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Ask Dave

Humility, Gratitude & Contentment

Justin asks how to teach responsibility and generosity to adult children and grandkids when it comes to money. Dave says the key is humility.

QUESTION: Justin in Salt Lake City asks how to teach responsibility and generosity to adult children and grandkids when it comes to money. Dave says the key is humility.

ANSWER: Humility. Humility is where gratitude comes from, and gratitude leads them to contentment.

I’m very generous to my adult children, but they have no sense of entitlement to it and that’s due to their personal humility. They don’t think they’re due it. Anybody that gets entitlement gets cut off. You’re no longer qualified for my generosity when you lose your gratitude.

You’ve got to talk to them about it because otherwise, the problem is if they get to where they’re counting on the income. Let me give you an example of this. We do some coaching with family businesses. The best family businesses are the ones that teach non-employee family members who receive money from the business—dividends from the profits of the business—to never live on those dividends. They have to make an income separate from those dividends, and that’s just extra money. But if one of them starts living on the business that they don’t work in, then they become . . . They start immediately feeling entitled to the money from that business that they don’t work in.

The same thing applies here. If they start to say, “Okay, well, Mom and Dad are paying my daycare, so I can go buy a car and go into debt for the car,” well, that means they’ve started counting on Mom and Dad’s generosity to live, and they’ve developed an entitlement mentality. So it has to be cut back because they’re not even making a living. You’ve taken away their need to win.

All of our adult children do not receive any gifts from us at all or help from us at all—any blessings from us financially at all—unless they are carrying their own weight in their own life first. That’s not being cold. I love them. And honestly, if one of them had a serious medical problem or something like that, that’d be different. But this thing of, “I’m just going to be a trust-fund baby and I can live off of Daddy’s wealth,” kind of thing . . . Now you’re setting your family up to be on a reality show. You just don’t want to go there.

You have to teach them character and them giving in order for them to be valid recipients. And as a person of faith, you and I could also look at them and say, “Uh, you’re not acting like you’re managing money for God. You’re acting like you’re due something from God. This family doesn’t own money. We manage it for God, and that includes blessing our children generationally so that they can be a blessing—not so they can buy a Lamborghini. There’s a difference.”

It’s all about the kid’s attitude, but you’ve got to talk about it. You’ve got to communicate the value system out loud, and the gifting and the generosity is contingent upon the humility that leads to gratitude that leads to contentment.