Going all in for your kid?

So back in the day, my parents went all out on sacrificing basically everything to give me and my sister a good education. Then again, things in those days were simpler. They didn’t have that much money so it was a big mortgage in a good neighborhood and that was that.

But now I have money, not truckloads of money but in theory money to buy more than what I had for my kid. However I have also come to realize that there is no ceiling when it comes to doing that. I guess if I wanted to save no money I could send my kid to the kind of school that teaches them Swahili at age 3 and a private cook that gives them just the right balance of nutrients. But maybe that’s excessive. Actually, no doubt it is in my mind. But if I don’t go all in, does that make me a bad parent for not doing everything I can to make my kid succeed? Where do you draw the line?

Question #1: You have a kid??
If not, then don’t worry about it yet.

When you do have to worry, your choices are, if not “rich” (define it however), live in an expensive area with nice and free public schools, or live in a cheap area (though secure, and good luck with that) and truck (or room-and-board) your kids to a fancy private school.
So, if you were in, say, Chicago area, you could live in Aurora and put your kids in the Illinois Mathematics and Science Academy, or you’d live on the South Side on a whole block that you bought and walled off and send your kids to the University of Chicago Laboratory Schools.

Change “make” to “help.” There are plenty of parents out there cheating for their kids. You don’t need to break your ethics programming just for that. You need to provide the proper guidance, and instill a healthy competitive spirit and a wonder for knowledge.
And there is a point where you’ll have to just let them be, and if you’ve done it all right up to then, they’ll be fine.
If you happen to have daughters, keep them off the pole.


I dunno, I have a friend who got like, really into pole dancing or something. She worked at an investment bank and then got her MBA at Penn. If pole dancing is my kids passion, I should support it and not try to control it right?


And, if I were to support their pole dancing, would I be a bad parent for not buying the best pole money can buy or the best pole dancing teachers I can afford?

It seems like most of parenting gets made up as you go regardless of what you plan.


Your kid comes out with 90% of their ultimate selves already established, excepting huge traumatic events that alter their course. The other 10% isn’t much to work with. Help your child figure out who they are, support them through that, encourage them and show them opportunities where you see them, but don’t pave the way for them or push them to be or do something they aren’t meant for. It won’t make them into the person you want them to be, it will only damage your future with them.

It’s better to be average/unexceptional and happy than exceptional at something and miserable. Most of us won’t be remembered for anything other than the contributions we made to the people in our lives, so make that part count.


invest in the pole now just in case baby CS wants one imo.

I should know better than to try a recycled joke (Chris Rock RNN) when I am not aware of your humor-switch position.

Kids who don’t have to work for some of their success end up not really succeeding in the long run, IMO.

There are some things my kid needs to have a good foundation for success . . . those things we try to provide as best we can.

There are some things my kid wants to enjoy “the now” . . . those things we work with our kid on how they earn it themselves. In some cases, he/she has to just work on their own to get. Other things, we work on some sort of arrangement (e.g., we’ll match the kids’ contribution toward the item).

I’m wondering if it makes me a bad parent to not go all in though, like keeping savings in the bank. In some cultures it is considered selfish to not empty your bank account for your kid but this is the US so I’m not accustomed to what is considered right or wrong amongst the anglos. Non-Japanese Asians typically don’t save for retirement and their kids are basically their retirement plan, that’s why they push their kids so hard, because those countries don’t have social security. Me having a 401k makes me an outlier compared to my ancestors.

Hence the title. Is it wrong not to spend every penny on your kids and save some for yourself?

I thought the trade off of spending everything on your kid is that your kid is supposed to support you when you’re old. How confident are you of that longterm plan?

I should have enough money to retire on by myself because I do have savings. But I’ve had to alienate myself from my support network as well as struggle with a deep sense of shame to build it up rather than liquidate it to support my extended family as it’s considered to be morally wrong from my ethnic group to hoard your wealth like that. Now I’m struggling with where to draw the line on the kids, because clearly in western culture it’s okay to save some for yourself, I just don’t know how much.

Certain other groups in the US think this way, I think the line “remember where you came from” is the closest analogy I can think of against personal savings.

In order;

  • get kids to the point of being financially self-sufficient
  • save enough for spouse to be secure for lifetime
  • save enough for spouse and you to enjoy a comfortable/fun retirement
  • anything in excess, start handing down to the kids.

My understanding is that what usually called “Western” countries, ie europe, the uk, the us, etc, place much more emphasis upon individualism, and much less on extended family, than the rest of the world. (In fact, I remember reading a book review of a book that claimed this was because for millennia the roman catholic church carefully prevented families from intermarrying with each other too much, effectively preventing “clans” over the long term, or something like that.)

It sounds like you may be running into that, and that it is very hard. I don’t pretend to be able to effectively weigh these cultural norms against each other. And neither can you. But of course you have to.

My personal opinion is that you are not under obligation to “give” more than you as an individual have to give. This is because to be fully in loving relationships, we have to be fully autonomous individuals. This is why somebody with no self esteem often had trouble being in a healthy relationships.

There is also the paradox of sacrifice. Sometimes we give more than we have to give, particularly for our children, and rather than undermining us as individuals it validates us. Logically it shouldn’t work that way but it does.

From my (of course very western) perspective, it is very hard to known when to preserve your individuality and when to sacrifice for even your immediate family. To try to sacrifice for your extended family is just too much. But again, I come from a background where the extended family was weakened for centuries or millennia, and modern times have further weakened them.

One more practical point: when (or if?) you have adult children, they may be further distanced from feeling obligated to support you and other extended family members, instead having a more typical american attitude. You should probably at least partially plan for that possibility.


Next question with obvious answer.

You never answered my question #1, though.

Giving everything to your kids and then expecting them to support you to me feels much less good to the kids than keeping enough to be secure yourself and giving them the balance.

In my mind it’s not really giving if you’re expecting to be paid back.

Is Mrs. Smoothie pregnant?

I’ll be honest, since I had a kid, I’ve pretty much stopped buying the best pole dancers I can afford.

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Your parents needed to find the best way to spend their limited resources. As a rich(er) person, you have the opposite problem. You need to find the best way to spend your unlimited resources. No matter what you buy is going to look silly to a poor person (besides charity). Investing in some kind of meaningful and personal goal is a challenge for anyone who is not struggling just to survive.

When my wife was pregnant, I googled all the famous people that I like, to see if they were raised in some special way. Wikipedia is not great at this. But mostly what I found was:

  1. Child prodigies (mathematicians, scientists, composers) that were doing 3 digit multiplication in their head as toddlers, and there’s just no possible “nurture” explanation.

  2. Writers, musicians, thinkers, whose parents died tragically (often through suicide) and they were raised by abusive aunts and uncles. Hard to take a good lesson from that. ​

There’s few good examples of people seeming to force their children to be successful, ala Tiger Mom. I guess various Olympians? Motzart? Judit Polgar. But it seems like you have to be pretty soul crushing, and your kid doesn’t cure cancer, they just play some game very well.

There’s definitely not much in the way of simply trying hard and loving and investing resources. Nabokov? Feynman? Li-Young-Lee? Maybe? I don’t know… There’s no statistically convincing evidence that raising children matters… really… besides having enough calories… but… why have kids at all if you’re not going to love them and spend some % of your discretionary money on them?