Wednesday, May 29, 2024

Money & Kids: Material Wears Out but Knowledge Stays

“Rather than buying your kids all the things you never had, you should instead teach them all the things you were never taught. Material wears out but knowledge stays”. These words are some of the many quotes by the legendary Bruce Lee whose legacy still lives today. The Generation Z may have missed the chance to enjoy Lee’s Kung Fu moves on television, but his wisdom, hard work and discipline are still a source of inspiration and motivation. 

Bruce Lee, whose real name is Lee Jun-Fan, was a Chinese actor who was born in San Francisco but raised in Hong Kong. According to the Bruce Lee Foundation, he landed his first acting role as a child in 1941, when he was just a year old. He died at a tender age of 32 in 1973 having achieved what many would only dream of.  Although he is famous for his Kung Fu acting career, he is also recognised for paving a way for the introduction of modern mixed martial arts in the west, through his philosophy and establishment of Kung Fu schools. 

In 1993, years after his passing, the Hollywood Chamber of Commerce honoured him with a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame. It is evident that his legacy still remained even after his passing. His discipline, dedication and humanitarian achievement accorded him a global icon status. Personally, I would say he challenged the status quo, in a foreign country, at a tender age, and succeeded remarkably. 

One may wonder what Bruce Lee’s background has anything to do with kids and money. Well, a lot actually. Firstly, Bruce Lee was introduced to martial arts and acting by his parents at the age of 16 to take him out of the street fights. Martial arts is a self-defence sport similar to Karate and Judo that requires utmost discipline. Clearly, his parents realised that he needed this to put his energy into good use. His parents were actively involved in Lee’s life, exposing him to various character building activities from an early age. 

Secondly, these words, “material wears out but knowledge stays” perfectly link to Lee’s childhood upbringing and success. Also, coming from a father of two, I believe these words have an inordinate impact to any parent reading this. We want our kids to have the finest things in life, especially those things that we wish we had growing up. It could be fashionable clothes or trendy gadgets. Unfortunately, the excitement that comes from having a new video game or the latest shoe brand would eventually fade, but the knowledge of how to save up for that video game will last our kids a lifetime. It is this inner pressure to make up or compensate the opportunities we missed that can distract us from focusing on the fundamental lessons we could give our kids – that we may have missed or that we believe they need. 

However, I recognise that parents from a less priviledged background sometimes feel the pressure to give their children everything that they never had growing up. Rather than focusing on missed material possessions, it may be wiser, to focus on the lessons that you wish your parents taught you about money. It could be simple lessons about the value of time, introducing your kids to activities that teach discipline and leadership skills like Bruce Lee, or practical lessons on delayed gratification. I believe this is the best gift you can give your child – knowledge. The expensive toys and gifts pass away, but the life lessons that we give our kids can withstand the test of time. 

Disclaimer:  Otisitswe K. Tawana-Madziba is the founder of Fin-Edu. For comments, kindly send an email to [email protected] or visit


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