A way out

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Saturday, July 19, 2014


IS THERE a way out of inter-generational poverty? Yes, there is. But the way out is not paved with indolence, irresponsibility and inaction.

There is a Chinese saying that wealth cannot be sustained beyond three generations. Why? Because while the first generation earns the money and the second generation grows the money, the third generation spends it all.

While this is not always the case in all families of great wealth, it is true that those born into wealth do not always value what they have as much as those who had to work very hard to acquire and grow the wealth.

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Attitude largely determines our financial future and fate.

The rich who were born into money can make their money grow or they can squander their money away. In the same manner, the poor who were born with less financial resources in life can lift themselves out of poverty by availing of opportunities that come their way or they can choose to simply sit back and wait for manna to fall from heaven.

We have to help ourselves if we want to acquire wealth or sustain whatever wealth we have. As the state of abundance is not necessarily enduring, so is poverty not necessarily a permanent state.

The cycle of inter-generational poverty can be broken through education, training, skills-building and employment. Success and financial stability can be pursued through the practice of a strong work ethic. It’s how self-made men and women did it. And it’s how great wealth has been sustained through generations.

I was not born into a poor family but neither was I born into a wealthy one. When I was young, my parents used to tell me that money didn’t flow out of the tap. They wanted me to understand that life was hard and that money was not easy to acquire.

They wanted to instill in me the value of money as well as the value of hard work.

I grew up seeing my parents do all kinds of work. No type of work was beneath them. On any given day, I would see my father sweeping floors and my mother, washing dishes.

Early in life, I saw the dignity of labor. I saw the value of work—white collar as well as blue collar work. Seeing my parents work very hard everyday of their lives instilled a very strong work ethic in me.

My grandparents were largely illiterate. When they came to this country, they had nothing except hope in their hearts and the willingness to break their backs to survive. They had no families to depend on for financial or emotional support. Yet, they endured and prospered through hard work, self-sacrifice and extreme frugality.

Not everyone can be born into a privileged life. But poverty is not a permanent state.

It is not wrong to ask for assistance, but it is self-defeating to expect it and enfeebling to depend on it. Is there a way out of poverty? Yes. But there is no option to be lazy, lackadaisical and lacking in initiative. The way out of poverty requires determination, diligence and discipline.

My grandparents found the way out. To spend any day of my life being indolent, mediocre or unproductive would be to squander the legacy and dishonor the memory of my grandparents.

(email: sunstarcebucolumnist@yahoo.com, twitter: http://twitter.com/melanietlim)

Published in the Sun.Star Cebu newspaper on July 20, 2014.

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