If Your Millionaire Parents Gave It All Away
There seems to be a growing trend these days for the millionaires and billionaires of the world not to pass on their wealth to their children but to instead give away their huge wealth in a philanthropic effort. While this is very admirable it does throw up an interesting question, how would you feel if you were the child of one of these rich people? A child who would have otherwise been the recipient of this immense wealth?
The reason I bring this question up is that I was watching a television program last night which referenced a millionaire who did just that. In 2009 Brian Burnie – who made his millions in petro chemicals and recruitment – decided to sell his £16 million Mansion in Northumberland and funnel all of his wealth into a new charity ‘Daft as a Brush Cancer Care’. Now I don’t want to delve too deeply into his reasons for doing this in this post but if you want to know more about why he did it then you can check out this news article.
Instead I wanted to talk about another element of this story which interested me and it came up when the makers of the program interviewed Brian’s Daughter. First of all let’s mention here that it appears that Brian’s decision to give away all of his wealth seems to have caused him some huge family issues, including contributing to the break-up of his marriage. When listening to his daughter speak about her feelings on her father’s decision to give away all his wealth, it seemed that she wasn’t all too happy about it and this got me to thinking, how would you or I feel if we were in this position?
Let’s just imagine that you had grown up living quite a luxurious and extravagant lifestyle. You had never had to want for anything and you were pretty certain that money was never going to be a problem for you in the future. Then one day your father asks you to type up a press release stating that he was going to be giving away all of his wealth and this was the first that you had heard of it – did I mention that Brian didn’t consult his family about his decision? How would you feel about this noble gesture? Would you be happy and in awe at your fathers fabulous show of generosity, or would you be angry that you were not going to receive a penny of the wealth which you had always expected would be passed on to you and your siblings? Especially when you find that within the space of 2 or 3 years you have gone from living in a £16 million mansion, to now having to pay a mortgage like everybody else and surviving on a standard teacher’s salary?
I understand that there are many reasons why wealthy parents may decide to take a decision like this, wanting your kids to make their own way in life and desiring to use your wealth in the best possible way being just two. In the same vein though you can understand why on some level this might be a bitter pill to swallow for the family of somebody making this decision, especially if they were not even consulted and were not in agreement with the decision.
I feel like I may be coming across as though I disagree with what Brian did in this post, but that’s not true. I really, really admire it. It’s just that when you see that his decision caused the breakup of his family and also placed a strain on his relationship with his children then it really made me wonder how I would feel if I were in this position, the position of the potential heir or even of the on-looking reluctant spouse.
It kind of adds weight to the phrase ‘More Money, More Problems’, doesn’t it?