 8) do very well in school. I think the key is to be involved, not only in the school system, but after school as well. I know you had a post about how important the first 5 years of life are, but my personal opinion is that it is even MORE important for someone to be home after school.

    As for the Stealth Wealth, our oldest is starting to figure things out a bit. We are always honest with them, though they do not know the details. They know that we work hard, save hard, and we spend money on things we feel are important. They also know that we are not “rich”. At our age and in our area, we would be considered “rich”, but we do not consider ourselves to be there yet. One day we might have to be more honest with them.

  8. What is the real measure? I think the real measure is to first get to about 30 with no debt and some money in the bank and maybe some BRK.B in a Roth. By 30 you need to understand where you want to be when you are 60, and then go make that happen. That is the real freedom of living in America.

    I had a blast in Guangzhou! Also been in a few other cities in China, and Hong Kong. Very interesting and kind people. They liked to practice their English on me and I liked to find out about them. Completely different way of being compared to USA. Not better not worse just different.

  9. Our tact was to create the environment, and allow our children to seek their own level. We home schooled using a Great Books Curriculum with supplementals. Both kids did dance and one gymnastics as well. Both took piano, one went on to major in music and is touring Italy this Christmas with her Choral group doing 12 performances around the country. The other kid is entrepreneurial and sells figurines and jewelry she designs. Both are into photography and have photography businesses though their take on photography is completely different. One kid taught herself website design. One kid did her last year in HS because she wanted the experience of walking to get her diploma. She told me HS is no big deal and she graduated with a 105 average. The other kid fought me about home school till she got to college. Then she was SO GLAD she skipped all the HS nonsense, plus she went in as a Sophomore

    Both kids have been to Europe, different parts and have 2-3 languages under their belts. What’s my point? I created the environment, planted the seeds, watered the soil and let it happen. It didn’t cost all that much, had to run them to dance class, had to buy a Piano a Violin and a Guitar, (I balked when #2 wanted a drum kit, I’m liberating not stupid). Had to buy some airplane tix, take some trips. Bought them some digital software and computers. I set up boundaries and let them push up against them and when ready I let them push through and set up some new boundaries. Oh in case you’re wondering yes they are socialized.

    I think it’s this kind of approach, environment, boundaries and breaking through that breeds success. Neither one of my kids has the first clue of my net worth. Worry about making hay with them today and tomorrow will handle itself. They are both into early adulting now, and life is a gas.


    1. What were your reasons for homeschooling? And was it both parents who is homeschooled or the husband or the wife? Do you think it’s possible to homeschool while traveling internationally? Thanks

      1. I was not satisfied with public school curriculum.

        Daughter #1 was hellbound to learn to read and was reading by age 4. She was very verbal. Both my kids are adopted orphans from China. We taught them both sign language when they were pre-verbal and #1 had a 100 word vocabulary including making up her own signs before age 2. Could hold a complete conversation with my wife. #2 was less interested in language but still engaged and able to communicate before she could speak.

        When it came time for “pre-school/K” they were well beyond anything the school had to offer. My wife was a pediatric OT and had seen the meat grinder they were headed for, and rather than retard them we just went with the flow, i.e created the environment. Both of us taught but we also were engaged with a fairly high horsepower school curriculum online. Like I said it was great books so my kids were reading the Odyssey and Beowulf in the 6th grade and had read parts of the Koran by 10th grade, it was socratic group discussion based around reading.

        They had online science, took oceanography, 2 years of biology, physics and chemistry as well as math up to calculus. Neither of them are inclined to advanced math. I trained as an engineer biophysicist and chemist prior to medicine so I was the science dad. We took languages online. Both kids had classical Latin some Greek, one took French the other Spanish and one took immersion Italian when she did a summer abroad. We were part of a local homeschool group, so plenty of friends and they even met some of the kids from around the country that were in their online classes when we traveled or those families traveled near here (we live 50 miles from Disney so everybody eventually comes here), and some of those friendships endure till today.

        So if you have an internet connection abroad it is certainly doable but you have to be a little structured. You can do almost anything with good internet. When we traveled to China to pick up #2 in 1999, I was daytrading from the White Swan Hotel in Guangzhou. It was actually night trading since they are 12 hours ahead. Made enough money to pay for the whole adoption.

        1. Fascinating stuff. My father worked out of Guangzhou in the early 2000s.

          So I guess the big question is, with all their language ability and schooling, what are they doing now with their lives? What is the real measure of whether we raised our children properly or not?

          1. Daughter #1 is in her last year of college. She is looking at becoming a music director at a church, or possibly grad school, or possibly music therapy at a Veterans hosp with PTSD or children’s hospital. Her major is piano and organ but also digs choir. I can easily see her eventually as music faculty at a smaller college in the midwest somewhere.

            Daughter #2 is in her 1st year. She is interested in criminal justice, possibly law or business. She is very entrepreneurial. She had her driver’s license 5 minutes after she was eligible and a job as a cashier at a grocery store 10 minutes after that. She wanted to experience the power of making and owning her own money. Made 5 grand part time her first year.

            Homeschooling made them to be able to massacre their course work and they value knowledge. Both kids want to be married with children.

  10. Phil @ Brave New Blockchain

    “Instead of spending at least three hours a night on homework like his mother and I did in high school, let’s just have fun since he’s going to forget everything anyway!”

    Too true, Sam. Too much of what students learn in high school doesn’t build on previous knowledge. Even if it did, what good would it do, really? “The Sinking of the USS Maine started the Spanish American War.” Whoop-de-doo.

    You already know this, but skills are the only thing that matters. Getting your kid involved with coding and second-language learning will put him in a position ahead of 90% of other students. Regardless, there’s no doubt in my mind that he’ll be fine no matter what.

    He does have you guys, after all. Look at the hundreds of thousands of people who have benefited from your knowledge. That won’t be lost on your son, I’m sure.

  11. Dood, el Farbe

    All the discussion above about having a ‘notable’ auto is interesting to me. It works in reverse, too.

    We’re in an affluent community and have always tried to instill in our 4 kids the notion that many, many people do not have such an affluent life. It’s somewhat hard to get that across around here because it seems the average 16 year old gets on her birthday a brand new BMW/Lexus/LandRover/Mercedes SUV to drive to school, etc.

    Besides just general dinner table discussions, it also helps that we both have relatives we visit a couple of times a year who live in more economically depressed areas where the houses go unpainted or obvious repair needs go unaccomplished for want of cash, and we explain how it’s like this for a lot more people on average vs. how it is for us.

    Anyway, my 3 oldest kids seem to have internalized this pretty well and don’t exhibit much in the way of entitlement syndrome.

    On the other hand… my 13 year old son and I did a fair bit of driving around this weekend and he was acting more argumentative than usual, being a contrarian on every discussion topic. I finally just asked him what was on his mind.

    Turns out he’s angry with me for continuing to drive my beaten-up, 150K miles, 10 year old Honda. He feels embarrassed to be seen in it, particularly in The Land Of The Luxury SUV In Which We Live. Wants me to get a new, notable car or SUV.

    Seems we’ve got some work to do on this one yet. :-)

    1. I felt embarrassed too when I was 11-13. It was 1988-190, and my dad was driving us around in a 1976 Datsun that didn’t have any paint! It also was missing one or two hubcaps. It was so embarrassing.

      He didn’t have to drive a luxury car, just a normal car, like a Honda Accord with paint that was within 5 years old. But nope.

      1. Dood, el Farbe

        Haha, good story.

        When you tell it to your son when he’s 13 or so, his response will be, “Dad, what is this ‘hubcap’ thing you’re talking about?”

        Come to think of it, I’m not sure my son would recognize the term either. Except as decor for ceilings of beach-area restaurants.

  12. We have thought about this for a long time. We agree with you. Some level of stealth wealth and item depravation for the kids is good. You may be able to afford a lot, but that is not necessarily the right thing for your kids. you may want to give them everything to make them continuously happy, but that does not build a real sense of the world or resilience.

  13. My parents were also Stealth Wealth, and growing up I watched them work their fingers to the bone (my dad as a partner in a small engineering biz and my mother as a Vice Principal). They continually emphasized the importance of hard work, persistence, and education, as both put themselves through public schools to attain better lives. I remember my mother working all day, coming home to make a home-cooked family dinner, and then sitting at the kitchen table working on her Master’s Degree while we kids did the dishes (in her 40’s). They both drove old Astro vans, although my dad had a small plane.

    We would take vacations that must have been expensive but were off the beaten track and more about the experience (camping in Baja, summer family camps with family friends, going fishing or skiing. Never fancy.). As a kid I sometimes resented that they worked so much (even weekends were full of chores and and house improvement projects), but as an adult I appreciate those early lessons SO MUCH, and look back with amazement on what they taught me. I am a 35-yo successful entrepreneur with multiple multi-million $ businesses.

    Have you read or listened to “Bringing Up Bebé”? Hilarious and very insightful account comparing French parenting methods to American. My husband and I are pretty much using it as a playbook :)

  14. You have one lucky son. With as much thinking and planning that you are doing already, he’s going to turn out just fine, much better than fine I’m sure. You’ll teach him good values and show him that work doesn’t have to be like the old traditional way. The “workplace” and education have already changed so much in the last 10, 20 years. So it’s bound to be even less traditional and more flexible in a lot of ways once it’s time for your son to start working.

    Having your own business is huge imo and can really teach him a lot. I never thought I could do something entrepreneurial because my parents never talked to me about that type of work or let me believe it was possible. I think that’s partly why I’ve been so scared to take risks in life and that it takes me a long time to build up the courage to make changes.

    You have so much you can teach and show your son first hand about what running a business is really like and that’s truly special. I think that’s really fortunate too because I think there will be more and more small business owners and independent workers as time goes on. There’s already a shift happening in that direction.

    1. What is she doing now? Do you think if she realized you guys were actually poor or didn’t realize you were fake poor she may have tried to go into business, engineering or the sciences to potentially make more?

  15. Lots of great comments here.

    As a parent with a four year old daughter I’d recommend the following starting habits:

    1. Start to guide your child to make choices. One item vs another but not both. And the notion of a trade off- if the child wants something new then she has to give something old up. This is good starting from age 2 and up.

    2. Try to practice delaying gratification. For items like watching TV, or some fleeting reward, start to give triggers for holding on, delaying a bit, shifting attention and then coming back to what is wanted before actually giving it. This can start from age 1 and the time before the rewards can build up from there.

    3. When the child is older practice having the child do certain tasks and simple jobs to ‘earn’ money and then explain the concepts of saving it for later (delayed gratification) and using some now for spending. This should be for fun items vs pure necessities.

    4. Make it clear to the child when they are older that you will pay for their education but not provide them adult economic support. They need to learn the value of earning for themselves but you can give them the tools of hyper saving and some of the concepts of investing and building continual positive cash flow. This will depend on how receptive they are to the concept. Making it like a game always helps. The best games are hard but have unpredictable and intermittent rewards that create interest to continue playing.

    5. Read to your child often and make up stories, games, and mash ups between different stories and ideas. The concept here is to stimulate the child’s curiousness and desire self learn and explore.

    6. Make sure that at least one parent is the key disciplinarian who demonstrates consistency in their rules and is ruthless in doing what they say they do. This would be my wife, and thank God for her abilities in this department. Normally a child meltdown ensues but that is what is needed to learn the important lessons on limits and boundaries.


  16. Sam if you want to keep your kid grounded I would look to his extra curricular activities as he grows up. Many people live exclusively in their own bubble and only see their neighborhood and private school connections.

    If the child grows up around good people, people who can be mentors but people who are not necessarily wealthy and well connected, he will learn that there are good people in every culture, every neighborhood and every socio economic spectrum. If he likes tennis, expose him to people who play tennis of upper class backgrounds, and not so prestigious. I am willing to bet there are skilled players and coaches to learn from in other neighborhoods too. If he likes music, expose him to musicians who aren’t Juilliard educated but incredible artists still.

    A lot of our issues in the country today are because people assume x group of people are all the same and can’t imagine walking in someone else’s shoes. Exposing your child to different cultures AND different social economic groups will lead him to be better balanced, more compassionate and hopefully understand that some people have to work very hard just to get by, and realize how lucky he is.

    Easier said than done sure, but I firmly believe this is one way to prevent a spoiled and unmotivated child.

  17. Lying to your kids about your wealth or anything else is evil and will ultimately destroy your relationship so please forget about the stealth wealth thing. You can live poor but you must be honest about your wealth or however you want to frame your relatively decent net worth. And there is nothing wrong with public schools. They consistently don’t produce one dimensional geeks because the students are exposed to the real world in all its beauty and ugliness. You should demand their best at school work and let them make a guided choice about college or a trade or an entrepreneurial career but once they are past that start you shouldn’t let them live at home or provide more than token support unless you want to create the kind of dysfunctional losers you opened your blog describing. I’m older and have three grown self sufficient kids who grew up exactly that way, living poor though they knew the numbers said they were richer than any of their friends. They’re cool with that now.

  18. We spent our entire lives striving to escape the conventional crab bucket and retire early (the younger the better correct?), then we worry that our children won’t be subjected to enough of the same indoctrination? Home school your children (we did), you will never regret it. Who wants to be retired and then turn around and be yoked to a school schedule? NO ONE will ever care about them more than you. You are all incredibly bright people with more success and experience than you can impart to them in a single childhood. This is uncharted territory. You are the first of your kind. Don’t spoil them, but for goodness sake, what if you raise them to NEVER need to retire early because they function under a completely revolutionary paradigm?

  19. I think by always communicating with your kids and teaching them to basics of money(earning, exchange goods for money, saving) they will know how money is earned, spend, save, and built. Some especially with parents that have a lot of wealth see it as lots of money of be spend and will think that consuming is the way to go. And with you already thinking of how to raise your kid is a great start.
    I’m on the same boat with a 18 mo and already thinking the best ways to raise him. Communicating about money is something I’m planning to with him in a few years.

    1. Kristy Clark

      This is true. But keep in mind every kids is different. We have an 11 year old girl and 8 year old boy and have done the same thing in teaching them both about money. The older one LOVES to save and the youngest one LOVES to spend everything he has. I am looking for any advice to teach the younger one about money. At his age, my daughter already owned two shares of stock, which she earned through lemonade stands.

      1. I was like that when I was younger, save up for something and spent it all, never thinking long term, because I had to spend it while I had it. I think I only grew out of it when I matured enough and understood how the world works; a jarring dose of reality and financial responsibility if you will.

        1. quantakiran

          One more thing occurred to me. I became almost fanatical about money when I realized I wanted to fulfill my ambitions and life goals (my 9 to 5 was fulfilling for a long time but my work environment changed) and time is running out.

          Hope that helps!

  20. Children learn by watching their parents, so I get the concern that if they see you being home all day and only having to type on your computer for a few hours, then they might lose motivation. My recommendation would be to demonstrate how you can be productive to society without a 9-5 grind. Whether that is pursuing a passion that benefits someone other than yourself (I think coaching tennis qualifies), volunteering to help those less fortunate (and getting the child involved when they are age-appropriate), or any other pursuit you can think of (like when they are old enough show them how you help people through your website), I think if you consistently do these things yourself will more than likely rub off on them in the long-term (even if they go through a rebellious period during adolescence).

  21. Let them have stuff when they’re young and then at an EARLY age, start tapering off. It’s also hard when friends kids have the latest gadgets and your kid wants it too. In order to build character, I’d say volunteer with them, eat simple foods, wear simple clothes and go on simple yet fun places. And public schools all the way; they have a diverse set of students and attitudes, therefore, kids learn to communicate and straight-up deal with others in a broader setting.

  22. I come from multigenerational wealth. I know when my parents pass I will be getting seven figures in their wills. However my parents never spent money like they had a ton in the bank. They would complain about $2 in late fees, and 100 other things that showed us the way. The biggest thing is they did not just give us stuff, we had to earn it. You want to drive a car at 16? Earn it with your grades (good driver discount), or you pay the difference. You pay for gas from your job. You get in an accident, you pay the difference in cost increase. You pay for college tuition and room and board for a local state school and it is their skin (ie. money) and decision to go elsewhere. Basically you make the kids understand the value of money, and make them responsible for their actions. You are not a bad parent by “limiting” them to a state school. You are not a bad parent for not getting them into private elementary schools. Your job as a parent is to help them succeed, ensure to help them learn, get a passion for learning, and remove some major road blocks for them to explore life. Beyond that, you are not helping them and are actively hurting them.

  23. I think FIRE needs to be separated into FI and RE. I grew up in a middle class family w/ working parents, so even I got lucky and have achieved FI (~$8M networth, passive income $200K/yr), i still go to work and as an individual contributor, not even a manager. We’re waiting for our kid to go to college before taking up travel and the RE part, but hopefully by example we show him it’s OK to keep working for a living as long as you like what you do.

  24. Being involved and interested in your child’s education is more important than their primary school education, IMO. Helping to tutor and following up on if/how they did their homework/studies will matter much more.

    I’m a public school graduate, who went to a private college in the Northeast along with a LOT of prep school types. I found a lot of them (not all) to be insulated, lazy and entitled. Think of the guy that uses an insecure girl to write his papers. When you’re given everything, you lose your edge.

    One the flip side, the college recruiting department of a top school is extremely valuable. As are the connections to people you will make in school, along with their networks. As long as the system is set up to “protect your own”, established/strong networks greatly increase peoples’ chance of success.

    I also worked on wall street and know that I always preferred the scrappy, hard-worker who appreciates their spot to the entitled guy from a brand name school. That being said, they had to be smart too.

  25. I’m with you on the pressure of private school. We live in the bay area and maybe one friend in Cupertino sends their kid to public school, everyone else goes to private school.

    The FOMO (fear of missing out) pressure is real. Fear of not having a nice “enough” house is also real. I believe with children just erring on the frugal side (not mean or stingy) is better than erring on the upper middle privileged side of things. Going on study abroad or vacationing to developing countries can NOT fix entitlement, it really cant. Kids must feel the pinch in their own lives, not just feel sad for others.

    Moving is the only way I see fixing this.

  26. I really feel we are parallel on this and I am doing my best to teach my teenagers. I want them to see how successful we were by working hard, taking chances and knowing that higher education isn’t the be all end all. To show them how I was able to leave work to freelance and have freedom to be my own boss. I have learned a lot over my 21 years in the workforce and learned even more over the last 5 that allowed me to be FI and ER.

    It looks like you are in the right place and your kids will turn out just fine. Although we can only do so much and the rest is up to them.

  27. You need to keep your kids accountable. When my kids started University, my plan was always to pay for their tuition (much cheaper in Canada). I had saved all those years in their RESP so I could pay for it. But when it came time to pay, it just didn’t seem right anymore. I would hear about other people’s kids who kept switching programs or dropping out, some kids had part time jobs and just wasted their money. We had worked hard to save for their education and I was worried they would just waste our money away (even if they are good kids). It just seemed too easy. So I made a deal with them, they would pay for their own tuition and upon graduation, I would give them that money back. I remember one of them came home one day and complained about a teacher and added “for the amount of money I pay”! That was priceless. In the process I also explained to them why I was doing it . It was a tough sell with my second daughter at first, but she is now totally on board and will regularly tell me how she doesn’t understand how kids her age waste so much money.
    I don’t think it matters what you do during the day or how much money you have, what matters is what you do to teach your son the value of money.

  28. 3rdgen4runner

    I have a unique perspective. While my parents aren’t retired my dad has a very flexible schedule. They have taught me though example that I’m to work to become financially independent and not be supported by them. I believe that they have done a great job with this, as they have communicated that I am to work for any additional nice things I want to have and they aren’t going support me. As a result of this I am in a great position financially because of them. I’m 20 and have a 18 thousand net worth between cash and my car. I’m thankful for the way I was raised as I have experienced privilege and making it on my own. All while leading a life style most would label as well off and not ending up as privileged entitled millennial.

  29. My parents were into the FIRE movement before there was even such a thing. We lived in a small house in a good neighborhood with one of the best public schools in the state and my parents provided their children with the things we needed: food, shelter, good education, participation in activities, etc; and made us work for the things we wanted: car, vacations, etc. By contrast all my friends lived in giant houses, got brand new cars when they got their licenses and were always flying off to California or Florida on winter/spring breaks. I seriously thought my family was poor, but I never felt like I missed out on anything.

    It wasn’t until I went to public school for undergrad and saw how many kids were driving home on weekends to work minimum wage jobs to pay for college that I realized how lucky I actually was. Going to college always seemed like a given, and my parents were willing to help out with tuition and living (despite the fact that my parents both retired when I was a sophomore in college) as long as I got a job to pay for food, books and the other miscellaneous expenses. To watch so many first generation college kids go to school with no help or guidance and struggle to pay for it was eye opening and more of an educational experience than the degree I got.

    I’m thankful that my parents did so well but lived frugally and made me earn as much as possible. I don’t think you have anything to fear about screwing up if you just give a kid what they need and not everything they want. My dad taught me a ton of lessons about finance, investing and spending less than money than earned while he was doing way better financially than I thought he was. He just never let lifestyle inflation get in the way. Good luck!

  30. From rice patties to rice patties in three generations… I think that’s what you’ll get with just wanting you kid to be happy and ruining their potential. Raise them to to build upon a dynasty you’ve began or your future descendants will follow that saying in my opinion and your kids potential grandkids may have the same issues your mom had stressing out about money. It’s on you to build generational wealth and ensure that all of your descendants don’t have those worries anymore. If they fail down the line with the start they had now from you today I’m not sure I would agree with your mentality when you could have saved them that by instilling in them that drive early and reinforcing it along the way.

  31. This post is so relevant to the times. I have many siblings and in-laws in the same position failure to launch lack of ambition position.

    My life on the other hand was the opposite. My parents were hippies that never guided me on a career path. They said, “just get a job have a family”. That was their career advice. Seriously. I am from a large family and the majority of my siblings did exactly what my parents recommended. They took whatever job the city offered and started multiplying. Now, they have rather large families and very low incomes with expendable jobs.

    I was the minority of kids in my family that thrived in savings & entrepreneurship then used my childhood dividends to pay for my home and college. Needless to say, I am a little OCD with finding a career and personal finances. I am afraid that if I push my child like I push myself they are likely to just rebel against my stern ways.

    So, I have decided that I simply will not tell my child what my net worth is until they are adults. Even though my net worth is 10x higher than my home’s value, I will not upgrade my home and will continue to drive one car per family while doing mission trips with my kids to help the less fortunate. I hope these acts will humble them like it’s humbled me. If I personally live a frugal oriented middle class life and teach valuable stewardship through my actions, perhaps my children will be inspired by me.

    Thanks for sharing!

  32. We are raising my daughter in Honolulu, and I run a business where I work with kids that come from all over: public, private, charter, homeschooled. And I get to meet the parents and learn first-hand what types of educational choices the parents decided to pursue for their kids to outside activities, to even knowing where they plan to go on vacation! And yes, with the private school school kids, I feel pressure. The kids are all great, obedient, motivated, etc, but I, too, am a product of a public high school and college degree, and it’s conflicting.

    We just want our child to be a self-starter, and one of the things I’ve discovered is having super-patience every step of the way, but allow her to be herself and make her choices. And to feel and know love and safety. I laugh because she is only 2 and she should be enjoying her childhood, but deep down, we want her to have basic life skills down (like knowing how to cook!) and fend for herself when we are gone. Not sure yet how to navigate her teen years, but money alone isn’t what we want her to understand. I hope she can become a worldly person (and find happiness is serving others, like mom & dad!) In the end, if she can be driven and learn how to navigate life, with sharp money and people skills, then the world is her oyster!

    1. Please share more! I’ve been thinking about moving back to Honolulu for so long now, that I’ve set a deadline for myself within the next five years.

      Do you run a daycare facility? What is this business you speak of? And do you enjoy raising your family in Honolulu? Where were you before?

      I toured Punahou extensively and I’olani and wrote a post about the experience.

      I was surprised to see that the University of Hawaii was the largest target school for both school graduates!

      1. I don’t run a daycare facility (bless those people) but I teach vocal lessons (singing), and it’s through my vocation that’s I’ve discovered and met the most interesting people but also get insight into what choices a lot of the parents made, even to what extra-curricular activities some are heavily involved. Yes, worked with I’olani, Punahou, Mid-Pac, you name it. I was originally raised & schooled in California and met and married my husband here who is local.

        There are pros and cons. Unfortunately, I don’t have immediate family here, so we have our daughter in daycare, and there are extremes of daycare pricing as well! In general, I find that parenting is a huge part of the character building and getting access to a good education alone (private and otherwise) won’t guarantee success. Ironically, many of the parents of the private school kids I work with were UH grads, and one of our friends who is a successful cosmetic dentist here (lots of celebrity clientele) went to McKinley HS, a public school and both his kids are private school.

        In the end, the extended families of the kids I work with are super-supportive of education and the child’s well-being, and many of them are just good people. I don’t know if it is a Hawaii thing, but local people have a unique and refreshing humility and/or modesty about certain things, but I appreciate the family value system and aloha here… which is why I chose to move here, even though it is one of the more expensive cities to live. Many families claim they moved here because they wanted to raise their kids in a better environment. So it’s a trade-off but one many have managed fine.

        1. I love Hawaii due to its cultural focus on family. San Francisco is not known for being a family friendly environment at all and we have one of the lowest children per household count in America.

          In the ideal situation, do you think raising your child in California is better or Hawaii?

          The environment here is pretty amazing in San Francisco, but I am imagining it to be even more amazing in Honolulu. Technology has made a world small, so nobody has to be in these huge city centers anymore. Why not move to a family friendly environment, and then move to San Francisco or New York city for a job if it requires.

  33. “The only professions I feel are incredibly honorable are those that help other people. Being a doctor or a teacher are two occupations that come to mind. Working at a non-profit that helps foster children is another.”

    Huge fan of this blog. Would love to see a post on how the complex, corrupt 403b plan is adversely affecting teachers across the United States. I think this site would be an amazing advocate for the teachers!

    Google “403b” and “NY Times” to see part of the 6 part investigation for background info.

  34. Ha ha. Love the article. You are so forward thinking, Sam, considering your son is so little. Continue doing the good things you are doing. Give him enough direction and opportunity where he becomes happy and you guys are happy.

  35. J$, we’re a few years ahead of you, and we did take the “Stealth Wealth” approach with our daughter (then again, we didn’t retire in our 30’s!). Sometime in college, she finally realized we’d done well financially and said something to the effect of “You guys are rich, aren’t you?”. Funny that she didn’t realize it until she was ~20.

    She’s now married and recently moved to Seattle with her husband’s transfer to an army base there, got a quick job at Gamestop to get some $$ coming in until she can land a “real” job, and is looking to buy a 2005 Jeep for $11k. Lesson learned, lesson passed down.

    Your kids will be fine. They just may not live better than their parents.

    1. Fritz, how do you manage your expectations for your daughter? Is it simply the goal for her to by happy and find someone who cares for her? I’ve got friends who expect them to be in XYZ profession after going to PQR school. But then I have super, super wealthy
      friends who don’t care for any of that.

      My goal was to match the success of my parents. But when I learned how they weren’t particularly happy working after 50, I made it a new goal to retire earlier.

      1. I have 4 children. As a parent, managing my expectations for my children has been a constant concern for the last decade, since my son was born. I have also worked with many youth groups (ages 11-18) in our neighborhood over that time. I have worked closely with successful kids and those who struggle. I find that it is a loving, encouraging home environment that allows children to succeed.

        I feel like that FIRE’ed parents have a leg up in raising successful kids because they are able to parent without the concern for money and without bringing home the stress from being forced to work an unwanted job outside of the home.

        With how concerned for your family you are now, and with how willing you are to learn about and adapt to life, plus your desire to be involved in a positive way in your kid’s life even at a young age, I feel confident that you are and will continue to be a good parent. And that your son will turn out successful and happy, no matter whether you choose public or private school.

  36. Darren @ Learn to Be Great


    I think that by worrying about whether or not you’re doing the best for your child, you’ve already got the right frame of mind to raise him well. I have no doubt that he’ll be just fine.

    If I were in your shoes, I’d continuously communicate with him and expose him to as much as possible so he can figure out his path. He should know what you are worth but if you live modestly, I’m sure he’ll have no extreme expectations. Who knows…I’ll be reading about how things turn out a few decades from now so we’ll see. :)

  37. It is interesting to see you worry simultaneously about letting your son pursue non-traditional paths (i.e. no college) and the whole private school track simultaneously. At some point, those are likely to be mutually exclusive. (although anomalies do occur)

    I have a 2-year-old son, and plan an early retirement in 4-5 years. While one big benefit of this plan is to spend more time with him, I also know that he will spend his days in school, anyway. So, for these days, wouldn’t a matter of working vs. being in the home be a moot point? He won’t be there, anyway. That leaves summertime. There are a number of professions, namely teaching, that leave summer as an open time, either to pursue part-time work, or do other things (continuing education, travel, etc.) Since it will be my son’s schedule that limits our ability to travel, I expect to spend a lot of the summer traveling. A LOT. In this sense, we aren’t in our normal, home environment anyway. So I don’t think there is anything to pattern after.

    That still leaves times at home between travel, weekends, chats among adults, lack of “take you child to work day” participation, etc. where the ugly truth that “Dad doesn’t work” comes out. Part of that will be addressed as Joe says–I will work; I will manage my investment portfolio. And, I will likely geek out enough about it (the victories and the defeats) that he will know it is a specialized field, and Dad spends a lot of time at it. I also will volunteer for organizations. While I do want him to know I am volunteering, (and participate as a family) it won’t be idle time.

    I do think about this a lot, but rather than worry I would call it planning. Teaching your kids your morals and values is a tricky thing. And, it happens by chance if you don’t plan for it. (through daily observation) And, if you aren’t honest with yourself and your child about your true values, the hypocrisy will also show through, because daily observation will occur.

    It’s a serious topic. The stakes are high. But the same is true for retiring early. While the skills are entirely different, I think if the challenge is approached with the same resolve and belief that it can be achieved despite abundant examples to the contrary, then success is not just possibly, but likely.

    1. So the question for you is: if you can afford to send your kids to the best private grade schools, do you do so? Or do you go the public school route because you did and turned out OK?

      The feedback I get a lot from parents in this situation is, “I’m not willing to allow my kid to be a social experiment.”

      Related: Is Private Grade School K-12 Worth It?

      1. I would say, rather, that I don’t plan to rely solely on any school to fully educate my son. Like any question of time vs. money, you can outsource the task, and try to outsource it to the “best” person, or you can do it yourself. I don’t go so far as to say I want to home school–I am just as interested, maybe even primarily interested–in the social interactions my son will have at school–a good cross-section of backgrounds, social status, beliefs, sports, etc. If the school lacks in STEM education or world history or language, we can cover that at home just fine, as that is my educational background.

  38. This issue comes on quick. Kids notice many things, even when they don’t understand the real meaning. We purchased a notable SUV, similar to your new car. The car is routinely commented on in a flattering manner. After a few parents and even his school principal commented on how much they like the car our son now points our car out to others to solicit a comment. He is 6. It isn’t out of some need to get recognized for how much the car costs (the kid still thinks a hundred billion zillion is a valid number) but that he recognizes other’s reactions to the car and wants to see it again. How do you counter that other than the obvious way of getting rid of the car? For now we focus on getting him involved in donations and charitable activities as well as talking about inequality at a 6 year old level (some kids have lots of toys but others have very few and how important it is to be willing to share and help others) but mostly we focus on working on firm money concepts that battle entitlement. i.e., You want to go to the toy store you need to do the following chores or earn the following recognition at school. When we get to the toy store we talk about what toys are appropriate for reward (often less than $15) and which ones are for big holidays. Its a big topic for sure.

    1. OK, good to know at 6 he’s saying that, so my guesstimate of age 7 about getting rid of the SUV and driving a Honda Accord is off.

      I’ll adjust this change to age 5, since that may be when he starts going to kindergarten.

      1. True, but it is a simple lesson and at 5 or 6 fairly painless to teach as most adults recognize that they aren’t trying to be an ass by making the comment. From the feelings you shared in your vehicle post I would suggest you just tackle the issue rather than get rid of the car (driving cars for 10 plus years is our model so new today is tomorrow’s beater). But hey if you end up moving to Hawaii for kindergarten it may be a non issue since shipping a used SUV probably wouldn’t be a cost effective move.

      2. My wife and I don’t have kids at the moment, but I just spent a week babysitting my 3 year-old nephew and 6 year-old niece. I was amazed at the things the 3-year-old retained and would do to solicit a response from others.

        In this instance, it wasn’t about wealth or a nicer car, but about his muscles (he walks around asking people if they like his muscles and then says over and over again: Everyday is ARM day!, Everyday is ARM day!). I said that phrase nearly 6 months ago a few times, and he still remembered it. The reinforcement from his big sister certainly contributed as well.

    2. Hillary, I suppose one question to ask is what drove the decision to purchase such a “notable” car?

      When you purchase a notable car, people notice (I guess that’s the definition). I’ve intentionally avoided purchasing cars like that both because I’m into the “stealth wealth” concept, and because I do view those things as a lesson for the kids.

      I certainly do spend money on things that other people can’t afford to do (or won’t), but I try to ensure that money has a purpose that can’t be served just as well via something more economical. I do splurge tickets to sporting events and concerts for entertainment when that money could go to charity, but I buy those things because I value the experiences and not many objects.

      I’d like to spend more on travel, but with 3 young kids that’s difficult to do for a variety of reasons, and I’m only a lightweight at credit card hacking right now.

      Your money is yours to spend how you see fit, and I think the way you approach everything else seems to make sense. Maybe the key with the car is to explain to your child how much effort and savings it takes to get a car like that, and the choices you make when you choose to buy a car (nice or not nice) vs. anything else.

      That’s how I explain to my son why he/we do or don’t get various things that we want to get or technically can “afford” to get.

      1. I like your approach RDMD! Everything is a lesson and as Mike noted, kids are sponges with elephant sized memories. We picked our car after a trip to a car show where we got to “try on” all of the 2017 SUVs available. The one we picked satisfied our desires for safety, driver visibility and speed. At 6 we tend to oversimplify the cost of things, but the overall concept that having a car of any variety is a responsibility and a privilege that is earned is our focus. While it is embarrassing to me that our kid mentions the model of car we have, the embarrassment is only because we haven’t figured out how to let him know that that type of behavior is uncouth. But as you observe, it is not like people can’t see us and the car as we use it to go about our daily life so it isn’t something I am looking to hide. I am neutral on the stealth wealth concept, we work hard, we donate time, talent and treasure to support others in need and we carry no debt. People will always judge so I am willing to give them a focus with our car. If they choose to know us as a family they will see past it based on the above behavior. If they don’t, well, at least I’ve given them a conversation topic.

        1. Stealth Wealth is all relative I suppose.

          As of last year I do have a nicer house, so that doesn’t completely jive my stealth wealth idea of myself.

          I am a physician, and while my house is not expensive by physician standards (compared to my peers or compared to others in my income range in similar or larger cities) it still qualifies as expensive compared to what someone on a lower income would reasonably buy.

          Literally across the road from our neighborhood they are constructing new homes that are selling for almost twice the price of what I paid for mine (built in 2000, purchased by us last year).

          So while I do tend to wear t-shirts that cost $3, prefer to shop at Costco and Aldi’s, and do most things relatively frugally/economically, our one material object splurge was a big one.

          So I guess I can’t trumpet my own stealth wealth idea chops too much, though I still think I’m doing relatively good by a lot of standards.

  39. Great post Sam :)

    Kids are watching your every move and I think role modeling is the best way to show the value of a dollar.

    A lot of guys I know from high school who had wealthy families did not do so well because they lack motivation. One guy works at a coffee shop. Another guy opened up a car modification business that I don’t think is garnering much business.

    It really is dependent on the parental guidance. If they are taught and told that they don’t have to worry because they will inherent millions then they won’t work hard.

    Peers are important too- if everyone your child hangs out with are spoiled and entitled, that’s not good.

    They say wealth in families doesn’t last 3 generations and I think one has to work hard to prevent this from happening.

  40. Different Strokes for different folks. I see some of my family members like this. It is important to me to not rescue people from the consequences of their actions but be willing to help them as best I can. Parents need to hold adults responsible for their well being, otherwise the parents are enabling to cover up for their own insecurities IMO.

  41. Mr. Freaky Frugal

    Sam – This is a great post and confirms your kid is in good hands. You’re thinking about all the right things.

    But you ask…

    “How do we instill in our children an appreciation for hard work if they come from a financially well off family?”

    Both my sons are adults know and I proud of how they turned out. We weren’t FIREd yet when we raised them, but we were well off. We did a couple of things that I think really helped:

    1) No sense of entitlement – We taught our sons that they aren’t really entitled to anything unless they earned it.

    2) Interactions with a large variety of other children – Rich, poor, black, white, whatever. I also think it helped that they traveled and studied abroad so that they could see there are different ways to live. One son lived in Costa Rica and studied abroad in England. My other son studied abroad for multiple semesters in China.

    I hope this helps!

  42. I’m glad I don’t have to worry about this, as we’re not going to have kids. That being said, I know I’d stealth wealth them if we were ever in that position.

    If we had kids, I’d want them to grow up without a sense of entitlement to my money. Even if we did everything we could to educate them and steer them in the right direction, there’s always a chance that they’d know that we have money and then become lazy in the process. I’ve seen it happen with my friends. I wouldn’t want that for my kids, if I had them.

  43. I am super attuned to this and make sure we try to make the right choices when it comes to spending and work.

    After the sale of my business and subsequently leaving later, I very consciously started an advisory firm the next day. My kids didn’t see me take 1 day off of work. They surely appreciate the increased flexibility of my schedule nowadays, but see me working as hard as ever.

    My next act (VC) is predicated on the idea that it’s a better work lifestyle but also that I’ll be spreading seeds that give my kids optionality… go into the vc biz, have a strong network to tap for entry level jobs, etc.

    We have a nice house (bought years before the exit) but made zero lifestyle inflating changes since the sale of the business. I drive a jeep wrangler, wife drives a MDX, most of my clothing comes free from startups. We fly coach for our 1x spring break trip and rent a nice but not lavish beach house for a week in the summer.

    This is an important topic.

  44. Brad -

    Our daughter saw us work hard running our own business while she was growing up. She’s aware that we made family a priority – attending every single youth event she had and always having dinner together as a family. At the same time we worked our butts off every other hour.

    Now she sees us in FIRE mode. At first she didn’t understand why we were being so frugal. She doesn’t know specifics but she knows we have at least a couple million. Over the past few years of watching us and talking about it, she gets it. She understands that life (and financial well-being) is all about priorities and we are prioritizing time and freedom over stuff.

    We’re hoping she takes those two lessons – working hard and aligning priorities – into her adult life and they help her achieve her definition of success.

  45. Kids learn a lot from their parents, and one thing you have to consider is not just the money aspect, but that your child won’t see you going to work every day. Seeing parents do that sets the expectation that they’ll have to work when they grow up, so you’d want to make a plan to account for that if you stay home.

    1. Don’t forget work doesn’t have to be done exclusively outside the home. More and more people are working from home and I think kids can learn good work ethics without a parent leaving the house every day. It’s actually an advantage to be able to work at home and be able to show your child first hand the different types of things that work can involve.

  46. With two young ones and a third on the way, this is top of my mind. How do you minimize the level at which you screw up your kids (because we all do, it’s just a measure of degree)? Most research on impact on our kids shows that genetics are number 1 on the list, peer group is number 2, and parenting is far behind at number 3. I find that both disturbing and comforting. To some extent, it doesn’t matter what I do all that much, but how do I get them hanging out with a good peer group and still point them in the right direction.

    As far as the FIRE issue, I’m a firm believer that kids really don’t understand what “work” means anyway. My kids just see me leave the house each day, go someone for 10 hours, and then come home. They have no concept of what work is or what I do. So if you’re building a business at home, or even just living off of your investments, just incorporating them into the process can be valuable. That’s my plan, anyway.

    Best of luck!

  47. I can see where you are coming from but I think you have little to worry about. Most of the kids that I know who came from super successful parents went on to also be super successful. Most successful parents like yourself put a premium on the value of hard work and education.

    I believe your unconventional lifestyle will provide far more benefits than a typical parent could provide. Your ability to be there for your son as he grows up but also the example you have set that you can go your own way.

  48. I am somewhat afraid of screwing up my kid, but not in the way that you’re thinking of. We’re not spoiling him too much and we try to push him toward the right things in life. He sees me working at home and managing the rentals so I think that’s plenty of good example. I’m not sitting around watching TV all day.

    However, every kid is different. Our kid has issues and it’s not our fault. He is very emotional and that could create problem sometime. For example, if someone hit him by accident, he’ll have to get him back. He just doesn’t know how to let things go.

    I think stealth wealth is good for the kid. We live a modest lifestyle, but he goes to a public school in a very well off area so I know how you feel.

  49. It’ll be interesting. I plan on working through our kids formative years. But I also plan on taking advantage of being near or at Fi to take long sabbaticals and work remotely. Some of me does fear my kids will expect every job to function like that. Then again given the way the nature of work is changing maybe many will. Beyond that I’m not much worried in our particular scenario.

  50. Ricardo Ribeiro

    Hey Sam,

    Great post! I tend to agree with your points but I also believe that there is no right way to do it. I mean, some parents seems to do everything “wrong” and their kids end it up well.

    Having said that, my wife and I try to keep it simple and show the value of things to our kids. More money would support us better when we are a lot older but we would not change much our current lifestyle.

    Our current family campaign is to help our children see how fortunate they are. Give all the bad stuff around the planet, we have to be very grateful, every day.

    I believe that, if our kids are grateful for what they have, they will share naturally and, most likely, be successful in whatever they decide to do.

    All the best,

  51. We FIRE’d at an older age, so it wasn’t as much of an issue. But we’ve just made it clear what we will pay for and what we won’t. I think letting your kids know that they can retire early like you did if they work hard is where the focus should be. You can always remind them that your retirement will be VERY long and that you’ll need most of that money to take care of yourself (so they don’t have to take care of you down the road!) That might motivate them to stay focused on building their own wealth too :)

  52. Sam, I have some of the same exact fears as you do. How can I provide enough to my kids, but not provide too much. I think it’s a delicate balance of allowing them to figure out the true value of money.

    I will also try to teach them humility and appreciation when it comes to money. Yet it will certainly be a challenge.

    Where else outside of SF appeals to you?

  53. Lily @ The Frugal Gene

    They said the suicide rate for children under highly competitive environments are alarmingly high. It just breaks my heart.

    I’ve always been an educated slacker. I’ll do my work and get an A or B but I will not go out of my way to guarantee that A for myself like tutoring or staying up late or giving up “me time.” Because there’s more to life than the rat race. I went to school in San Francisco with (non rich) kids in public school so I never felt much pressure.

    All I want my kids to know is the value of a dollar and not squander it for their own protection. I want them to be an educated slacker like me. Slacky and lucky.

    With how we’re doing, the goal is for him or her to not have to worry about needing to succeed or feed himself. That clears a lot of my guilt. To be honest Sam, if we weren’t able to FIRE, there’s a good chance we wouldn’t have kids period.

    If I want to be competitive…I want my kids to grow up to be Physician of Fire. Oh heck, when I grow up I want to be PoF!!!! Ha, I’m not even half joking.

  54. The story about men who live with their parents and wake up everyday enjoying life without a purpose while their parents worry every single day never seems to amaze me. I just can’t fathom what’s they’re thinking.

    Like you, I also hope that my son will be happy no matter what he does (as long as it’s not illegal or unethical). Deep down, I still hope that he will be successful as a businessman, lawyer, engineer, etc. But my biggest hope is that he will find a lifelong partner who will love him, be loyal to him, and take good care of him, and that he will treat that person the same way so that they will be happy as a family.

  55. Mrs. Retire to Roots

    This is something that my husband and I discuss constantly. While we haven’t achieved FIRE yet, our boys will still be young when we do if things work out as planned (finishing 2nd grade and kindergarten). We don’t care what they do as long as they end up self-sufficient, happy, and good people. But will they resent us down the road if they feel like we didn’t push them to their full potential?

    My oldest is 20-months old and has already hit most of the milestones for a 3 year old. The only way puzzles are interesting to him is if we give him at least 4 at once. He is currently self potty training (which is part cool and part completely terrifying).

    My colleagues have met him and asked why we haven’t put him in a private Montessori pre-school yet. Never mind the fact that those “schools” are $22k a year and that my son seems to be doing just fine at home with his daddy all day. While we haven’t, and dont plan to, send him to such a place I would be lying if the questions don’t get to me. Am I doing the right thing?

    My hope is that the FIRE lifestyle in a lower cost of living environment (we want 40+ acres in the woods) will at least give the boys options and keep them off the conveyer belt. They may some day be disappointed by the lifestyle they didn’t lead, what teenager isn’t, but I hope that as an adult they realize private school and the trappings of that life close a lot of doors too. The expectation is private high school, expensive private college, high paying job or big name non-profit saving the world – few exceptions. At least we will leave entrepreneurship, trades, and endless other options on the table for them. As with most things in parenting, fingers crossed?

    1. As someone who had that kind of potential, I would like to share my experience. School ruined me because I was the poor kid, then the new kid (twice) and bullied and picked on endlessly (by kids and teachers) so much so that I lost my focus and love of learning while trying to fit into the school social pecking order.

      Another factor that contributed was I discovered that there are lazy teachers out there who categorise you and score you on that forever in subjective items like essays.

      I didn’t study that much to achieve A’s in high school in Maths and Physics which then set me up for a huge calamity in university. Having home issues didn’t help either.

      My advice is based on what I wished happened to me: be there for your kid, provide a stable home, understand your child’s learning ability and nurture it by encouraging your child to learn at the pace they want at home. School is overrated and the rat race will always be there.

      Once he starts school, keep an eye on his studies. Check in regularly to see if he’s challenged enough and offer him more to what school offers in terms of an education syllabus (maybe start him on physics earlier, etc.).

        1. Being poor and being the new kid just ruined school life because the kids at school came from wealthy homes and they had the attitudes to match. I didn’t mind being poor because it taught me valuable life lessons, number one being to treat others the way I want to be treated and to respect money.

          I think most of my childhood unhappiness was due to having parents who didn’t take care of their health, were doormats to family and allowed family politics/advice to spill into our home. (I was forced to take home economics instead of technical drawing because my cousin told my mother a girl’s place is the home. I did manage to sneak into the technical drawing class the following year but boy was there hell to pay at home, something along the lines of growing too big for my boots and making my own decisions!)

          Because of their family, my folks were unhappy and distracted, and as sensitive as I was, I was unhappy, worried and distracted. Children are a true reflection of their parents. If you set a good example for your kids, they will follow because most definitely in their early years they try and emulate their parents.

          As for recovered, I think mostly yes. I think I’ve avoided the family sabotage that trapped my parents but admittedly a large part of me feels I missed out on just being a kid and having fun which I tried to recapture in my 20’s and forgot I still had to keep improving technically as an adult and so I feel I lost some of my edge in that part of my life.

          One of the best things that ever happened to me was finding a job at 18. I wish I’d started working earlier but I wasn’t allowed to. It got me out of the microcosm of school and family and made me realise that there is a whole world out there and how limited my life had been.

      1. Mrs. Retire to Roots

        I’m so sorry for your experiences but truly appreciate the advice!

        Our hope is that FIRE helps us keep all options open for him. We plan to watch closely to keep him challenged and engaged with learning, and are open to the possibility of home schooling or alternative education (private, if he wants) if his personality requires it. The system definitely doesn’t work for everyone, and we don’t want him losing his natural curiosity.

        1. quantakiran

          Thanks. Remember FIRE also gives you the time to spend with your kids. That’s the most important thing.

  56. It’s so true. We have the same worry. We hope to FI and possibly RE at 45 years old and by that time the kiddo will only be 9 years old. She might never really see us working hard, and we wonder what kind of impact that will have on her.

    But she’s only one now and we have 8 years to figure it out. We will see how it goes.

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *