I’d like to delve into family and money. The dynamics of being in a position where you earn more than your parents. Does it change things? Moreover, is each subsequent generation meant to do better than their parents? Is this social mobility expected progress or an unusual situation?
What influences children?
It fascinates me that we are all brought up differently. And in the early years, we basically are influenced completely by our parents. As young children we adopt their mannerisms and values automatically. We keep their company, and people who they have vetted as suitable companions, such as family, friends, and caregivers. It’s usually only at school that we start to get exposure to outside influences, both good and bad.
My parents work history
Both my parents are civil servants, working for the government. They both started at the bottom, and progressed within the framework of civil service roles. My dad started as an apprentice and worked his way slowly up. He progressed from blue collar roles to a more white collar, but still a physical role. From the pennies he got paid as an apprentice, over the years as he took on more senior roles his salary increased, and he topped out around age 50. I’m not sure of the exact details of his final salary, but it was around the £60-70k mark. On the other hand my mum was a graduate, a teacher, starting on a training contract and doing many decades as a classroom teacher, before progressing up the ranks. She ended up as a head teacher for many years, topping out about a similar salary to my Dad.
Growing up I thought this was normal, that everyone should work for one employer for life, and progress upwards slowly but steadily. Clearly both my parents valued steady jobs and incomes above all else. Diving into this, this may have been driven by their respective childhoods. Both of their families were in semi-precarious situations. In my particular my mum’s father was a live in gardener. So when he lost his job, they all had to move. And my Dad was basically raised by a single father and his older sisters, and money was tight. His Dad also worked a labouring job, and times were very tight when he did not have work. So, my parents paths have diverged from their respective parents, in a positive way. They both achieved social mobility, and moved out from the working class into the middle class.
My work history
As I’ve mentioned before, I’ve worked hard and been lucky enough to increase my income significantly in my thirties. In my twenties, I was nothing spectacular career or salary wise. However once I got my act together and overcome my personal barriers, detailed in this post if you are interested, I managed to increase my income to over £100k. This has taken a lot of effort, and involved a lot of self reflection. I’ve been drive to achieve and maintain this, as a good income is the main key to my FIRE dreams. Hence in my thirties I started to eam more than my parents.
Follow your parents
So, as you can see I have embraced some of my parents influence, but rejected some of their values. In particular I’ve rejected working for the government, and staying with one employer – they both think I am a terrible job hopper! And that the lack of stability should worry me. But I have mimicked their approach of honing your craft, putting in my time and progressing up the ranks. This was one the key skills I learnt from them, that puts me in a really privileged position. The idea of working away and putting in the effort to strive for a promotion is normalised for me.
Choices I made to earn more
But what differentiates my choices from theirs? How do you end up earning more than your parents? I feel taking risk is the big differentiator. I’m much happier to take big risks and live by the outcome than my parents are. Failure doesn’t phase me, I expect it and modify my approach and try again. I don’t value or prize stability at all, which they find very strange. Instead I value a job that engages me and challenges me, and really allows me to add value. Different strokes for different folks?
Benefits of my parents choices
Whenever you mention long term government employees in the UK the gold plated pension comes to mind. Yes, my parents both have this absolutely fabulous gold plated pension. And as they are final salary pension schemes, they both benefited increasing their salaries to significant amount in their last decade working. I know I will never get as good a guaranteed income as their pensions, even if the market does awesome. They both played it well here, I credit them for this. They are both now retired, enjoying their fabulous gold plated pensions.
Benefits of my choice
However, as I’ve shunned stability, I’ve given myself much more freedom to learn and grow. In the corporate world, one has to move much quicker and learn the concept of value. I’m able to articulate what the benefits of hiring me are, and am able to put my skills to user really quickly – I love to hit the ground running. Not to mention that this approach has allowed me to earn more.
Does this change things?
I also want to consider the time-point when my income was greater than my parents. When I first started making good money, I was a bit concerned it was a temporary thing, so didn’t think of my income relative to others. But once it had been over a year, I realised that I was now the highest earner in the family, and that I made more than both of my parents. And given their imminent retirements, for the rest of my working career was I also going to be the bigger earner? I wonder how it should impact the dynamic? After I started working, I’ve always took the approach of splitting things with them. Occasionally they would pay for items, occasionally I would. Much like with good friends. However should this differ when my income increased? We are generally not show your love with money type people. A great value I got from my parents, I thank them a lot for this. We’ve always liked frugal type activities, going for walks etc. And we don’t tend to do spendy things together at all. Or do extravagant gifts.
Does it make them proud?
I don’t think it does, as my parents are not money motivated people. They certainly value money in the sense of doing financially well enough to look after yourself. But they don’t value excess, especially not in financial terms. As children I remember the phrase “more money than sense” being uttered a lot. However I know they must have also gone through the stage of realising they earned more than their parents as well. It has got me thinking, should you always expect to earn more than your parents, excluding inflation obviously? Is social mobility still alive today? I’d say that my parents definitely exhibited social mobility and moved up a class, but as for me? There is not a real class to move up into, but I’m happily accept being promoted into the liberal elite class if that’s possible?
Nature vs Nurture
As an aside to conclude: I also have a brother. And he is following their path much more closely than me. He works for the government. And is slowly rising in his career. And shows no signs of deviating from this path anytime soon. Does this prove it is nature then? That I had an inherent desire for change and he doesn’t? We went to the same schools and had roughly the same influences, so I’d guess so. I predict he is going to follow my parents model exactly, and earn roughly the same as our parents.
Do you earn more than your parents?
- What are your thoughts on this topic?
- Is your approach similar to your parents?
- Thoughts on social mobility?