What an interesting situation emerging in the USA where rich families are using every trick in the book to get their children into Ivy League universities. In order to be accepted into the university, a scam costing fortunes has allegedly been going on. It has been reported to involve the fraudulent misrepresentation of their academic or sporting prowess.

As the US population has grown the most prestigious universities haven’t proportionally increased their student numbers making acceptance that much more difficult and revered. For those with less ability but more money, the old method of making large donations is no longer a guarantee.

Most interesting to me is WHY? Why do these parents and children want to be seen to be graduates of, or at least to have been accepted by these universities? I completely understand the prestige associated with these institutions, and I’m sure I to would have loved to have graduated from one. But, that very prestige is from the personal satisfaction and achievement that comes from the grind and perseverance, not the money.

There is always a deeper reason. Are the parents doing it for themselves or for their children? How aware are they of the long-term impact on their children? They must think it will be a positive one – but will it be? What will this action do to the relationships between parent and child – over the long-term?

A short-term decision can often have long-term consequences not ever contemplated but which could easily have been avoided. At the end of the day, it’s all about choices and it’s within these choices that the relationship of cause and effect needs to be contemplated.

Parents and grandparents almost always try to do the best for their children. The intentions are always good. In most cases it revolves around the desire to reduce the child’s pain or makelife more enjoyable. It’s completely natural. Money is almost always a component and often, the component causing the complexity.

Providing capital for a deposit on a home purchase, paying for a car or education – there are so many ways parents help. There are no rules and every situation is different but every decision has consequences. An apparently minor decision in the short-term can have dire consequences years later. In my own time as a parent of younger children, I made it easier for myself when I realised that one day, somehow and with someone, my children would learn the key lessons of life. And I wanted to teach them these lessons in a loving, protected environment rather than force them to learn them a lot later in a much tougher and more painful way.

What messages were these US parents sending to their children. “If you can’t get what you want, break the rules until you do”. Even if they got away with it, surely it was a matter of time before these children would have been taught a very painful lesson by people who didn’t care. As it turns out, the lessons are going to be very painful.

Money on its own means nothing. It’s inert. It’s empty until it is filled with meaning. And it’s being aware of that meaning that is so critical because money creates a multiplier effect. It’s like one of those distortion mirrors – it exaggerates who you are. For many, the meaning of money is something to do with power or pleasure. In the case of the US parents, it seems to have been power.

If they had more self-awareness and were able to contemplate what they were actually doing, they may have made better decisions in the short-term. In the same way, when any decision is made where money is involved, it’s important to have the awareness to understand the deeper, long-term reason for the decision and check whether it is aligned.

It’s very apparent when dealing with clients who are clear and secure in who they are, how little impact the change in the value of their portfolio makes on their outlook. With self-awareness and a focus on the bigger issues, they are able tomake better short-term decisions.