An Ode to Moms: Building Generational Wealth


Emily Elmore | 08 May 2020

For parents, worrying about kids is second nature. It’s likely you’ve considered how your parents provided for you, or wondered how best to provide for your children now and after you’re gone. If you’ve considered either of these, you have mulled over the concept of “generational wealth”.

Generational wealth, as its name implies, is wealth that is passed down from one generation to another. This is through the accumulation of assets for the future to provide financial security.

It may surprise you to know that even “rich” families typically can’t sustain their wealth beyond two generations. Why is this true? Portfolio diversification, planning, and ownership are three big reasons that families fail to sustain wealth. Financial literacy and a financial ally can pay big dividends within all three of these areas when preparing to build wealth for children and grandchildren.

At Nav.it, our financial allies come in many flavors, to include our teammates. Some of us are moms, and our kids largely motivate our financial decisions. Other team members benefited from financial alliance with Mom (or other guardian) as children and young adults. This Mother’s Day, we want to share our plans and lessons learned for building wealth that can benefit you and future generations.  

Erin Papworth, Nav.it CEO and Co-Founder, chuckles when considering generational wealth strategies.

“It’s such a mom thing to do, isn’t it?”

I have to agree. The minute you become a mom, your worries have worries. I never considered generational wealth before becoming a parent, but suddenly I find myself considering the implications of failing to prepare my boys financially. Setting up a college fund is only part of that equation; self-sufficiency demands financial literacy. 

Erin continues, “My mom taught me frugality and generosity.  She was a teacher, also dedicated to supporting people through meals and volunteer activity whenever she could.  

“My step-mom taught me that women have the capacity to be highly-skilled professionals and business leaders. She went back and got a medical degree in her 30s then ran her own practice for years. Both women taught me responsibility with money in their own way, and that women are excellent money managers when given the chance.”

We tend to think of “generational wealth” as ‘banker’ or ‘Wall Street money’ but Erin highlights that doesn’t have to be the case.

For her moms, it was a “steady, consistent and frugal wealth generation built thoughtfully and consistently over time in order to sustain their retirements and pass something down in the end.”

CMO and Co-Founder Maia celebrates her mother’s lessons as well.

“I had a very fortunate upbringing and –so far– an even more fortunate adult life. We live comfortably and my parent’s financial stressors (when they came up) were never apparent to me as a child. That said, both my parents taught me the value of living well within my means. When I think about our generational wealth, I think of the stories of the women and men that have come before me to provide for the comfort I was so fortunate to live with.

“My parents never shied away from conversations about money at the dinner table and they always made a point of telling me about the successes and failures of our ancestors. I think that’s key. I learned just as much (if not more) about how not to spend my money as I did how to spend and save it. My mother specifically taught me about the value of diversification. She’s been incredibly strategic with her wealth and it’s served her well. She’s also taught me the real value of a dollar. If I wanted something I had to work hard for it, wealth is built by taking chances, but it’s sustained by thinking critically and always knowing how much it takes to earn a dollar.”

Our Content and Strategy intern, Nikki, also received excellent advice from her mother.

“My mom always told me to enjoy my money and indulge in the money I make, while considering the consequences of how much I spend,” Nikki tells me.

“She would remind me that saving is important for an emergency fund, but also to reward yourself. She taught me it’s important to be accountable with money, to use it appropriately, and plan for the future.”

On the opposite end of that spectrum, some of us lacked financial guidance growing up.

Cozetta, our Community Manager, confesses, “I don’t have any lessons that I can contribute.” She explains that this lack of financial knowledge and generational wealth mindset is a problem that exists everywhere, but especially in communities of color.

She shared this meme and joked, “I can pretty much guarantee you this is 99% of every black woman’s first lesson about money.”


It is funny; although I’m not a black woman, a lack of financial guidance is an experience I share with Cozetta. The money behaviors I was exposed to were generally unhealthy. Questions I had were more or less left unanswered, and I realized that I was better off managing money on my own. Although I had a lot of lessons learned, I’m resourceful and observing bad money management actually helped me craft positive money decisions that paid off.

Since I didn’t have a strong financial ally growing up, that alliance is important for me to share with my boys.

As they grow I want them to understand finance as a tool and not a burden, and plan to do that by expanding on fundamental concepts of earning, saving, and spending. Whether it’s selling something they make or mowing neighborhood lawns, I want them to be able to identify ways to earn, understand how to manage money, and determine what’s worth splurging on or saving for.

If I can do this with them early and often, it’ll be second nature by the time they’re adults. Hopefully I have assets to pass to them upon my death, but more importantly, I see financial literacy as the most fundamental asset I can pay forward. The knowledge and competency to not only manage inherited assets but to attain and manage their own , in my opinion, is the key to long-term generational wealth.

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