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Kids knowing parent's income


SquirrellyMama
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My younger kid that is likely to blab is also the kid that happily ask me to fill up all his forms and all he has to do is sign on the dotted line (whether by pen or electronically). He signed all his SAT, ACT, summer camp forms without reading through because he assumed I vetted them before giving them to him. We just checked “prefer not to tell†anyway for family income on those forms.

 

I wish anyone would have done so for me. 

 

I did them (FAFSA forms) for my kid.  Not to be secretive though. 

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Is there a reason you don't tell them? Is it just because that's how it was when you were a kid?

 

Kelly

 

Maybe it is partly that?  I think another part is that we were transferred from a very high COLA to a pretty low COLA on our high COLA salary and I don't want my kids to accidentally spill the beans to someone with that information.  

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I agree.  And I wish the whole 'income is a top secret' thing would go away.  I think it is in place because of work place differences between employees who should be making the same money but don't.  Wow, that was a convoluted sentence....but you get the idea.  

 

I bet you're right.  I bet the whole idea of "keep it secret" came about because the boss didn't want John to know he was making more than Joe - or Sally.  If everyone knew, it'd be sure easier to keep things level.  Those who did exceptional work could still be rewarded via bonuses, esp if those bonuses were built upon solid framework that anyone could accomplish.

 

With it hidden, keeping salaries unequal is far, far, easier - a nice perk for the boss.

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Same here. Dh has an accounting degree, so we've been pretty open about money since the kids were about 9+. It's important to know the situation so that you can learn to manage the situation.

 

ETA: I've never understood the "but they might tell people what we make!" fear. I don't see why other parents would care if they did know. Everyone's just trying to get by.

WRT not telling other people- some families feel it is boastful or prideful to declare their salaries. Some people make lots of assumptions when they know salaries, ranging from "they're poor", to "they're wealthy". I think you may not care about another person's salary, but the general population will likely make judgements. If they think you're poor, they may question how or why you bought a new vehicle. If you make a large salary, they may question why you are so thrifty and have such a junky car? Some people are embarrassed to discuss personal finances.

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I don't think we hide it, exactly. Dh's income varies each year, so I wouldn't be able to tell them an accurate number. We do talk about how much our expenses run.

 

With the younger kids, it's more about little ears, big mouths, and lack of social understanding. My 10yo has been known to tell people, "I like to get candy bars, but not when Mom spends more than $300 at the grocery store. She does that a lot!" <cringe>

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I agree. And I wish the whole 'income is a top secret' thing would go away. I think it is in place because of work place differences between employees who should be making the same money but don't.

An engineer in my previous US MNC kicked a big fuss equal in level to a toddler tantrum when he found out his annual leave wasn’t high enough compared to other engineers who are paid lower. The HR, Financial Controller and CTO were really annoyed at an adult behaving worse than a kid being denied a treat.

 

My husband had an ex-colleague who would blame everything on age discrimination so he must have the least work and most pay for his rank. My husband was so glad to leave that company as everyone in his dept had to listen to that guy whining about work and pay as well as do that guy’s workload.

 

My brother worked in manufacturing and their pay is based on seniority for his dept. Work is the same for everyone other than the floor supervisor who is paid more. So everyone basically knows everyone’s pay since it was based on how long they had worked in that dept of that factory.

 

I used to managed engineers. All of them have different job scopes. Two engineers would have the same wage only by chance. It takes at least two engineers to cover an engineer on leave because the job overlap is so little.

 

Edited for typing errors.

Edited by Arcadia
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I bet you're right.  I bet the whole idea of "keep it secret" came about because the boss didn't want John to know he was making more than Joe - or Sally.  If everyone knew, it'd be sure easier to keep things level.  Those who did exceptional work could still be rewarded via bonuses, esp if those bonuses were built upon solid framework that anyone could accomplish.

 

With it hidden, keeping salaries unequal is far, far, easier - a nice perk for the boss.

 

Well, I'm a boss and I would never disclose someone's salary, but not because it's a "perk" for me.

 

An employee's salary is personal, private information, just like their social security number or the information on their health insurance application.

 

If an employee wants to disclose their salary to others, that's their decision, but it would be extremely inappropriate for me to do so. 

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Well, I'm a boss and I would never disclose someone's salary, but not because it's a "perk" for me.

 

An employee's salary is personal, private information, just like their social security number or the information on their health insurance application.

 

If an employee wants to disclose their salary to others, that's their decision, but it would be extremely inappropriate for me to do so. 

Not according to the California Public Records Act. Other states may have something similar. 

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I don't know if they remember the amount for yearly income. But we have talked about how much he makes ever paycheck. How much the mortgage is. How soon till that is paid off. How much we put into various funds. How much.....

 

I wouldn't be surprised if next time we meet with our financial adviser if Eldest sits in. He has an interest in the field, so doing so might be interesting to him. 

 

Youngest doesn't really care one way or another. 

 

 

It's a good experience, and lets them know what to expect. 

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I agree.  And I wish the whole 'income is a top secret' thing would go away.  I think it is in place because of work place differences between employees who should be making the same money but don't.  Wow, that was a convoluted sentence....but you get the idea.  

 

It is. 

 

 

Thankfully there is some push to move away from that. 

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This is us.  It surprises me that anyone keeps secrets within a family TBH (at least, once the kids are old enough to have discussions).  There are no secrets in our family. There are no questions they can't - or shouldn't - ask. 

 

To me, having healthy boundaries between parents and children is important.

 

There are lots of things that our kids don't need to know about DH and me, and our family income is one of them. When they have a need to know (like for financial aid applications), we will tell them at that point.

 

I have answered the question in the past with the truth that we are upper-middle-class but not rich.

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I have never, ever understood the idea that "kids don't need to know". Why else would they be asking, and how else are they going to learn? (Not just income related, obviously)

 

Because they're nosy. I don't believe in answering nosy questions unless they give me a legitimate reason why they need an answer.

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My kids have actually never asked me this.

 

I think I'd tell them, and I think there are good reasons to do so.

 

But I can also see reasons I might not - if I thought it would cause worry, or they would compare with friends in an inappropriate way, that kind of thing.  I'd think those would be issues attached to certain ages.

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What a person or family makes is such a small portion of their entire picture, but yet, when people find out that number all kinds of assumptions and judgements are made.  

 

So, call it "keeping it a secret" or privacy or simply "I don't need to hear your unsolicited opinion about my financial life" but no one really knows our finances except me, not even my husband.  Well, he doesn't really care - I offered to tell him many times.

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WRT not telling other people- some families feel it is boastful or prideful to declare their salaries. Some people make lots of assumptions when they know salaries, ranging from "they're poor", to "they're wealthy". I think you may not care about another person's salary, but the general population will likely make judgements. If they think you're poor, they may question how or why you bought a new vehicle. If you make a large salary, they may question why you are so thrifty and have such a junky car? Some people are embarrassed to discuss personal finances.

It's' just hard to wrap my brain around being bothered by people's thoughts about my purchases. I have never been considerably well-off, though, so perhaps it's a problem above my pay-grade! 

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It's' just hard to wrap my brain around being bothered by people's thoughts about my purchases.

My MIL gets unhappy because she compares. Nothing any of us can do about it other than all of hubby’s relatives being hush hush about cost of purchases. My MIL does have inferiority complex though that got worse when her first child marries. She envies my generation and younger for having an easier life. My FIL is okay but he had a comfortable childhood while MIL went through childhood worrying about the next meal.

Edited by Arcadia
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I agree that financial information is personal and private.  I don't need to know what my neighbors make any more than I need to know how often they have sex.  I don't need to know their financial struggles any more than I need to know if they are constipated.  And they don't need to know mine.

 

Even if I was in a situation where my personal finances could not possibly put me in a bad light or make me vulnerable in any way, those cultural boundaries protect people who would be vulnerable if their finances were public.  Like it or not, it is embarrassing for example if a family is on the verge of bankruptcy or having to ask for help due to a bad decision, while on the other hand, it can cause problems if you had a windfall or everyone thinks they can come to you for help.  There is also a common belief that jealousy causes actual damage to the target.  So, I'm for keeping it like it is.  I feel uncomfortable enough letting people make assumptions based on how I spend my money.

 

I would openly share with my kids once they are old enough to understand that it's private information.  In the near future, we'll be doing some work on financial education, and I will probably bring up past jobs where I had an actual quantifiable income as well as more traditional expenses.  Right now my situation is just weird.  It lends nothing to a kid's financial education.  :P

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To me, having healthy boundaries between parents and children is important.

 

There are lots of things that our kids don't need to know about DH and me, and our family income is one of them. When they have a need to know (like for financial aid applications), we will tell them at that point.

 

I have answered the question in the past with the truth that we are upper-middle-class but not rich.

 

 

My son would laugh at that descripton.  It is so subjective.  As is evidenced by the many many threads on this board about what constitutes middle class.  

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We tell them because it's been a real-life tool to show them how we have to budget and that no, we can't just go out and buy XYZ today because you want it.  lol  Seriously, though, we've showed them our paystubs so that they can see how taxes are taken out, etc. and just use our own situation most of the time when they have financial questions.  They knew when we were, as a family of 8, making less than the median income for a family of 4 (I literally showed them the stats, lol) and had to use food stamps, and we shared with them dh's new salary when he finally landed a good job...we even share about his raises.  I want them to see how this all works.

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We have had conversations about how we are likely in the top 2%. 

 

But, if you live in a developed country then you have a good chance of being in that bracket. 

 

https://www.investopedia.com/articles/personal-finance/050615/are-you-top-one-percent-world.asp

 

(I'm of course talking about compared to the rest of the world.)

Edited by Julie Smith
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My husband has a trade union job. The union publishes its wage scale on its website, so anyone who cares can have a pretty good idea bout how much we make. 

 

 

Same thing with how much people pay for houses.  Some are super secretive about it which makes me laugh  because it is a matter of public record.  

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We tell them because it's been a real-life tool to show them how we have to budget and that no, we can't just go out and buy XYZ today because you want it.  lol  Seriously, though, we've showed them our paystubs so that they can see how taxes are taken out, etc. and just use our own situation most of the time when they have financial questions.  They knew when we were, as a family of 8, making less than the median income for a family of 4 (I literally showed them the stats, lol) and had to use food stamps, and we shared with them dh's new salary when he finally landed a good job...we even share about his raises.  I want them to see how this all works.

 

 

This is how we do things. 

 

 

I didn't know how any of it worked. Consumer Ec in school wasn't enough. 

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Well, I'm a boss and I would never disclose someone's salary, but not because it's a "perk" for me.

 

An employee's salary is personal, private information, just like their social security number or the information on their health insurance application.

 

If an employee wants to disclose their salary to others, that's their decision, but it would be extremely inappropriate for me to do so. 

 

I can see where this would be true if different workers doing the same job had different salaries or maybe if everyone in the company did different jobs and you didn't want folks to know which jobs were better paying.  But if salaries are published and the same all around (a housecleaner with X years of experience earns Y amount), I can't see where it would be a problem.  As many have reported, public salaries are published and it hasn't caused a problem at all that I've seen.  If someone wants to look something up, they can.  If not, they don't.  It's pretty simple.  It's not like there's a company meeting and everyone stands up front while their salary is announced.

 

To me, having healthy boundaries between parents and children is important.

 

Me too.  We've never had any unhealthy boundaries between us and our kids.  ;)  To me, secrets are quite unnecessary and would be very unhealthy. 

 

My dad keeps secrets. It's irritating.  Interestingly enough, his income isn't one of them.  But then again, my dad has labeled mental issues, so there's that too.  His secretiveness comes from that (everyone is out to get him - he's the only intelligent one around, etc).  That may be why hubby and I chose the polar opposite with our kids (bad experience from my background).  Regardless, I love how our family has turned out and how close we remain.  My boys love it too.  They've seen other examples, esp in their college years, and have thanked us far more than once.

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I should probably add that this question has come up because other kids have asked my kids.  They hear that my kids are in several different activities or whatever, and they say "are you guys rich?" so my kids come and ask me that.

 

Regardless of actual income, few people would answer "yes, we're rich."  The fact is that my partnership income (but certainly not my take-home pay) puts me in a high bracket.  More relevant to my kids, though, is that I don't have a house payment due to past decisions.  I have told them this, but I'm not sure the knowledge does them any good.

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See, I just used my own kid's stub for that.

 

My kids had financial questions way before they had jobs.

 

Adding--due to some comments below about other people asking questions about income--we've always told our kids that financial discussions of our situation STAY in our family.  No one has ever wondered if we're rich, though, so I can see how upper income folks may be more private about the issue.

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I want them to think of us as regular people, not super rich.      

 

Maybe it's because we aren't super rich, but my kids definitely think of us as regular people.  Like you, we share where the money goes and the choices we've made (or make) as much as they know the income we make.  They know what's in our wills.  They know where our investments are should something happen.

 

Maybe it's just our personality that differs from others.  This subject, quite honestly, is just not a big deal.  My kids know there are wealthier families than ours and others who don't have as much.  It's really not a problem with them - or us.

 

When I went to a super wealthy private school for my 10th grade year it didn't bother me that I was the "poor kid on scholarship" in the lot either.  I knew my dad's income at the time (18K per year) and in a discussion one of my friends gasped and remarked that they had a painting in their living room that cost more than that.  It didn't drive us apart or spur envy on my part.  It did get them voluntarily paying for some of my expenses so I could join them for some activities though - with no "issues" on either end with any of us feeling like I owed them anything.  Cost wasn't an issue for them and they didn't want it to be for me.  That was it.  Nothing more.

 

Who knows.  It could just be another way Creekland is just weird, but at least my family shares that weirdness.

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Well....we've talked a lot about finances, about having NO credit card debt, about living less than your means.  Middle one asked ( 20yo) and I finally told him but still wondering if that was a mistake....  Why would it be a secret...  because I'm somewhat embarrassed.  Because they don't need to count on the money.  Because they already think we are cheap and I don't want them to feel entitled...   We learned to live on 120,000 a year, even though depending on the year he earned 2 to 4 times that much.  We have given away and/or saved the rest.   In our wills, we have said the children are to get a  reasonable amount that will not ruin them and the rest is going to charities.    I don't know.  The money doesn't seem real to me as well.  It also doesn't feel real.  We've really seen the value of compounding interest.  Now it is growing so much without us having to do anything.  But an economic downturn or our country collapsing and it could all be gone...   We have a regular house, not the multi-million dollar homes that his partners have.  Heck my husband's physician's assistant has a MUCH nicer house than we do.  We drive 10 year old cars.  ( 2 of the cars we have gotten rid of had over 200,000 miles on them.)   I want them to think of us as regular people, not super rich.    They know we give a lot away.  They also know we save.  We've taught them to do the same when they've had their own money...    It just feels weird.  We are a close family, but I'm still somewhat regretting telling my middle one. 

 

As far as FAFSA, no we didn't have to tell them. We didn't need to fill it out, so we didn't.   If we made a "regular" salary then I would have absolutely no qualms about it.  

 

 

You think money ruins people? 

 

Interesting.

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You think money ruins people? 

 

Interesting.

 

Oh it can.  I've seen it - far more than once.  It depends upon the personality of the person.  Quite honestly, one doesn't have to look far to see examples.  I'll toss one out that probably everyone will agree with.  Grace Mugabe.  Or maybe Marie Antoinette.  I'm purposely picking extremes.  There are plenty who could fit the picture, including plenty no major large group of people will recognize.  (Local people.)

 

ps  Same thing with not having money, esp if one thinks they deserve it for whatever reason.

 

Our kids share our values.  That's probably why it works so well for us to be as cohesive as we are.

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It isn’t money that ruins people. Anymore than poverty makes criminals

 

It's money combined with personality.  When the underlying personality is there, the added (or lack of) money allows it to surface.  Without the means, it can't escape - at least - not to the level it does.

 

No one (not even the person you quoted) is saying high $$ = ruin or low $$ = criminal, but 'tis true that money can bring out both the good or bad in a person that is otherwise lying dormant.

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I don't have any problem with the kids knowing, once they are mature enough to understand basics such as the fact that accommodation and groceries needing to be paid for before toys and books, and the fact that 'not being able to afford' a luxury item does not mean we can't afford food. 

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WRT not telling other people- some families feel it is boastful or prideful to declare their salaries. Some people make lots of assumptions when they know salaries, ranging from "they're poor", to "they're wealthy". I think you may not care about another person's salary, but the general population will likely make judgements. If they think you're poor, they may question how or why you bought a new vehicle. If you make a large salary, they may question why you are so thrifty and have such a junky car? Some people are embarrassed to discuss personal finances.

 

This.  Especially when you're also foster parenting.  I'm surprised how often class warfare comes into it.  I've had kids shout at me that it's evil to be rich.  These are always the children of people who manage to avoid working at all, and avoid it themselves at all costs. 

 

We end up having a lot of conversations about values and culture and the wisdom of choosing less stuff that is nicer quality (this leather purse cost more than this cute one from Target, but I've had it 20 years, and people still compliment me on it - which cost less per use?).  We also have conversations about why we don't buy the same ridiculous flashy status symbols that they want, trying as hard as I can to avoid the word tacky.

 

DH makes a good salary, but we live in an older, smaller house than most of his coworkers.  Most of our furniture is either handed down from family or from estate sales or secondhand shops - nice things, but older. Antiques are cheaper from estate sales than from antique shops.  Still, we probably have a fair number of people judge us for driving older cars (I hate car payments), for driving nicer cars (despite the fact that I spent less on that used car than they spent on their new Ford Focus - I like the heated leather seats) or for taking vacations (even if only a few days in Florida are at nice resorts in the off season, and most days are staying with family).  We're judged either which way, and I hear it from both sides. 

 

I think it's more effective to talk about spending plans, the merits of leveraging debt verses the total freedom of Dave Ramsey's debt free lifestyle, and which careers to choose rather than the specifics of what we choose to do.  After all, it's raising a kid to be wise enough to be confident in their own choices that matters - whether that's total financial security of living on less than half their income and retiring in ten years, or comfortably leveraging hundreds of thousands in debt to become a high earning specialty doctor.  As long as they are making responsible choices and being good citizens, I don't care what they choose, I only care that they have put a great deal of thought into choosing it AND that they choose a spouse who has the same goals as them.  Because one saver and one spendthrift does not a happy marriage make.

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I agree. And I wish the whole 'income is a top secret' thing would go away. I think it is in place because of work place differences between employees who should be making the same money but don't. Wow, that was a convoluted sentence....but you get the idea.

When I started work in NZ unions were compulsory and pay was open. Now every has to negoitiate their own pay and pay rates seem to be state secrets. This makes unfair pay differences flourish. I haven't told my kids because 1/they haven't asked and 2/I don't want them to worry too much.

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My son would laugh at that descripton.  It is so subjective.  As is evidenced by the many many threads on this board about what constitutes middle class.  

 

If we had the same income where you live, then we would be rich. But we live in an extremely HCOL where it literally takes $110k/year for a single, childless adult to cover basic expenses.

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If we had the same income where you live, then we would be rich. But we live in an extremely HCOL where it literally takes $110k/year for a single, childless adult to cover basic expenses.

Even in this LCOL what constitutes middle class, upper middle class and rich really just depends. I was amused the other night when my son related to me that a friend of ours ( she is my age) went to Red lobster with him and his friends and she had steak and lobster AND a big piece of dessert. He said she spent $40 on just her meal. He looks at me and says, 'are they rich?' Before I could say anything my step son says, 'well, I would say they aren't RICH, but wealthy'.

 

LOL I would say neither. I would say they make decent income but make some choices I wouldn't make. Her husband has a plumbing business. I know they finally signed up for the low income self employed insurance. I know one day she was freaking out because the bank had taken out three months of van payments at one time.....and the next day she and her Dh went for couple massages. She is a always discussing finances with me and comments she admires my ability to not spend money when I need to not spend money.

 

Shrug. So I would not even know how to answer ds if he asked me if they were rich or are we poor. Truth is Dh probably makes more than her Dh...

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It's money combined with personality. When the underlying personality is there, the added (or lack of) money allows it to surface. Without the means, it can't escape - at least - not to the level it does.

 

No one (not even the person you quoted) is saying high $$ = ruin or low $$ = criminal, but 'tis true that money can bring out both the good or bad in a person that is otherwise lying dormant.

Actually she did say that. She said they weren't leaving all their money to their kids in order to not 'ruin' them. For some reason that just stabbed my gut.

 

I fundamentally believe people should do what they want with their money. but that whole thing just bugs me.

Edited by Scarlett
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The first time my son asked was because he had no idea what a normal income range was and what to expect as far as student loan debt and what kind of money he would need for an average (to him) lifestyle and to pay things back. He just wanted info not to show off or whatever. So I told him and showed him how much taxes, healthcare, etc. came out before the check was deposited. I did tell him it's rude to ask others what they make but for me it was no big deal.

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Actually she did say that. She said they weren't leaving all their money to their kids in order to not 'ruin' them. For some reason that just stabbed my gut.

 

I fundamentally elite people should do what they want with their money. but that whole thing just bugs me.

 

Yeah, she wrote that, but I guess I feel pretty good at reading between the lines because I know "the discussion" that goes on with money and inheritances with many who have more.  There are enough examples where it does ruin/significantly change the receiver to be cautious IME, esp if one senses red flags.

 

I sense no such red flags with my guys, so I don't feel it will be a problem here.  Just because kids are our offspring doesn't make them always share our personality or values though.  They are them, not mini-us.

 

There's a different argument I sometimes hear about how kids don't deserve the money because they didn't earn it themselves.  They should work their way up the way dad and/or mom did regardless of their personality.  That one I really despise.  Why hinder kids needlessly?  But if the boardie you quoted had meant that they would have said they were leaving them essentially nothing.

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