The demographic nicknamed PANKs (Professional Aunt, No Kids) or PUNKs (Professional Uncle, No Kids) is one of the growing populations targeted by marketing and travel executives. The International Business Times calls PANK travel (aunts vacationing with nieces and nephews) one of its top travel trends for 2014 … “poised to become a billion-dollar industry.” While the concept of the pampering aunt isn’t new in itself, the growing number of PANKs and PUNKs is. PANKs are a revolution against the stereotypical spinster auntie, according to Melanie Notkin (SavvyAuntie.com). “PANK dollars aren’t just going to high-tech toys and designer clothes, 32% of the demographic also contributes to a child’s education.” 50.2% of Americans were single in August 2014, which is up from 37% in 1976.
Cameron Diaz, who has no children, was present at the birth of all her three nieces and admits she spoils them rotten. “Whatever they want, they get. I cannot resist … being an aunt is the most important role in my life.”
While over-indulging and spoiling our nieces and nephews feels wonderful, what is the long-term impact, as they become young adults? Many PANKs and PUNKs are already making annual gift tax exclusion gifts to their nieces and nephews’ checking and trust accounts. What are the potential consequences of these money transfers? Here’s an unsettling story from a post on godlike productions.com:
“I inherited $250,000 from my rich aunt & uncle and now I live like a slacker and have no slave job to worry about.
LIFE COULDN’T GET ANY BETTER
I am currently 25.
I have estimated that my rent will cost me $950 a month (including bills and internet). My monthly food expenses cost $8,000 a year. And occasional buying games, doing some random sh*t, and going to movies and sh*t costs me approx. $500 a year. Total expense for 1 year: $19,000 or 12437.50 in pounds.
Since I now have $350,000 in the bank, it will last me approximately 12 years. This is my 2nd year since I inherited the stash. All I do everyday is surf the net … watch movies, read spiritualist/metaphysics/conspiracy books, play games, hire a hooker once in a while, and sleep and wake up whenever I want. Once I run out of money, I’m going to sky dive without a parachute to end my awesome life. LIFE COULDN’T GET ANY BETTER.”
Was this the hoped for result for this person’s aunt and uncle? What could have been done to enable this individual to be resilient in the face of having this $250,000 meteor land his lap?
More and more individuals and couples without children have been talking to me about their concerns around the inheritance conversation. During and following this year’s seminar (A Matter of Trust(s): Empowering our Next Generation to Thrive), I was approached with questions, such as: “Can I have an impact, or is it none of my business?” “Is it too late?” and “What role do I play as an aunt?” The answers are, “Absolutely, you have an impact.” “No, it is never too late.” And, “You do have a role, and it is different from parenting.”
At the end of this summer’s seminar, one attendee said to me, “I realized today that you were talking about me. Help me write my story in a way that is meaningful, because very soon, my nieces and nephews will be receiving the trusts that I established for them when I was 21.”
Some of the roles aunts and uncles play are that of mentor, role model, confidant, and storyteller. The stories you will share are different and often complimentary to the stories of their parents. Aunts and Uncles can open the door to qualitative conversations around wealth by sharing stories that highlight their human, social, intellectual and spiritual capitals, as opposed to the quantitative side, i.e., dollar figures. (Coming soon: What is the ‘Meaning of Wealth?’)
Let this year be the beginning of a tradition of annually sharing with your nieces and nephews, your hopes and dreams, as well as portions of your life story and lessons learned. PANKs and PUNKs who have taken the initiative to fill their annual gifts with wisdom and intention, have found this time of year to be more joyful, with the added benefit of building deeper and more generative relationships with members of their family.