Wealth is an interesting thing.  Those looking from the outside might assume wealth is easy, that the lifestyle enjoyed by each generation is a given and requires no extra thought or work.  That’s where the average onlooker is wrong. Wealth, or being rich, is not sustainable when future generations do nothing to preserve it. 

There is a Vietnamese proverb that says, “The rich do not stay rich and the poor do not stay poor for three generations.” It underscores the challenges of making sure the second generation stays as motivated as the first when they no longer have financial hardship to spur them on. Not for nothing does a variant of that proverb suggests that the first generation makes the money, the second generation spends it, and the third generation blows it. From rice paddy back to rice paddy again; the wheel comes full circle.

Without proper understanding of values and vision for the future, entitlement, greed and laziness will undo the hard work of previous generations. The cycle has been seen time and time again throughout the global in different families, generations, and dynasties.  The key is to combat this entitlement with deliberate teaching and upbringing of current and future generations.

You don’t need to be involved in a successful family business to benefit from the ease of privilege.  For example, today’s youth in America are multiple generations away from the devastation that many of their great-grandparents experienced in the Great Depression.  The same could be said for Vietnam’s youngest generation, who benefit from its current economic growth and security, born from decades of war and struggle. 

I come from the middle generation, sandwiched between this generation and my parents. In many ways, I think that makes me the lucky one. I was fortunate that I did not experience the horrors of the war, or its immediate aftermath, firsthand. But I did grow up during a time of scarcity, and because of that, I understand just how much hard work it takes to achieve success in life. I take nothing for granted, just like my parents.

Regardless of what generation you are a part of in relation to “wealth,” the following are two main ways to combat this entitlement and help secure wealth for future generations:

  1. Anchor values in things beyond the material – My parents were always the greatest example of this.  Neither of them was motivated by a desire to be rich. They taught us to root our desires and satisfaction in hard work, integrity, and family.  If something catastrophic happened to THP, it would be the loss of the company they would mourn – the relentless dedication and work – not the riches that have come with it. Both of my parents started with nothing and would not be unnerved to return to that state. They are the kind of people who would simply pick themselves up and start again. These are principles that are taught by previous generations through example.  We were lucky enough to benefit from excellent teachers who helped us understand what really matters in life. 
  2. Teach and expect hard work from everyone – As they say, hard work is the antidote for most every ill or woe.  With a principle of hard work, people can accomplish anything. My parents understood this and expected us to understand it as well.  My father may have been very harsh when we were growing up, but he wanted to create a culture of hard work where merit is rewarded. As a result, my sister and I both work as hard as he does. In fact, these days we get less sleep than he does, as we only sleep for four hours, and he has switched from four to six. He has also started going to the gym six days a week. He is someone who never does anything in half measures.

For those born into privileged situations, it can be difficult to understand the hardship experienced by generations before.  However, older generations can help instill a sense of gratitude, humility and hard work in their posterity to aid in continued growth and prosperity.  Learn how THP is successfully surviving its generational transition.