Lessons from Ann Romney's RNC speech: Most parents can give children a 'leg-up'

Ann Romney's story of early married life with Mitt tells of the importance of parents putting a little aside for their children each year.

Photo: Associated Press

WASHINGTON, DC, August 31, 2012  - Cynicism may not let some people accept the romantic love story that Ann Romney spun to audiences Tuesday night as she co-headlined the Republican National Convention, but woven in her message is a great lesson for parents.

Ann took the stage to pitch to the American people why she believes her husband would be best able to lead the country. In doing that, she relayed her early years living off of the dividends from a stock Mitt cashed out while the couple attended college and raised their young family.

Back in October 1994, when Mitt was running for Senate, Ann spoke to reporter Jack Thomas of the Boston Globe and relayed how Mitt’s dad had purchased stock at $6 per share which had multiplied to $96 per share by the time Mitt and Ann had married.

With that money, Mitt was able to sustain a comfortable though not too posh life for his himself and his wife while they were students at Brigham Young University and later when Mitt attended Harvard Business School and through the birth of their first three sons.  Their idea of “struggling” may not be the same for all. Ann told the Globe about how they ate pasta and tuna fish, cobbled furniture together to make desks, and how she never expected help.

Matt Rourke/Associated Press

“’We had our first child in that tiny apartment. We couldn’t afford a desk, so we used a door propped on sawhorses in our bedroom,” she told Thomas.  “’The funny thing is that I never expected help…I never expected our parents to take care of us. They’d visit, laugh and say, we can’t believe you guys are living like this.’” 

Of course, many would say that getting a cash gift from the folks to live for 5 years is plenty help that many students would appreciate. 

Also, plenty of students would have been lucky if they were able to forgo the high price of rent and purchase a home their dad owned for $42,000 and pay less in mortgage than most people paid in rent.

Mitt later sold that home for $90,000, more than double what it what he paid for it. That is a pretty sweet deal.

Mitt and Ann had lived off of $60,000 for those years, which is roughly equivalent to about $377,000 today.

Aaaah. The benefits of generational wealth.

The truth of the matter is it is that there are many families that have such wealth which gives them a leg up. However, there is nothing stopping families and parents today, who maybe didn’t have that type of benefit, from taking steps to help their children along the same way Mitt’s dad did.

Even in today’s challenging economy, many low to middle income class families still indulge in tiny luxuries that could easily be forgone, with the money used to fund certain lifestyle choices quartered off into a college or future savings account for kids. We parents partake in costly, extraneous activities, daily, weekly, monthly and annually that if modified slightly would go a long way to building generational wealth for our children. 

Many complain about being cash strapped, but many people, even while struggling still find money from somewhere to engage in pleasures that are not really necessary.

That twice daily latte habit, those 10 bucks in weekly lottery tickets weekly, that purchase of a round of beer for the guys twice a month, bi-weekly manicure appointments, Brazilian weaves, monthly tickets to the game, and eating out twice weekly, all if curtailed or scaled back could help build wealth.

On average, 49 weeks of wasteful weekly spending of $10 a day,  amounts to $1,960 a year. That money invested in a high yielding mutual fund with heavy stock investments, averaging 8% a year, in 30 years, would grow to $240,000, nearly a quarter million dollars.

Do the same, but put that in a 529 plan for the kids which is aggressively managed with a mix of stocks and bonds would grow enough money to afford a child to put himself through college, grad school, put down on a home or to provide seed capital for a business. 

The math is pretty simple. Cut out the excess fluff.

Generational wealth gives a tremendous leg up to the children in those families but it doesn’t have to be limited to “old money” people. Rising middle class families can do the same.

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Jeneba Ghatt
Jeneba Jalloh Ghatt is a former journalist turned lawyer turned citizen journalist. Currently, she manages her boutique communications law firm, where she has represented small businesses and nationally-recognized civil and consumer rights organizations before the United States Supreme Court, federal courts and the FCC. She also covers the White House and US Congress for the online news site Politic365.com while authoring her own influential blog JenebaSpeaks.com which is frequently accessed by top policy makers and think tanks, and the investment community. JenebaSpeaks.com focuses on the intersection of politics and technology and reports on policies and rules in the communications and tech sector.
Before opening her law firm, The Ghatt Law Group, which was the first communications firm owned by women and minorities, Jeneba regulated Comcast and Starpower as the Assistant General Counsel for the District of Columbia's Office of Cable Television and Telecommunications, and at one point was the only communications regulatory attorney in the entire city. She is founding member and policy chair for a new trade association, the National Association of Multicultural Digital Entrepreneurs and provides advice and counsel to new businesses in the tech industry, particularly small businesses owned by women and minorities.

Born in Sierra Leone, West Africa, but raised in the United States by her Catholic mom and Muslim dad, she started her college career creating web content for one of the earliest websites in history while working part time for the University of Maryland's Office of Technology. Following her graduation from the Catholic University of America, Columbus School of Law, she founded and co-wrote one of the earliest blogs and since then has gone on to found and author six different widely read and influential blogs. She was one of only 22 writers and bloggers to attend the first White House summit for African American media.
She holds a Certificate in Communications Law Studies from Catholic; a Juris Doctor from there as well, and a Master of Law in advocacy degree from the Georgetown University Law Center where she first taught and lectured as a Staff Attorney and Graduate fellow at that law school's Institute for Public Representation. She later went on to teach Media Law at the University of Maryland at College Park and guest lecture at Yale Law School and Penn State University, College of Telecommunications. She is well skilled and versed with social media and manages several Twitter, Facebook, Linked In accounts and groups.
She sits on the board of several non profits and trade associations.

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