Once there was a man named Joe. More specifically, his name was Joseph Patrick Kennedy, Sr. Born in Boston in 1888, Joe made a great fortune as a financier on Wall Street, through big real estate deals, and in bootleg booze. He was also well connected politically, chairing the Securities and Exchange Commission, directing the US Maritime Commission, and serving as US Ambassador to the United Kingdom. Joe made a ton of money and set up a trust fund large enough to guarantee financial security for his children, grand children, and generations beyond.
Joe and his wife Rose had four sons; the first generation of his “trust fund” babies. The oldest son, Joe Jr., was Joe Senior’s anointed favorite to lead the Kennedy financial and political fortunes, but he was tragically killed in a bomber explosion during World War II. The three remaining first generation trust fund boys were John, Bobby, and Ted. John became President of the United States while Bobby and Ted were both elected to the US Senate. Tragically, John and Bobby were both assassinated. Ted is currently dying from brain cancer, so we’ll put the best spin possible on this by saying that he has lived a reckless private life punctuated with extreme irresponsibility and alcoholism.
John Kennedy’s children, John Jr. and Carolyn are classic examples of “second generation trust fund babies”. John Jr. was an exceptionally good-looking man who lived the high life in New York City with famous girlfriends and plenty of money. On July 16, 1999, wearing his baseball cap on backwards, he entered the cockpit of his Piper Saratoga II HP with his wife and sister-in-law for a short flight to Martha’s Vineyard. All three died that night due to “The pilot’s failure to maintain control of the airplane.” (NTSB) Carolyn got her law degree and has served on the boards of several non-profit organizations.
Carolyn withdrew her name this week from consideration to fill Hillary Clinton’s US Senate Seat. Kennedy cited “personal reasons” for the decision. In reality, she discovered that NY Governor Paterson had decided that she was no longer on the short list to be appointed to Clinton’s vacated seat. She thought it better to withdraw than to have a door shut in her face.
Carolyn got a lot of publicity in early December while cruising around upstate New York. Like all trust fund babies, her wealth and famous name were the prime reasons that she was in consideration for Clinton’s vacated position. There were problems; she was poorly informed on issues and was reluctant to answer questions from the press. Sadly for her, during interviews she repeatedly used the phrase “you know”. While speaking, she used the word “um” to excess. Vocalized pauses occur when the brain is trying to complete the thought process during speech. It appears that Caroline “vetted herself out” in the process of courting Governor Patterson’s favor.
So what’s the point of this blog? Joe Kennedy’s children and grandchildren may be the most well-known examples of the dangers of being a “trust fund” baby. Alas, a life with massive wealth and a guaranteed ivy-league education may actually be more of a curse than a blessing. Of course, John and Carolyn wanted to succeed, but the wolf was never really at their doors. Most of the time, spoiled kids just don’t accomplish much. This doesn’t mean that they are bad people; it just means that they’re born with the “lack of incentive” curse. It also appears that successive generations of trust fund babies may be less qualified than their parents. For example, it appears that Joe Sr. was more accomplished than his Presidential Son, John. John, on the other hand, was unquestionably sharper than either of his children.
As you trudge off to work tomorrow morning, in dire need of the next paycheck and unable to spoil your kids because you need to pay the utility bill, remember that you’ve spared your children a great deal of grief. They will prosper according to their hard work and ability. That’s not such a bad thing.