The news: Some rags-to-riches celebrities still remember where they came from — and really hate trust funds.
The former lead singer of the Police has announced that his children won't be walking in "fields of gold"; that is, they won't inherit any of his estimated $300 million fortune. In an interview with the Daily Mail, Sting said, "I don't want to leave them trust funds that are albatrosses 'round their necks."
His decision stems from his own experiences growing up in England, where he played in pubs for 10 pounds a night. His own mother was a hairdresser, and his father was a milkman. He didn't want his kids to lack the understanding of what it meant to make their own money.
Sting is not alone: He happens to be the latest in a growing number of celebrities who have decided to withhold their wealth from their offspring. Nigella Lawson, the food writer and TV personality worth an estimated $25 million, has decried inheritance as something that "ruins people." Former New York City mayor Michael Bloomberg, whose net worth is reportedly $19.5 billion, said he would give "nearly all of [his] net worth" away. And Bill Gates, who might be the poster child for the wealthy giving it all away, once said that keeping his money in the family "wouldn't be good either for my kids or society." He even helped start the Giving Pledge, the goal of which is for the world's wealthiest citizens to donate 50% of more of their wealth to charity.
But others haven't been as generous. Sam and Holly Branson are set to inherit their father Richard's almost $5 billion empire; Rupert Murdoch, the News Corp. magnate, inherited his first few newspapers from his father, and has divided his trust into six equal parts for his children; Donald Trump is also forgoing donating and instead will split his massive nest egg between his three kids.
The takeaway: Income inequality is on an unending upward climb, and many fear that inheritance could soon be the new battleground for wealth disparity. Although that doesn't yet appear to be the case, it's on the horizon — one study estimates that it will start happening in the next 30 to 40 years.
Image Credit: Accenture
It's natural to want to pass your spoils down to your children, but the wealthy already do this in non-material ways: quality education, housing, health. Sting and others are setting an admirable example. He's not advocating complete abandonment, but instead an environment where self-reliance is prized. Not a bad way to be remembered when the west wind blows.