Why is Everyone Suddenly Obsessed with "Generational Wealth"?
my descendants can get a job
There’s a version of this post which is bound up in my particular lefty politics and that perspective on the accumulation of wealth. But today I’m really coming at this from a more general point of view. These days I keep hearing about “generational wealth,” meaning “wealth that will persist for generations.” YouTube videos promise to show you how to build generational wealth. Athletes pursuing large contracts are said to be seeking generational wealth. Cryptocurrency enthusiasts are trying to accumulate generational wealth. And I have two questions. One, why did this term and concept suddenly explode, and two, why do people care about ensuring that their descendants will be wealthy?
Even with lefty politics, it’s easy to see why people would want wealth; I certainly want wealth. And while I don’t like inherited wealth (and would ban monetary inheritance if it were politically and practically feasible), I can understand wanting to ensure that your children don’t struggle financially. But this idea of making multiple generations of your progeny wealthy is just totally bizarre to me. Your grandkids can’t get a job like everyone else? You want to create more idle rich? The world doesn’t have enough trust fund babies already? You really give a shit that, say, your great-grandchildren will enjoy a life of privilege and sloth their entire existence? Why? Look, we’re trying to have a kid. I will love my kid. I will ensure that they aren’t materially deprived in their youth. But the idea that I should feel pressure to keep them from ever feeling financial strain is nuts. Financial strain is a part of life. Daddy’s not gonna be there cutting checks whenever things get tough. And my great-great-grandchildren? They can kick rocks! I’m never even going to meet them.
I enjoyed a middle-class existence as a child, for which I’m very grateful. Then the twists and turns of my biography left my siblings and I quite broke. And sometimes things were really tough. But that’s what I was, broke, rather than poor. I have experienced having very little money, sometimes for years at a time, but I would never say I experienced poverty. And I think that I gained something and learned something from the experience of having no money. I would not want to deprive my children of that knowledge and the influence on character that comes with it.
Having no idea of how you’re going to make the rent for a given month, and facing down that feeling and that experience - if everyone in our society experienced that at least once, I think we’d have a more humane culture, and a political society more ready to create government structures that ensure that everyone have housing. I understand that this might sound like a contradiction, but I think there’s a clear space where you can both want basic needs (food, clothing, shelter, medicine, education) to be guaranteed for all while also thinking that, in the world we have now, people who have those things should otherwise learn how the other half lives a little bit. It’s politically useful if everyone struggles at some point in their lives. I also think that you can tell when people have never really ever wanted for anything, materially, and while I prefer a future where everyone’s basic needs are met, I believe that people who have never wanted for anything are in some sense spiritually deprived.
Far be it from me to inflict that status on my great-grandchildren. No generational wealth for me or for them. If I strike it rich I’m spending it all.