Recently I listened to one of Rabbi Daniel Lapin’s podcasts. While I strongly recommend his book, Thou Shall Prosper, a study of personal finance from a traditional Jewish viewpoint, I seldom listen to his radio show as he tends to ramble and head down rabbit paths that have nothing to do with the topic of the discussion. During this broadcast, he noted that in his experience, the single most important variable that leads to wealth is membership in a family that has enjoyed reasonably healthy intact marriages for three generations. As I think about the people I have met over the course of my life, I can’t disagree with the good Rabbi. In my experience, people who talk about their grandparents and parents with respect, who retell family legends, myths, and stories that support financially responsible behavior tend to enjoy better outcomes in life. A child born out of wedlock is 5 times more likely to grow up in poverty than a child raised in an intact family. Such a child is also more likely to do poorly in school, engage in criminal behavior, become a substance abuser, and have children out of wedlock. While there are exceptions, such as Doctor Ben Carson, the statistics are simply overwhelming. It is pretty clear that children that grow up in a traditional family enjoy a huge advantage. While my family was not perfect, I was blessed with a third generation terror of debt. My grandparents were one of only two families in their section of Yankton County, SD that managed to hold on to their farm throughout the Great Depression. Terrified of debt, my grandmother insisted that my grandfather pay down the mortgage on the farm before buying any more land during the boom years of the twenties. My grandfather managed to give each of his four children a farm before he died. He believed that if they owned a farm, free and clear of debt, they could care for their families no matter what happened. As a child, I was told these sorts of stories over and over again. Back in the early sixties, credit card companies would send unsolicited cards to prospective customers. When my parents received one of these things in the mail, I was given a pair of scissors along with instructions to destroy that evil dangerous object. I didn’t get a credit card until I was 35 years old. By that time living without a credit card in the Washington, DC area was simply impossible. Should it surprise anyone that I frequently write rants denouncing the evils of debt? It just never occurred to me to borrow money to buy a car or even pay for tuition for my second degree. Only in the last ten years or so have I learned that Warren Buffett teaches young people that the most important single thing they can do to reach financial freedom is avoid debt, particularly at an early age. In many ways we become who we believe we will become; who we are told we will become. While Davy Crockett did not kill 200 Mexicans with the butt end of his rifle during the battle for the Alamo, believing that this is so will make a young Texan a braver solider and a better man. If you have the benefit of a stable supportive family that is a wonderful blessing, but if you don’t this very day you can take a stand. Sonya Carson made such a decision. She worked two or three jobs to support her family. Her faith gave her the wisdom and strength to change her family tree. In spite of growing up in a single parent home in the inner city, Doctor Carson turned out OK. I also expect his mother’s gift to her family tree will continue to provide blessings to our country for many generations to come. Joshua 24:14-15King James Version (KJV) 14 Now therefore fear the LORD, and serve him in sincerity and in truth: and put away the gods which your fathers served on the other side of the flood, and in Egypt; and serve ye the LORD.
15 And if it seem evil unto you to serve the LORD, choose you this day whom ye will serve; whether the gods which your fathers served that were on the other side of the flood, or the gods of the Amorites, in whose land ye dwell: but as for me and my house, we will serve the LORD.