Money and Relatives

It’s really quite amazing how differently two sets of families can respond to a similar situation involving money. Both the better half and I were raised in families that were slightly poorer than the rest of the relatives. I don’t mean either of our families was poor. We just hovered very close to that hazy line that separates the poor from the middle class. And were surrounded by relatives that were significantly better off.

But the way our families chose to deal with the situation was quite different. My parents kept a distance between us and our rich relatives. We met them occasionally during family events such as a marriage or a death, but the interaction was strictly social. My parents taught us to laugh at our cousins when they showed off their wealth. They taught us to take pride in being superior academically. Even though, back in my home country, family is a big part of one’s life, we grew up knowing closely only one set of cousins on my mom’s side since they were the only ones at the same level as we were in terms of social status. As a result, we grew up relatively unscathed by the class divide, content in our nuclear families and independent in our pursuits.

The better half’s family on the other hand thought shunning the relatives was an admission of poverty. So they made sure they interacted with relatives on every possible occasion. They did the best they could to cover their lack of wealth and held their head high. Money was a main point of discussion and there were always some sort of comparing and contrasting going on among the adults. Children were openly told that when they grow up, they ought to aspire to be as rich as Uncle so-and-so. All the children grew up very close to each other – irrespective of how rich or poor a family they came from. As years passed by, they had developed great skills of dealing with the class divide, but not without some scars.

And now that we are older, and the two of us plan to have our own kids, we wonder how we should raise them. There will always be relatives who will remain better off than we are. Should we shield our children from them, or should we let our children develop their own shield against these differences? Also, considering that both the better half and I are fortunate to have decent jobs and are working hard on our financial literacy, it is very likely that there will be several relatives who will not be as well off as we are. How do we teach our children to behave in this situation?

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Strange Bird said...

Are you really asking this question? Would you "protect" your children from people you like and respect because they have more money?

It's a fact of life that people don't have the same lifestyle or income level all around. Teach them to be grateful for what they have and kind to those who have less. But don't try to prevent them from interacting with more. They'll encounter it in life anyway; it seems silly to keep them away from their family who exemplifies it.

plonkee said...

I would choose whether to interact with family based on how much I liked them, regardless of how much money was around.

I probably wouldn't suggest that they try and become as rich as so and so. I would expect them to treat people in essentially the same way regardless of class or income.

ispf said...

Strange bird, plonkee: Hmmm... Good point!

I should admit though, I *don't* have very many relatives that I like and respect, who just happen to have more money. Most of my relatives that are rich are also obnoxious. In their defense, where I grew up, it is kinda on par to show off wealth. For instance, when I was back home last time, I met a bunch of relatives during a wedding. And during a regular conversation, they wanted to know how much salary I was making, now that I am in US, the promised land! What kind of car I drive and *how much it cost*. etc. I guess what I am trying to say is, should we try to protect our children form such rich *and obnoxious* relatives, or should we do what the better half's parents did - let the children handle it themselves? I am grateful that my parents shielded me from it while I was younger and now I can handle it more maturely. The better half of the other hand was thrown head first into this and he has his own defense mechanisms, but like I said, not without some early scarring.

Note that I only said "relatives" and not "friends" because I trust my friends. No matter how much better off they are, they will never behave like some of my relatives do! I guess it's a culture thing.

Strange Bird said...

Ah, I get it. We have show-offs in our family too (also a cultural thing; half of my family is first generation or still in the "old country"). I think that's why it's important to make sure you teach your children how to react to snobs. ;) Let them know that some people will brag, but braggarts are usually unhappy people.

zen said...

Protection is reserved for negative influences and dangers.

I'm talking about relatives that you worry of abuse/the *true* harsher things in life, not just "they'll make your kids think about wealth."

It's better your kids learn that they will encounter obnoxiousness in life from relatives before they're shocked at the obnoxiousness they'll receive from other people in life - there's something to learn from everyone, including relatives, and sadly sometimes it's how *not* to be.