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How to Make Sure Your Kids Will Be Broke

Palace at VersaillesWe finally got around to watching the Queen of Versailles earlier this week. I put it in my Netflix queue after reading Holly’s post. She really summarizes this documentary better than I could, but to recap, Queen of Versailles follows the Siegels, owners of the largest  time share company in the world in 2007. Talk about opulent lifestyles, most of us could never dream of having or even knowing about many of the things the Siegels consider normal. Even when timeshares tanked after the financial crash, and they had to stop building their 90,000 square foot mansion, their lifestyle was still better than most people in this country, yet they failed to appreciate any of it. The thing that really stood out to me was how screwed up their kids are going to be. If you want to make sure your kids will be broke, you should do exactly as the Siegels.

Since the Siegels have seven children plus a niece who lives with them, they will be sending eight adults into the world someday who will have no sense or realization about money at all. It’s really sad because at least Mr. and Mrs. Siegel come from modest backgrounds and have that memory. Mr. Siegel obviously had to work for his money. Mrs. Siegle had to look really pretty, but hey, that’s work, right? Anyway, these children are in trouble.

No Sense of Responsibility

The Siegels had about a million pets, all kinds of floofy dogs, peacocks, snakes, and other reptiles. One morning Mrs. Siegel found one of the lizards dead because no one fed or gave it water. When she questioned the kids about it, one said that nobody took her to the pet store to get food, even though lizards usually eat greens. Another kid said, “I didn’t know we had a lizard.” It was dropped in the end, so, oh well, I guess they will just get another one.

Not letting your kids take responsibility now is a great way to ensure that they will always pass the blame and never become responsible adults.

No Idea About Reality

When the Siegels had to sell their private plane, that meant flying commercial. One of the kids asked why there were so many people on the plane. They also were shocked when their rental car didn’t come with a driver.

Seriously, if I had a trillion dollars, I would make sure my kids knew how to function in the real world without waiting for the driver or butler to whisk them away. I can see why someone like Brad Pitt might not want to take his kids grocery shopping, but there were not paparazzi following these people. The importance of life skills cannot be overrated.

No Goals

At one point, Mrs. Siegel told the kids they might actually have to go to college and get jobs. What was she telling them before? I’m not sure, but I bet it involved lots of pool time and spending Daddy’s money.

I can’t imagine not making my child want to have goals and be a productive person. Even Donald Trump’s kids seem to grasp this concept, so I guess some billionaires do have standards.

Too Much Stuff to Value Anything

The Siegels were building the biggest house in America. Plans included a bowling alley, tennis courts, a roller/ice skating rink, basketball courts, and a whole separate wing for the kids.

As a parent, I sometimes wish I had a whole extra wing for my daughter, but what does giving a kid everything they can imagine really do? It turns off the ability to value anything. Why on earth would you ever try to do anything with your life if you already have everything?

I’m sure that even if this family filed for bankruptcy, they would still be living better than most of us, at least as far as monetary things. I do wonder what would happen to those kids if they truly fell on hard times.

Jim and I have worked hard to show our daughter that things don’t make you happy, and that money doesn’t grow on trees. Although we are nothing like the Siegels, we are fortunate that we can afford things like trips and dance lessons. I don’t ever want her to take opportunities for granted when there are so many people who don’t have enough to eat or proper clothes to wear. If we lost everything and had to sell all of our possessions tomorrow, I like to think we’d still be OK as long as we had our health and ability to use our minds to find a way to improve on our situation.

The Siegel children would probably just sit around and cry about the past and why they don’t get driven around in a stretch limo anymore. Without Daddy’s money, they would likely all end up broke and looking to be someone’s trophy spouse.

Have you seen the Queen of Versailles? If you were a billionaire, would you raise your kids differently?

Image: Freedigitalphotos.net/SusieB.

About Kim Parr

Kim Parr is a private practice optometrist, freelance writer, and personal financial blogger. You can follow her journey to 20/20 financial vision at Eyes on the Dollar.


  1. First of all, the site redesign looks outstanding!

    This topic is something that I have been very hard-nosed about with my own kids. At every opportunity I get I give them some kind of small job or helping task. When they want to buy something, I make them use their own money and come up with a plan on how to save for the thing they want if they don’t have enough money for that item. Accountability is a huge problem with the younger generation, and I don’t want them to always think that someone else is always going to do something for them. When you’re just starting out you need to treat yourself like an army of one and be able to take on anything.

    • I totally agree that there is some sort of disconnect with the generation behind me. Instead of think of how I can accomplish something, there’s lots of how can I get this given to me. I’m not sure what the solution is, but I am not going to let my daughter think anything is a given.

  2. Seems to me that no one who has a ton of money ever predicts that they could lose it. I think if they could, they would take at least a little bit of time to instruct their kids in a few things. But when you have that much money I’m sure they just assume that they’ll be able to take care of their kids and grandkids.

    • To be taken care of is one thing, but having a gold throne in your living room is crazy. I know it’s easy to say what I’d do in that situation, but I swear I would live very comfortably and give the rest away.

  3. I wouldn’t raise my kids any differently if I were a billionaire. Same discipline. Same responsibilities. Same work ethic being instilled in their lives. Same appreciation for and thankful attitude for the money that we have been blessed with.

    Love the new look, BTW! For a moment, thought I was at the wrong site. 🙂

    • Thanks, I feel that way when I look at the new design as well. I think I’d be even more vigilant about trying to teach good values if I was a billionaire. I can’t stand spoiled children.

  4. I forgot about the Queen of Versailles! I remember Holly recommending it and I really want to watch it. It sounds like such a ridiculous story…hard to believe it’s a true one.

  5. I saw one part of that show and it was when they were talking about the dead lizard. I didn’t even know who they were but it look like those kids are in for it. No sense of money or value. Just know they get way more than they could ever need or use. Nothing lasts forever and for a kid to say I didn’t even know we had that pet is crazy. Great new site layout and design!

  6. I was reading this wide-eyed and open-mouthed – are these people real?! I’ve never seen the documentary and I think it might make me sick to watch it! From what you’ve described, I absolutely agree: these kids are ruined. Not only do they have no understanding of how money actually works, it sounds like they have no concept of any aspect of reality. I’ve known families where the parents worked to earn their wealth, then brought up their children in this little bubble of excess. It’s those kids that are always the ones who struggle the most when they actually grow up – they don’t know how to function, (even in college, much less as adults in the workforce), because they’ve never worked for anything in their lives and don’t know the true value of anything. It’s really sad.

    • I wondered if they were real, but seems like they are. Anyone who would allow that kind of documentary and then try to roll that into being a reality star, like Mrs. Siegel is trying to do, has to live in a different reality.

  7. Great article, Kim.

    Money is hard earned and we need to manage it properly that including kids.

    • I’m sure we spoil our kid at times, but for the most part, I try to teach her how to make responsible choices and not give her whatever she wants.

  8. I think the best quote I heard was actually on The Cosby Show. Granted they weren’t billionaires but they were portrayed as having a good amount of money. When one of the kids said “we’re rich” the parents responded with “Your mom and I are rich. You have nothing.”

    I think this is how i will raise my children. I don’t want them to feel entitled – ever. I grew up with “hand me downs” (from my sisters mind you and I’m a guy!) but if it was important my parents provided it for us. Kids have to be taught the value of a dollar, otherwise we are all in a lot of trouble.

  9. I really need to add this to our Netflix queue. If we became billionaires, I really hope that we would not raise them any differently. Heck, I’d hope we’d not live all that differently save for some extra travel. The crazy thing is they probably think they’re doing great things for their kids and in the end they’re only setting them up for failure in my opinion

    • Does warren Buffett have kids? I bet they aren’t spoiled and have some sense. That’s how I would raise my daughter is we were billionaires.

  10. I watched that documentary a few months ago and it really made me sick. If you have that much money, is there really nothing better to do with it than buy useless shit? Did they ever try spending money on a cause unrelated to themselves? Another horrible example for their children.

  11. I’ve never seen it but always wondered about that show when I saw it sitting there in netflix. I think I would get too angry watching it. I’d like to think I’d do things differently if I had that kind of money and had kids. Well first I’d never in a million years get a house that big. It’s just not necessary. I think they probably will all be way too entitled, and what a nasty personality trait that is!

    • I’m not sure where it came from. The lady grew up in a tiny house in a blue collar area. Where do you ever think you need the biggest house in America?

  12. Unfortunately, I don’t think the protagonists of this story learned any lessons. They are still planning to finish the mansion and Jackie is gunning for her own reality show (http://www.dailymail.co.uk/femail/article-2341722/Americas-gaudy-Palace-Versailles-finished-2015-11-YEARS-construction.html). Jackie recently told New York Magazine, “‘We’re going to inlay the floors with a lot of onyx and amethyst and semiprecious stones!” The message to the kids? If you act entitled and whine about it long enough, you will get what you want.

  13. I watched it and they blew me away! I was just stunned at the end when David says ” Waaa, I want my private jet, and 1 other thing I forgot what it was. These people live on a different planet than us for sure.

    • I don’t want to visit that planet. I would not be able to sleep at night living in a 90,000 sq foot house while others were starving somewhere in the world.

  14. If we had a ton of money, we would still want our children to grow up the same way we did. They would have to work for their money. I would be really upset if I raised spoiled brats who no one ever wants to be around!

    • Lots of money would mean less worries about financial stuff, but I would also try to raise my kids with the same values I was raised with.

  15. FIrst off – the new design looks fantastic! Love it! 🙂 And no, I wouldn’t raise the girls differently except now we could help more people. I would want them to carry forward our legacy and not turn into a reality star/celebrity with a show on E and all their misdeeds splashed on every tabloid. With great wealth, you have the ability to help so many people. Even if you do get to fly in private planes, you should still recognize what a gift that is, how hard someone had to work so you could and want to do the same. I fear for those children.

    • I have no problem with great wealth, especially if it was earned like Mr. Siegel seemed to do. You are right that they could do good for so many people who are less fortunate. How much does it really take to live comfortably? Say what you want about people like Bill Gates, but look at how much money he’s given away. That’s what I’d hope to be known for if I was a billionaire.

  16. “…I like to think we’d still be OK as long as we had our health and ability to use our minds to find a way to improve on our situation.” Great line! It pretty much sums up my opinion on this topic — I haven’t seen Queen of Versailles but the family sounds utterly ridiculous. I can’t imagine raising children who have no grasp of how to care for themselves or contribute to their community. Money does not a productive citizen make and it’s good to see all the comments on this post agreeing with your insights!

  17. I saw this documentary and yes, it was absolutely ridiculous how much money they were spending. I think a lot of it stemmed from her not having much growing up and so she wanted to give her kids as much as possible, which is a terrible thing to do. The money won’t last forever, especially after mom and dad are gone. Kids need to earn money themselves to understand the value of it.

    • I really hope there was something redeeming about that lady. The documentary certainly didn’t show anything that I picked up on, other than maybe she did take in her niece.

  18. You mention the word value several times in your post. I think that speaks volumes – if kids don’t value anything then money is meaningless and in the end our time on earth is meaningless. Love the new site as well, especially the money dude with glasses on!

  19. If I were a billionaire I still raise my kid the same way as what I’m doing. I trained my daughter to live simple that it’s so hard to earn money and you really need to work hard for that. Being a billionaire is a true luck but you can’t tell what will happen in the future.

    • I would still want to have something to keep me motivated at the end of the day rather than designing my bowling alley or shopping for ostrich pants.

  20. Love the new look to the site!

    If we had tons of money, I don’t think we’d do a whole lot different for kids than we would otherwise. But I guess it’s tough to say since we don’t have kids or billions of dollars. =)

    • I think you’d pass along your values regardless if you had billions or not. I’m not sure how one gets so off track as to have no foot in reality whatsoever, but I don’t think any of my PF friends could get that way.

  21. Money or wealth would not change my values! I would want my children to make their own wealth, but I would support their efforts emotionally.

  22. Whoa! New layout! My eyes are burning doc!! Good job on the reskin 🙂

    It’s funny your “negative” title. I was just reading that those are reading 30% more than neutral titles, and 60% than positive titles. Kudos on the eye-catcher.

  23. Good article! Kids these days it seem have a sense of entitlement… they think they deserve something more than another person, and when that doesn’t happen (or when they “deserve” that new car or big house), it often has dire financial consequences that they aren’t prepared for. It seems like that is one of the best things a parent can instill in a child… no sense of entitlement!

  24. This is why I would never want to win the lottery or fall into some big inheritance. I value working hard for my money and I want my kids to be the same way. I have never watched the show and not sure I would want to. It really bothers me when parents raise their children to have no responsibility whatsoever.

  25. I really hate…well that’s a strong word, but I really don’t like “rich kids.” Now they are not all bad, but for the most part, I think they know nothing about reality and have a sense of entitlement. I love the very wealthy people like Gates and Buffet who say they will donate most of their fortunte because they don’t want all that money to make their kids lazy and entitled.

    • I don’t like rich kids who are waiting around to get Mom and Dad’s money. Money should not be a given just because your parents are rich.

  26. I just saw the trailer and didn’t want to watch more, they look really weird! I wonder how their kids can turn out. Most of my friends grew up with money but had great parents showing them the value of things so they are responsible, hard working and great to be around, I hope I can raise my kids that way.

  27. It’s really hard to say how I would raise my kids if I had so much money and I don’t want to speculate, but I would definitely want my children to know the value of money and understand that they have to work to earn it no matter how rich their parents may be.

    • I’m sure we would life a lot more freely than we do now as far as analyzing spending, but I would try really hard not to give my daughter everything without any sort of effort on her part.

  28. Wow, what a sad, sad situation! We have acquaintances we know who, although not in the Seigels’ league, are very, very well off and have always handed their son everything. The kid has no direction in life (late twenties now) and basically spends his days spending money and living in the house his mommy and daddy bought for him, and spends his nights at the bars, always searching for more and more outlandish stuff in which to find satisfaction and happiness. Like you said, if we were in a wealthier place, we would live a lot more freely, but there would be no slack on responsibility in this house, I certainly hope. Great post, Kim.

  29. While I haven’t watched the Queen of Versailles, I imagine that if I were a billionaire I would do my best to instill the values that made me wealthy in the first place onto my kids. Thats hardwork, integrity and independence of thought. Infact I think I would go so far to ensure they grow up knowing that there are no free rides, you either work or starve, no exceptions!

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