Obtaining prosperity in the adolescent years

Armstrong Williams

9/14/2006 1:32:23 PM - Armstrong Williams

People often ask how I became an entrepreneur and my explanation is that most of my entrepreneurial talents were instilled in me by watching and emulating my father and mother as a child. As owners of the family farm, they had many entrepreneurial responsibilities, many of which they passed along to their children. Starry eyed with my parents acknowledging our facility to take on new responsibilities, we began to accompany my father to the bank whenever he went to open an account, make a withdrawal or simply make a deposit. These trips not only gave us an early understanding of banking, we also got to spend quality time with my parents on a more professional level.

As I matured my parents allowed me to work as the farm's accountant and prepare the tax returns. I was also the one who paid the farm laborers and kept the books in perfect order. These experiences taught me the importance of record keeping and how to manage money effectively. However, as a child we simply viewed these chores as fun exercises to do with mom and dad, not realizing that we were honing skills that would help us become successful businessmen later in life.

I recalled these early experiences on my recent trip to Cairo, Egypt where I was surprised and encouraged to see such a mature level of interaction between parents and children. On many occasions during my visit with my family, we saw children, some as young as 3, accompany their parents as they completed day to day business transactions. However, unlike the U.S., where children sit quietly waiting for the parent to complete his task, Egyptian parents would discuss and explain their transactions with the child in detail. We were amazed at the children's level of understanding in areas concerning money, business and the finite details that many adults do not fully comprehend. The children listened attentively and asked questions about closing on a home and opening bank accounts. Such consultation between a parent and a child at such a young age is rare in America. Many of us believe children are too young to learn about "adult things", so instead of teaching them valuable skills that will ultimately benefit them later in life, we send them off to watch silly television shows and play games. Parents who provide educationally stimulating opportunities for their children open up doors that are tantamount to a future of sound financial independence.

Realizing that childhood is the perfect time to equip your children with skills they will use later in life is of utmost importance in a child’s upbringing because a solid foundation of general skills or “street smarts” will prepare them for prospect endeavors. Scientists have already illustrated that the best time to learn a second language is as a child because the child's brain is constantly developing and evolving new stimuli are presented. The same is true with any type of skill. We need only to look at Tiger Woods as proof of this assertion. Tiger makes one of the hardest games in the world look easy because he learned it at such a young age. His father, the late Earl Woods, never underestimated his son's potential to learn early and as a result Tiger has achieved great success.

The Egyptian parents understand just as Earl Woods did, that you must invest in your child. Many of you read this monthly column hoping to gain new insights on how to build wealth that you can pass on to the next generation. However, passing along knowledge of how to build wealth is much more important than passing on wealth itself. We all know the old adage: "Give a man to fish and you’ll feed him for a day; teach a man to fish you’ll have fed him for a lifetime." It certainly applies here. You can leave your children millions of dollars, but if they lack the vital understanding of how to invest and stretch that money they will blow it immediately just as millions of Americans do everyday. Imagine your life today if you had had the arsenal of knowledge concerning money and other things you know today when you were 10 years old. When parents invest in their children in the early stages of their life, they pass on generational wealth which teaches them how to manage credit cards and keep their credit scores high, unlike lottery winners who frivolously squander their money away. Imagine the financial confidence you would covet and the prosperity that would ensure. The fact remains that if you want your children to have that advantage, you must engage them at an early age.

After witnessing the interaction of Egyptian parents with their children and remembering how my parents provided us with strong, fortified roots of business, I reminisce about how their lessons brought us together, and how much I enjoyed bonding with them. Perhaps that was more important than the many lessons I learned. Today we live in a society where parents, guardians and caretakers work an enormous amount of hours and hardly ever have time to spend with their children. In the end the children are provided for but they have no true connection to them or the knowledge and wisdom resource. Taking your children with you while you handle everyday tasks will create bonding time that will inevitably bring your family closer together and perpetuate your child’s intellectual capacity of crucial yet everyday skills. We must always remember that a family’s love toward one another is far greater than any exorbitant amount of money.