As a millennial parent, the question of what I will leave my children when I die has been at the top of my mind. I am married to a man whose moniker in my stories is GB. GB and I have two children – Muna is seven, Njeeh is two.
I often think, ‘What will I leave to Muna and Njeeh when I die?’ We have been socialised to believe that the work we’re doing now should secure our children’s financial future and the future of their children’s children. That all what I am working on now should pass hands from generation to generation, compounding at it goes along. What they call generational wealth.
Well, I have had a shift of mind-set. And this shift is showing in how I think about what I will leave to our children.
I used to work as an auditor, there was a running joke amongst us that Kenyans who had inherited wealth from their parents and started life without any financial struggles had an ‘opening balance’. (This joke would only be funny to you if you’re an auditor. Or an accountant. I’m even chuckling as I write this, ha-ha.)
I want Muna and Njeeh to have an opening balance but their opening balance shouldn’t be a healthy portfolio of high-value investments I worked hard for. It will be a good idea to leave them with title deeds and house keys, with bond and insurance certificates, with safety deposit boxes and account numbers.
It will be a better idea to leave them with the tools that will empower them to acquire and grow their own portfolio of high-value investments.
The wealth I intend to leave my children is not the kind that can be measured in shillings and cents – it’s the kind that will translate to them counting their own shillings and cents.
Here’s the truth: there’s a beauty that comes when you work hard to acquire your own wealth. When you struggle and sacrifice, when you plan and pursue, when you fix your eyes on a goal then align everything within you to smash that goal.
There’s immense beauty in that. It’s only when you work hard to acquire your own that you’ll truly realise what you’re made of.
There’s a possibility that when wealth is handed down to you from the generation before – when you start your financial journey with a healthy opening balance – you won’t go hard at adding to that wealth. You may even squander it.
Someone who starts at zero will have a hunger and drive to build upwards from this ground zero.
With that in mind, I have restructured my approach to what I plan to leave to my children. Instead of monetary wealth, I plan to leave my children an abundance of personal values and financial knowledge.
The personal values should be in their work ethic: I want my children to be the kind of workers who rise up early and show up to work every single day, and on time, no matter what; making the best hay while the sun is shining hard and they’re not complaining or stealing work hours to go horse around elsewhere.
I hope they do work they love and from which they find contentment and purpose. May it be the kind of work that uplifts the community and betters the lives of other people.
I’d die a thousand deaths if my children were in the headlines of this newspaper for plundering public resources. ‘Kinyatti heirs arrested in Sh1.4bn graft case.’ (My goodness.)
Instead, it should read something like, ‘Kinyatti heirs donate Sh1.4bn for scholarships.’ (Much better.)
Then there is financial knowledge, knowledge about how to make money and make it grow actively and passively. I only learned about money when I started making my own money, at 24.
By the time they’re 24, my children should already have the smarts to feed 10,000 people with just two loaves of Supa Loaf bread and five tilapia, which they bought with their own hard-earned money.
Florence Bett-Kinyatti is a certified accountant and former financial auditor. [email protected]