“Money can’t buy me love.”
(The Beatles, from the song Can’t Buy Me Love)
Do you know the phase that children tend to go through which parents dread the most? It’s the moment when they stop believing everything that we say and start to question all of our demands. I miss the days when I would tell my son that there were no more potato chips left in the bag and he would happily walk away completely unaware that there were a few pieces still secretly waiting for mommy. Now, at three years of age, he’ll give me an accusing look of suspicion before shouting, “Let me see inside the bag!” I’m ashamed to admit that he’s caught me lying on several occasions. He’s not even a teenager yet and he makes me want to reach into my inner tiger mother roots so that I can apply intimidation to demand instant obedience. But that’s frowned upon now in the society of 2018 so instead, I spend a good half hour each morning trying to reason with him about the minimal nutritional value you get from eating Spam for every meal.
And then, of course, there’s my six-year-old who likes to ask the question why before following it up with skepticism. “Really? How do you know that?” I’ve been giving her the same reply for the past year, which is already starting to lose its credibility in her eyes. “I’m your mother. I know everything.”
Centuries ago, the term to obey was actually considered a good thing. That was typically how you would show respect to your parents or to your elders, by dutifully following the rules of the household. The level of obedience that your children showed was a measure of how good a parent you were. Case in point, our family was accustomed to having complete strangers drop by our home for short visits and many of them were distant relatives whom we had never met before. Nonetheless, my mother expected all of us to be respectful hosts and to help her entertain our guests—something that most young adolescents are not so inclined to do.
During one particular instance, my mother walked into the den where my younger brother was busy playing video games in front of the television and I had my nose buried in another novel. She announced that our third cousin from my grandfather’s side had arrived from Taiwan and she was waiting for everyone in the outside sala.
“Edmund,” she nudged my brother, “go and say hi.”
His immediate response was, “Let me just finish this game.”
She gave him a look of impatience before calling out to me. “Eleanore, go and say hi.”
I barely looked up from the page that I was reading. “I’m almost done, give me another few minutes here.”
She was close to snapping when my older brother suddenly walked into the room and she decided to give it one last try. “Lawrence, your cousin is outside. Go and say hi.”
Without hesitation, he dropped everything he was holding and quickly moved to do her bidding. She nodded with approval and followed him out the door, leaving her other two uncooperative children behind.
My dad, who had been watching the entire exchange, started laughing. “Now that’s a good kid. At least I got one out of three right. If he keeps this up, he’s probably going to inherit everything,” he said.
However, the different methods used to incite obedience have always been questionable. While many years ago, it was a conventional practice to command it from your children using direct force, the twentieth century Filipino-Chinese upper class decided to improvise. Instead of using physical tactics to get their children to behave, they now resort to threatening the financial consequences of defying their wishes. Some people think that this is an exaggeration but I’ve actually lost count of the number of times that I’ve heard someone declare that they were close to writing out one of their wayward kids from their will. Some of those remarks were made so casually like it was an afterthought penciled into their busy schedule for the day. “Maybe I’ll play a little bit of golf this morning before heading to the office. Then around 11a.m., I’ll meet with my lawyers to scrap my son from my list of beneficiaries, then I’ll probably grab lunch at that new Japanese restaurant. I hear the sushi’s fresh.”
Ironically, I never realized how strange it was to bait your children with money until I was old enough to understand all the wrong messages it cultivated. While my parents refused to apply this strategy in our home, money and material wealth were common incentives in the society that I grew up in. Who you were engaged to, which family you married into, and how well your relatives approved about your relationship could eventually factor into how high or how low you placed in the potential inheritance scale. The number of heirs you conceived for your parents could determine the number of properties that would be set aside for you by the family estate. I once sat beside a twelve-year-old during a wedding reception who told me to let him know immediately if his grandfather arrived at the event. He then explained that his mother had ordered him to be consistent in greeting her father-in-law warmly because “he had a Swiss bank account—whatever that was.”
At some point, I couldn’t blame anyone for being suspicious. It was already difficult enough to tell whether someone was being nice to you because they genuinely liked you or if they were just social climbing for the status and connections. Similarly, while there are some children who sincerely love their parents without expectations, there are definitely some kids who would butter up their parents for the cash. And you’d be surprised about how many fathers and mothers were aware of this fact but were perfectly fine with it as long as it gave them the results that they wanted. That was the mindset that they encouraged anyway—the more money you have, the greater respect you can demand.
The custom of money manipulation was so deeply rooted in the community around me that I was oblivious to the cultural bubble I was living in. That was until, one day, I met someone who helped me step out of it. During my first year of working for the company, I became friends with one of our senior traders whom I had previously met but had never really gotten to know. He was always one of those quiet guys in the office who ate his packed lunch in the pantry and usually begged off to go home early when Fridays came around, despite everyone else thinking about where to hang out for drinks after work. After I jokingly asked him why he was so antisocial, I found out that he was actually trying to budget his entire life around a monthly net salary of P9,000. I had to ask him twice when he told me that he was still able to save P4,000, or more than forty percent of his income, every month. I couldn’t hide my shock. I was earning three times more than what he was making and to be able to save P4,000 every month would have been an impossible achievement for me. In fact, I probably would have been so ecstatic at having P4,000 in excess cash at the end of the month that I would’ve spent the remainder by celebrating my small victory with a couple of friends.
But it was what he spent the P5,000 on that truly caught my attention. He said that a large chunk of it was for gas to get to and from work every day, then P2,000 went to his parents and the rest was for his mobile bill and other miscellaneous expenses.
Wait, what? Why would you give money to your parents when you barely had enough for yourself?
I’m well aware that I must’ve seemed pretty ignorant, but thankfully, he was patient and understanding with me. He explained that money was tight while they were growing up but his parents worked hard to provide the best that they could for their family. They had been loved and nurtured since the day they were born, so giving a little back was the least that he could do now that he had the financial means to do so. He only wished that he could give them more so that they wouldn’t have to struggle in their old age. As a trader, he received a sizeable performance-based commission each month if he did exceptionally well so he made it a point to reinvest every cent back into the market, allowing it to compound. All of this was in preparation to help his parents retire and to hopefully buy himself a nice home and a secure life one day.
It was his vision that sparked my own pursuit to become financially accountable for myself. That was the attitude that I needed to develop—forward-looking, responsible yet grateful for what I had instead of always distracted by what I lacked. His impressive self-control and ambition was exactly the type of positive influence that I wanted to surround myself with and the kind of company that I wanted to keep with me at all times.
So I guess it makes perfect sense that I married him a few years later.
The experience of being welcomed into Royce’s family opened me to a way of life that I had never been exposed to but I was eager to learn more from. His parents, Rizal and Dolly, had managed to raise seven children, all of whom had graduated from top universities in the Philippines and had found very promising careers within their respective industries. Their four sons and three daughters were financially independent and had been comfortably supporting themselves since graduation. All of this had been accomplished by allowing their kids to inherit only two things. The first was the value of watching their father and mother labor persistently at their individual jobs in the hope that they could give a better life to their family. And secondly, despite their exhaustion from work, they never failed to give their children the priceless gift of their time and constant presence. As a result, they didn’t have to pay for the love, respect, and appreciation of their children—they earned it. And if that is not a definition of true success, then I really don’t know what is.
The first generation makes the money. The second generation spends it. By the third generation, there’s nothing left. It’s the same classic story that we’ve heard before and we can’t help but ask — why do many accomplished entrepreneurs find it easier to build a business than to raise their children to become independently successful?
This book is for those wondering why their children are lazy and reckless with their money. This is for the children who wonder why they’re being labeled as lazy and self-indulgent. And this is for those who are close to success and have the time to prepare their children for what’s to come.
The solution lies in your hands. The best part about it is that it won’t cost you a fortune.
DO YOU WANT TO RAISE YOUR KIDS TO BE ADULTS WITH PURPOSE?
GET YOUR COPY OF ELEANORE LEE TEO’S BOOK, RAISING HEIRS: OF THE SPOILED AND ENTITLED SECOND GENERATION—AND WHY
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