This is not a flex post. Flexing can only achieve its intended effect if you know who the person is. I’ve chosen to remain anonymous.
I’m writing this because Mr Wow and I want to acknowledge our good fortune. Our modest success is not entirely the result of our own merit. We were lucky to win the birth lottery and we owe our parents a great debt of gratitude.
Most people would categorise Mr Wow and I as rich kids. Frankly, we don’t know our parents’ net worth, but they are definitely well off. None of us get to choose the family we were born into. We can only make the best of our circumstances, rich or poor. Being born in a wealthy family is a tremendous stroke of luck and there are many things to be grateful for.
- The Perks of Winning the Birth Lottery
- Three Values We Learned from Our Rich Dads
- Admission of Privilege
1. The Perks of Winning the Birth Lottery
Both our dads (currently retired) ran successful businesses and were very good providers.
My dad had a hard and wretched life when he was young. His family was dirt poor and he was perpetually hungry. At the age of 11, he started working to help support his younger siblings and was constantly bullied and beaten up at work. As he didn’t get the chance to go to school, he places a lot of emphasis on his children’s and grandchildren’s education.
Mr Wow’s dad, on the contrary, is a rich kid himself. He comes from money and is highly educated. Both men cannot be more different, but they do have one thing in common — they were workaholics and we hardly saw them when we were kids.
Growing up, Mr Wow and I had a significant head start in life and were never short on material comforts. We lived in affluent neighbourhoods and spent countless weekends swimming, golfing and playing tennis at country clubs. When it came to education, our parents spared no efforts and expenses to ensure our success.
We both had the opportunity to further our studies abroad. I still remember my undergrad days vividly. I had an apartment to myself, a cool convertible and a generous allowance. Every time I ran out of money, I just needed to call home and my dad would wire more over, no questions asked. When I returned to Singapore after five years, my graduation gift — a brand new car — was already waiting for me.
Yes, we know. We’re super lucky to win the birth lottery. Believe me. We do not take our good fortune for granted. We count our blessings and deeply appreciate the love, support and opportunities our parents have given us. We repay them by showing gratitude and working hard. We honour them by staying out of trouble and living by the values they have instilled in us.
2. Three Values We Learned from Our Rich Dads
It is a fact that those raised in wealthy families do not have to work for a lot of things in life. The comfort they enjoy may lead to complacency and laziness. Thankfully, our dads’ solid work ethic rubbed off on us and we’re both very driven.
Our parents also inculcated us with a sense of independence, self-reliance and responsibility. That’s why when our first business failed and our finances were a complete shambles, we didn’t go to them for help. It wasn’t a matter of pride. Even though our parents would gladly rescue us, we felt that we could handle the situation ourselves and didn’t want to worry them unduly.
I hate to say this but lazy, self-entitled rich kids are like foolish lottery winners — instead of making the best of their good fortune, they squander it away.
Running a business is a mammoth undertaking. The road to success is paved with adversities and more people fail than succeed. I guess that’s one of the reasons why most people choose to be employees. It really is the easier route. As entrepreneurs, both our dads experienced failure a number of times. Both didn’t give up.
My dad in particular went through a lot to become rich. To this day, listening to his stories still brings tears to my eyes. Frankly, I do not know anyone who can match his grit. He was fearless and relentless because he had nothing to lose. He was just sick of being poor.
As his daughter, I’m not familiar with poverty and the fear of failure has held me back from pursuing my dream more than once in my life. After my first business with Mr Wow failed, I was very lost for a few years (Mr Wow to a smaller extent). I’m glad we found the courage to start our second business, which turned out to be quite successful. I think Mr Wow and I are strong and resilient because our dads are our role models.
Side note: In case you’re wondering, our parents didn’t fund our businesses. We made sacrifices and saved like mad. At one point, I was holding down three side gigs, I kid you not. Besides borrowing money from my dad for the downpayment of our matrimonial home (an HDB flat), we have not taken a single cent from our parents since we joined the workforce in 1999.
Mr Wow and I achieved Financial Independence Retire Early (FIRE) in our early 40s. We definitely worked very hard to attain our goal and we’re proud of ourselves. Having said that, there were other factors that contributed to our success. It’s like a hole-in-one. The golfer’s skill does increase the odds, but there’s a great element of luck involved.
For one, winning the birth lottery has huge economic payoffs. Thanks to our parents’ resources, we received a good education, which in turn maximised our chances of getting ahead. Acknowledging the reality of circumstances is not to discount our own hard work. Denying it, however, shows a complete lack of humility, not to mention a poor understanding of society.
Renowned author E.B White once said, “Luck is not something you can mention in the presence of self-made men.” People who are well-to-do, compared to those who are not, are more likely to attribute success to diligence rather than other factors such as luck. That’s because we’ve been taught to believe that everyone has an equal shot in a meritocratic society. As long as we study hard and obtain good grades, we will get a well-paying white-collar job. As long as we give our best and excel at work, we will ascend the corporate ladder and become successful.
That sounds highly motivational, but here’s the problem. When we believe that success is simply based on personal merit, we lose humility. We forget that there are many others who have worked just as hard but failed to attain success. Worse still, we assume that poor people are poor because they are lazy and unmotivated. I get very upset when people say things like that because it shows how utterly out of touch they are.
Life is not fair. Some people have to start at the lowest rung of the economic ladder (e.g. my dad) while others get to skip a few rungs (e.g. me). I’ve been spared of hardship because my dad endured it all. It’s not because I’m smarter or more hardworking than him.
3. Admission of Privilege
There are all kinds of people in this world, so it shouldn’t be surprising that rich kids do not fit neatly into a tick box. However, I’ve noticed that many have something in common — they are aware of their privilege but do not want to be reminded of it.
According to an article by the Society for Personality and Social Psychology, How and Why the Wealthy Try to Cover Up Their Privileges, that’s because the rich want to be seen as a good person, or more specifically a person of high merit, instead of someone who has benefited from the wealth of his or her family. Even when faced with clear evidence of their own advantages, some folks find it difficult to admit that their backgrounds have given them a leg up over others.
The author suggested that “One way we can help others and ourselves recognise reality is by reminding ourselves that privilege and hard work (talent, merit, effort, etc.) are not either-or: we might have worked hard and benefited from unfair advantages, too.” I couldn’t have put it in better words.
One should not have to feel sorry for something he or she has no control over. If you come from a privileged background, there’s no shame in admitting it because it’s how you choose to handle your privilege that counts. Do you make the best of your circumstances and endeavour to be a good person? Do you use your privilege to help or exploit others? Are you, in any way, helping to create a fairer world or making it worse?
Both Mr Wow and I have many blessings in life, and remembering them keeps us grounded, grateful and humble. We do not want to take anything for granted and will always strive to live the best life we can.
If you are lucky enough to win the birth lottery, cherish it. Don’t brag, don’t look down on others, and don’t be a bum.
You may also like: Don’t be a Rich Jerk: 5 Ways Money Makes Us Arrogant | Admit it: Money CAN Buy Happiness | What Are Your Money Values and Why You Need to Know Them | 7 Levels of Wealth: A Different Way to Think About Money | Exploring Money Mindsets: A Rich Man & His Four Sons