Be Spartan With Your Wealth

The emperor Hadrian never had a son so he devised a very specific succession plan. He adopted a fifty-one-year-old man named Antoninus Pius on the condition that he adopt Marcus Aurelius. He thought this would provide for five years of training for Marcus—instead Antoninus lived and instructed for twenty three. 

You might think that being a prince-in-waiting for that long, being the heir to the richest and most powerful man in the world would ruin a person. It ruined Caligula. It ruined Nero. It’s ruined the children of plenty of people in positions of far less privilege. 

Biographer Frank McLynn gives some insight into how Marcus became an exception. Antoninus was known for his generosity. He gifted money to his people, he cancelled debts, he lent his own money at interests below market rates, he paid out-of-pocket to distribute food in times of famine. But in his private life, he had a “spartan attitude to money,” McLynn writes. When his wife once scolded him for his penny-pinching within the household, Antoninus replied, “Foolish woman, now that we have gained an empire, we have lost even what we had before.” Marcus wouldn’t be handed anything. He had to earn his keep. It seemed mean and cruel from the outside looking in, but some thirty years later Marcus would write in his journal what he learned from his adopted father, “Hard work. Persistence… Self-reliance, always.”

So it must go with your kids. Don’t spoil them. Keep a Spartan attitude towards money. Don’t let your success ruin them. Instead, let them see a great example of a person (you) who is made better by their advantages and gifts. Show them that it doesn’t have to corrupt and spoil. 

P.S. This was originally sent on June 23, 2020. Sign up today for the Daily Dad’s email and get our popular 11 page eBook, “20 Things Great Dads Do Everyday.”

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