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Saturday, May 8, 2010

The Richest Moms in the World

Just in time for Mother's Day, Forbes Magazine has put out their 'Richest Moms in the World' list . I thought, "Oh, this ought to be interesting." I pictured the stories of hardworking moms who built fortunes from the ground up, raising a family at the same time, blah blah blah. Overcoming adversity and all that good stuff.

Not quite. When I opened the link, I saw the starched, made-up faces of women in their 70s and 80s, some younger ones mixed in, who, as predicted, inherited their fortunes from dead grandfathers, fathers and husbands. The only adversity some of these ladies likely saw was which nanny to choose for their children, and who would watch the kids while they holidayed in the South of France again this year? Bleh.

I wasn't surprised to read that only 70 women have billion-dollar fortunes in the entire world, compared to the "555 self-made billionaires who are fathers." And, says the article, of the 70, "just eight of these built their own."

I'm not sure what to think about that: as if so few women are capable of building a business that is very successful? Or that society puts pressure on women to thrive and succeed in business, while at the same time expecting them to be full-time, nurturing, perfect moms to boot? Or that a true measure of wealth, to most moms, has nothing to do with money, which perhaps explains why there are so few?

I'm a serious Little House on the Prairie addict, and one of my favorite episodes is "The Richest Man in Walnut Grove." Obviously the Ingalls family has little money and makes do with what they have. But to Charles, his riches come from having a loving family, and that's more important to him than any amount of money. I think most of us moms agree.

I don't know how much stock to put in the article, because really, all it shows to me is that these women knew how to pick 'em. I'm sure they have advisers to help them manage the fortunes they've acquired, so for some - maybe with the exception of Fidelity Investments' Abigail Johnson - it has little to do with having a head for business.

I know the economy is bad, etc. etc. etc. I know that living on one income is rough, because we've done it since even before we had kids. I know that for many families there is no choice but to have both parents working just to make ends meet. But I also know people who are a slave to their lifestyles: two (or three) cars, a summer house, swimming pool, and all the trimmings. Everyone in the family has a cell phone, satellite tv, more clothes than they could possibly wear, and toys out the ying-yang, yet "we don't have any money!" I guess the basic necessities are different from one family to another, but making real sacrifices to make ends meet (like ditching the premium cable package and choosing another cell phone plan) might save you some money each month. (Actually, we got rid of cable and switched to TracFone and are probably saving like $100 or more each month now.)

But I also know families of working mothers who choose a career for reasons that are inexplicable to me. One mom is concerned about tenure at her teaching position and sends her daughter to daycare, even during times she is off from school. Another mom works at a high-paying job even though her son has a terminal illness that will eventually claim his life before he's old enough to get married and have a family of his own. We get told every day by little old ladies hunched over from age that "these times go by fast, enjoy them!" and somehow, I don't know if we believe them. We nod and smile and think, "What a crazy old bat!" And yet, when things slow down and I have a moment to catch my breath, I think about that time and wonder where it went, even as a stay-at-home-mom who has had them all day, every day.

I can't help but think of the old adage, 'Money can't buy happiness.' One of the women on the list has one daughter, and they aren't even on speaking terms (related to her giving away millions of her vast fortune to someone other than her kid.) For others, it's never enough, and they always wish they had more.

For me, and probably most of us, having our children by our side, whenever we can, makes us way richer than these ladies.


TracyKM said...

I totally agree. I worked (very) part time before having kids, so we based our lifestyle from the start on one income. Then I read "Two Income Trap" and patted myself on the back.
I have a SIL who married an American, got her green card/citizenship, then suddenly 'didn't have the same goals' as her husband...she didn't want kids. They split up. Less than two years later, she was married to Mr.Rich and had a baby. Even though her company allowed for 3 years off (not paid), she was going to take 6 weeks only! She had her mother, her MIL, her husband, AND a nanny during those 6 weeks. Later, she eventually took some time off (when kid turned 2!), but the live-in nanny stayed! I don't understand it but there are definately days I wish I had a nanny! LOL.

The Deranged Housewife said...

I just want my mother. Forget the nanny. I live about 5 1/2 hours away from family so there are times when it's just us and no one but friends, and I don't feel comfortable dumping three kids off on people who already have their own kids. We've had illness, emergencies, you name it.

I've heard people say "How can you expect them to do for money what you won't do for love?" It sounds harsh, but in some cases, I think it's true. Once that time is gone, it's gone. I remember how happy I was when my mom went back to school and quit her job - I was 15 - it meant she would be home during the day! Even then, I thought that was awesome! :D