Good Goddess, Leave Nigella Alone!

3 02 2008

Those of you who don’t live in the UK or who don’t read UK national newspapers will undoubtedly be unaware of the witch hunt that has befallen poor Nigella Lawson. To her credit the domestic goddess (can you tell I’m in love with this woman?) has come out and responded with wit and her usual charm. The sarcasm was dripping in the statement she released as she pointedly made reference to how many people have decided to label the woman a bad mother without even having all the facts.

Typically this is yet another incident of the media taking quotes out of context, applying a little spin and turning the story into something it is not. Leaving aside, for a moment, whether it’s anyone’s business what she decides to do with her money, let’s look at exactly what she said, as opposed to what was reported.

Asked what she hoped her children would learn from her, she said she hoped that they learnt the value of hard work. This was instead reported as “Nigella Lawson’will leave children penniless'”. Far from suggesting she was planning to leave her children destitute and starving, what she had said was simply that hard work teaches people the value of money. There’s nothing ground breaking in that statement, it’s simply applied common sense, but then applied common sense doesn’t sell newspapers.

It’s not uncommon for the wealthy to expect their children to become self-reliant. They realise that having given their children the best education money can buy, and with the name and reputation opening doors for them that don’t even exist for the rest of us, leaving them a huge lump sum of money will invariably lead to indolence. Instead providing them the best possible start in life and leaving enough so that, as Warren Buffet put it, they can do anything but not do nothing, is the right path forward.

Whilst I do agree that inherited wealth is not in itself responsible for the laziness of those who inherit it, that wasn’t the statement Nigella made. Nor did she say she would be leaving her children penniless. She simply said that they hoped they learnt the value of money, that in order to have it you have to work, and that financial security is not something to take for granted. My parents wealth is nowhere near that of Nigella’s and yet they raised me to come to expect financial security, something they look back on with great regret. Speaking for myself I’ve only just come to realise, at 26, how much I’ve come to take this financial comfort for granted and how it’s spoilt me.

Does this mean my parents are bad parents? No. Does it mean they didn’t teach me the value of money? Not at all, I was made to get a job at 16 in an attempt to teach me that. However just knowing that there is enough in the bank that I need not ever work was bad enough in itself. Perhaps when the fortune is that large that it can change the world this actually helps inspire you to use it appropriately. One need only look at Paris Hilton, however, to see that that isn’t always the case. Perhaps it owes a little to upbringing but I don’t think that the money does much to help.

True, extreme poverty does little to inspire ambition either but that’s not what’s being discussed here. Nigella hasn’t divulged the details of her will but one would guess from her response that she does plan to leave them some money, possibly in some form of trust where they’d need to justify withdrawals (so buying a new Ferrari wouldn’t qualify but using it to start a business would). Another approach that is becoming increasingly common is for people to leave bursaries for their grandchildren’s University education.

With the pressure to educate their own children removed the heirs have one less financial pressure, so for all intents and purposes the money does benefit them too, but it prevents it being used to fund a life of waste and opulence. Although I still maintain that what she does with her money is nobody’s business but hers (she was asked a question and answered it, no more, no less), now that the discussion has already entered the public arena, what do you think? Should the super-rich leave money to their children or does leaving them enough money to never have to work spoil them?



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