I wonder if you saw the television series “Mildred Pierce” that recently ran on Sky. I am one of those people who likes to see things through to the end, despite my feelings that perhaps this was one of the dullest dramas that I have seen for some time, I struggled with it to conclusion. Sadly, even some of my favourite actors could not salvage this from being a very heavy-handed series that could and should have been an awful lot shorter (by half!). Too much of the idealised mother in the writing and editing. Sadly, this trailer is probably what got such great actors involved with the project, which is otherwise as slow and painful as watching paint dry. HBO should have taken a knife to this and cut it down by 60% or more!
The basic plot line was of an American woman (Mildred Pierce) played by Kate Winslet who struggles to come to terms with the disappointments of her life. Her husbands failing business exposes their own marital problems and Mildred is left to find work to provide for her family. No easy task during the great depression of the 1930’s and a society that values people based upon how much and how old their money is.
Mildred becomes something of an entrepreneur, setting up a restaurant which flourishes and multiplies in California. Her business is based upon understanding what the customer wants and providing this with little fuss. One might say – focus. The irony of her inability to successfully understand and parent her children is not lost on the audience which results in possibly the most selfish and grotesque spoiled daughter (Veda) since Scarlett O’Hara. Mildred constantly attempts to buy her daughters affection and is unable to let her go/grow up which is surprising given how ungrateful Veda is.
Mildred gets into a financial mess by over-stretching herself and some poor but creative accounting. As a consequence she is forced to face a few truths, which she largely ignores and eventually turns to protect the source of her financial ruin, but in doing so finds her daughter (now a prima donna in every possible way) taking her betrayal to its conclusion.
So why do I bring this to your attention? Sadly, wanting something does not make it happen. Mildred wanted to avoid poverty and initially succeeds but failed to think about the life she really wanted to live. She wanted her children to have a better life than she had, but failed to appreciate the difference between capital wealth and emotional wealth. She wanted a good marriage, but failed to invest in her relationship. She wanted a good business, but failed to take the advice of those that cared about its success.
The flush of early success can be enchanting for many, but how to wisely handle wealth is a skill that does not come quickly. Our culture tends to view the accumulation of money as the measure of wealth and success, yet we all know that this is a very flawed measure. Cast an eye on many of the wealthy despots around the world. Emotional wealth and security are vital ingredients in understanding how to handle money well. This is something that a good financial planner will prompt for thought and perhaps discussion. This is not a terribly “British” topic, yet we can observe the evidence of a history of lives in ruin of people who seemed to “have it all”. This is why I believe that to achieve great financial planning, I need to understand the values and aspirations of my clients. I do this without judgement, but I may challenge assumptions and motivations so that everyone is clear about the purpose and objective behind the plan.
So if you want to ruin your children, spoil them rotten and teach them as little as possible about the value of money or hard work. Keep them in the dark about how finances impact decisions and above all give them everything you can and ideally everything you never had yourself. This is not a strategy I would advise.
On Sunday 18th September 2011, Kate Winslett won an Emmy for her role as did Guy Pearce both for their acting.