More Than Money
Issue #39
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Money and Children

Table of Contents

“What is Money for if You Don't Have Children?”
– Ruth Ann Harnisch

We talked to Joline Godfrey to learn her advice for raising financially fit young people. Here's what she told us.

Ruth Ann Harnisch is a personal coach and philanthropist who is constantly searching for new ideas that will help make the world a better place. She is the president of The Harnisch Family Foundation and serves on the board of governors of the International Association of Coaches. She is also the founder of The Dignitarian Dialogues , Thrillionaires and Coach100Free . "What is money for?" That's one of our favorite conversation starters at More Than Money gatherings, and I've noticed that whenever I ask that question, "My kids" is a popular answer.

A primary purpose of money, if you have children or hope to have them, seems to be to make life better for your children and their children. And why not? Money confers advantages beyond measure. It's no wonder most parents intend their resources to benefit their young.

So, what is money for if you don't have children? I've been a stepmother, a homeroom mother, a school clinic mother, a mother figure, a mentor, a motherly type, a loving aunt, a good godmother, and any number of miscellaneous appellations that bind me in some way to some kid. But I'm nobody's "real" mother. Most of the young people who might be remembered in my will are already well off, and any bequests would be gravy.

Without children to inherit my earthly goods, what is my money for? What uses of money inspire me the way parents are inspired by the thought of providing for their children?

  1. My money can be for the kids who don't have anybody else providing funds for them. I have some money available for charities that serve children who are not being served by loving parents. I can spend some on other people's kids because I don't have to spend any on mine.
  2. I'm inspired by the prospect of helping to create groundbreaking social change. I don't have to invest my philanthropic dollar in creating advantages for my children, so my money can be for "bigger picture" social investments. I don't have a vested interest in my child's school. I'm not solicited by the hospital where my child had a tonsillectomy. I can invest in "upstream" solutions that serve many schools, many hospitals, many causes. My estate plan is chiefly designed to be a social agenda legacy.
  3. Without children or grandchildren to spoil, I get a kick out of spoiling others. It's fun to do something special for a grown-up who's always tending to the kids, and with actual minors I can be Auntie Mame. I'm free to be a frivolous giver who comes up with something extravagant or fanciful that only a nonparent would give. (If I want to give something unusual to a child, I always get parental permission. It's no favor to a child to outflank a reasonable parent. It's no favor to anyone to outflank an unreasonable parent.)
  4. It's inspiring to take big risks. Because I don't have a child depending on my money for basic necessities of life, I'm free to invest in more adventurous philanthropy and creative enterprises. I've boldly funded cutting-edge work that might fail spectacularly. I wouldn't do that if I had children as heirs or dependents. I've learned that there's no telling when a child will be unexpectedly costly, so I wouldn't commit major resources to philanthropy or high-flying ventures if there were a chance I'd need that cash for some unexpected child-related expense.
  5. Finally, what is money for if not to meet a number of my own personal needs and desires? I've noticed that many parents, regardless of how much money they have, seem to think money is for their children's needs and desires only. I enjoy spending money creating environments that inspire me to be my most grateful, spiritual, productive, healthy, active, generous, loving, and alive self. My philanthropic activity makes me painfully aware of the deprivation in the world, so from time to time, I immerse myself in the most beautiful life imaginable. That helps me work harder to create a legacy that will make life more beautiful for children of all ages.

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