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18 Dec 17:00

Still looking for gift ideas? Here are 30 Christmas gifts that keep on giving

18 Feb 13:00

Keep Your Kids Out of the Entitlement Trap

by Josh Baron and Rob Lachenauer

Want to know what keeps the owners of the most successful family businesses up at night? The dread that their kids will grow up to be entitled.

This is the concern of most parents, but among the very wealthy, the anxiety can be sometimes paralyzing:  Will their children and grandchildren end up lazy, good-for-nothings, who are not contributing to society?  In other words, “trust fund babies,” the kind whose scandalous antics fill the pages of the New York Post.

That’s not paranoia; the fear is grounded in reality. In business families, it’s quite common for the next generation to grow up in a much wealthier environment than the current generation.  The problem is not limited to them.  A study of over 3,000 families found that when wealth is passed from one generation to the next, a whopping 70% of it is squandered. Speaking generally, wealth is a very difficult thing to manage well.

That said, in reality, money turns out to be a less important factor than one might think in the development of entitlement. Some very rich kids turn out to be highly motivated and engaged – we see this in our work every day. Our experience also suggests, however, that kids don’t mysteriously end up entitled; there are some common choices parents – all parents – make to a greater or lesser degree that substantially increase the odds that kids end up feeling that the world owes them a living. These choices are often made with the best of intentions, but they work against the long-term interest of our children.

How do you avoid the entitlement trap?  There are no pat answers. What we learned from our work with family businesses is that you can start by asking yourselves questions.  This is not a scientific formula, but the more “no” answers that are scored, the greater the likelihood that you are putting your children on the path to entitlement:

  • Do they hold down jobs?  Kids that have jobs – even part-time or volunteer jobs – are more successful, both personally and professionally, than those who don’t. In an informal study of what people shared who made it to the C-Suite, one major American bank singled out height and summer jobs. There’s not much you can do about height, but work brings enormous discipline and learning. Jobs are also tremendously grounding, psychologically: they keep kids from being bored, one of life’s great vices. What we also see with glaring clarity in our work is that parents are blind to the strengths and vulnerabilities of their children. It’s hard to be objective. Jobs give your child the chance not only to gain experience, but als0 to get honest feedback. Reality is one of the best ways to combat a false sense of entitlement.
  • Can they build careers? Sometimes the next generation just can’t get traction, and they’re not entirely to blame. Alarmingly, in about a quarter of the client situations we work in, we see adult children being set up to fail. Owners sometimes give members of the next generation hopeless assignments – for example, they are asked to turn around a losing business that has no chance of becoming profitable.  Typically, this is done out of a desire to have the adult children understand, even relive, the experiences of the parents, who have almost always had to overcome tremendous challenges in order to succeed. The same thing can happen outside a family business, when adult children are forced into careers and professions in which they have no interest, and often no talent. Not surprisingly, they often don’t do well. Paradoxically, too much disappointment can also lead to entitlement. When even our best efforts are not good enough, it often seems better to just sit back and wait for life to be delivered to us on a silver platter.
  • Are they allowed to suffer? Life is like the stock market: it’s up and down, and there is risk involved. Don’t set your kids up to fail, but don’t shelter them from fate’s hard knocks. Let your children feel the pain – it builds resilience. Indeed, research shows increasingly that resilience flourishes in an environment of tough love. But don’t make your kids suffer too much either.  The best way we’ve seen wealthy family business owners help out their grown children without creating a sense of entitlement has been to provide assistance with education and housing. The owners of a very successful family business we work with hold back dividends but have a large educational fund that pays everyone’s schooling. They also help out with “reasonable” housing costs.  After that, everything else is the adult child’s responsibility. This discipline wonderfully concentrates everyone’s mind on the vital difference between wants and needs, and nips entitlement in the bud.
  • Are they grateful?  Recent studies show that there’s an inverse relation between materialism and gratitude. This poses obvious challenges for families that enjoy great wealth.  In her pioneering work on the subject, British psychoanalyst Melanie Klein wrote that, without gratitude, there can never be any personal satisfaction; envy creeps in and desecrates everything. We all have something to be envious about, even the very rich – sometimes especially the very rich – but envy is a toxic emotion.  Gratitude can soften it, and Klein thought that gratitude was inborn. But new findings on gratitude show that it can also be taught. The key is that parents must model gratitude before kids can develop it. That takes work. Practice gratitude yourselves, and chances are that your children will end up thanking you for it.  That’s the first step out of the entitlement trap.

Much more can be said on many fronts, and we look forward to your comments on this issue.  But one last word:  in our experience, the way that the most successful business families curb the next generation’s sense of entitlement is by staying involved in their kids’ lives.  If they fail to get some quality time, your children turn to money as the next best substitute. That sounds trivial, trite, perhaps even a platitude.  But every child is entitled to love. The rest is gravy.

23 Sep 05:14

5 Ways To Save On Your Cable Bill

by Alexis Caffrey
Save-Cable-Bill

When you’re living on your own on an entry-level salary, the cable bill can be one of your largest monthly expenses. Add in premium channels, a DVR box, and on-demand rentals, and you’re easily looking at $100+ dollars a month.

Fear not: if you’re looking to save on your cable bill, you don’t need cut the cord completely or replace your TV altogether with streaming options. There are a few tricks you can use to keep your monthly costs low, while keeping your entertainment level high.

1. Bundles

One of the biggest ways to save, no matter where you live, is bundling. Bundling with one provider means streamlining your services. Instead of paying one cable bill, one Internet bill and another separate home phone bill, you can save by combining them into a bundle.

You can choose to bundle what you want , so you eliminate the cost of the things you don’t. According to providers’ sites like Fios.Verizon.com, if you combine all three – TV, phone and Internet—you save the most dinero. With some providers you can even bundle your security system to save on literally all your home services.

Keep in mind:

  • Don’t pay for faster internet than you need. Internet speeds vary, and are affected by both your location and what you do online. The more you download, the more speed you need. If you don’t download much, then you don’t need to pay for the fastest plan.
  • Don’t pay for calling features you won’t use. Yes, it’s smart to bundle to save, but don’t get a plan with features that you know you won’t use – like long distance or international calling. If you know you won’t call internationally, don’t bother paying to have the option.

2. Movies

If you have premium cable channels, ask yourself if you get enough use out of them.

It can cost an extra $20 to $50 monthly to get a few movie channels (think HBO, Showtime, Starz) for your TV service– that money adds up. If you still want access to movies but don’t want to pay extra for premium channels, consider going with an online streaming site like Netflix, RedBox Instant or Hulu Plus. Each of those online streaming services costs $8 a month. Each offers movies, current TV shows and TV shows that are off the air.

3. Tablets

Using your tablet might not be a money saving tactic, but it’s a great way to actually take advantage of all the apps and features you get with your cable TV subscription.

There are apps available that take your TV watching to the next level – so if you’re already paying for the channels, you might as well make use of the TV provider’s corresponding app. You may be able to save yourself the monthly expense of a DVR box in your bedroom, for instance, if you can use an app to watch your shows from another DVR in the house on your tablet.

4. Antennas

Depending on how extreme you want to go with your saving, you can cut out cable entirely and buy a set of antennas (they run about $30 to $50). That will give you basic cable for news, weather, and sports—then you can catch up on your shows by subscribing to services like Hulu and Amazon Prime. It’s not ideal, and the picture won’t be hi-def, but it’s worth considering if you’re trying to drastically cut your bill.

5. Call Your Provider

If you’re determined to keep your TV subscription top-of-the-line, call your service provider and explain the situation. Often times they can help move you to a limited-time promotion to save some money, or give you some premium channels for free for a couple of months. If you’re having technical trouble with your DVR box or connection, many providers will throw in a few months of Showtime or HBO for free, simply to compensate for the inconvenience. It’s worth a shot.

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Photo Credit: Shutterstock

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