Will our children’s future be better than ours? wonders entrepreneur Annemarie van Gaal.
The other day I chaired a meeting for one of our banks with some of its private banking clients. The topic under discussion was: will our children’ s future be better than ours?
Most of those present weren’t too sure. One of the guests made the following comment: ‘We grew up in a time of economic progress. House prices were going up and there was nothing to stop us buying a house we couldn’t really afford. Share prices rose as a matter of course so if you had money you were hard put not to make more.’
‘Yes, those days are gone for good’, someone else said. ‘The crisis has a lot to answer for’, yet another guest said.
But wasn’t greed the root cause of the crisis? Weren’t Goldman Sachs and other business banks to blame for involving themselves in dodgy financial products?
One man who hadn’t said much decided to speak up.’It all started with Dallas’, he said. ‘I don’t want to speak ill of the dead but JR was the first person on Dutch television ot present greed as good. He got rid of anyone standing in his way and meanwhile he led the life of Riley on his ranch surrounded by beautiful women and spending money like nobody’s business. And we were all lapping it up’. We all knew what he meant.
I decided to change the subject slightly. ‘We keep talking about happiness or a good life in connection with money and possessions. Is there really a relationship between the two?
We discussed the concept of ‘possession’. Does it matter to our children? One of the men said: ‘Our son doesn’t want to own a house, he says it would tie him down. He would rather rent so he can go whenever he pleases. Dad, as long as I have a roof over my head I’m ok, he says. I don’t understand him because I was raised to think that that a home of your own was the best security you could have in life.’
Young people think freedom is what counts most. Access is all: you don’t need all those cds and dvds clooging up your closet space. And why buy if you can rent a nice place? Without a house you can go and be happy somewhere else.
Another man said: ‘our securities are not the securities of our children. Possessions were important to us and we judged other people by theirs. Material gain determined success. But we mustn’t project our idea of security unto our children.’
I kept thinking about what had been said. Are we saddling pour children with our perceptions? If a good future life is no longer synonymous with possessions then what will that future look like? Will greed have a place?
Later that evening over drinks I spotted the twenty year-old son of one of the guests. ‘Have you ever watched Dallas?’, I asked him. He looked at me. ‘What’s Dallas?, he asked.
Annemarie van Gaal is an entrepreneur.
This column was first published in the Financieele Dagblad.