Teaching Children To Grow Money: The John Gokongwei Story

Teaching The Little Ones To Fish

Teaching The Little Ones To Fish

I look at C and ask myself: How do I teach her about money philosophy?  Forget philosophy.  How do I teach her about money?  It looks like such a daunting task.  Can it be taught?  I decided I would tell her stories.

Stories of the childhood of entrepreneurs always fascinated me.  There was always this one fateful episode that would alter their path, make them entrepreneurs and lead them to untold riches – a parent’s influence, a disadvantage, an early realization that it is money which makes the world go round, and that they have got to have it on their side.


John Gokongwei belonged to a family of rich migrants.  He had it all as a kid.  He was such a gallant young man that there were days when he would treat all of his classmates to a movie at the cinema his father owned.  But at 13, his father died and he lost it all.

All.  Worse, as the eldest, he found that he had to step into his father’s shoes.  He did not know anything about feeding mouths.  He had to stop school and would take his bike and peddle soap, thread and candles.  This bike gave way to a small boat and the business of tires.  The war came and at 15, from ground zero, he had an epiphany – he was an entrepreneur.  He relished all the roles life threw on his path: as trader-importer, bodegero, corn miller, business genius.   He encapsulated his spectacular life in one speech he gave:

“But I chose to live my life unafraid even during times when I WAS afraid. I discovered that opportunities don’t find you; you find your opportunities. I found those opportunities when my father passed away, when war came, through changes in presidents and their policies, during martial law, despite coup de etats, past economic boom and busts, and in the midst of market shifts and movements… Call it trite–but, believe me, success CAN BE ACHIEVED through hard work, frugality, integrity, responsiveness to change–and most of all, boldness to dream. These have never been just easy slogans for me. I have lived by them.  I hope that many of you in this room will some day choose to be entrepreneurs. Choose to be entrepreneur because then YOU create value. Choose to be an entrepreneur because the products, services, and jobs you create then become the lifeblood of our nation. But most of all, choose to be an entrepreneur because then you desire a life of adventure, endless challenge, and the opportunity to be your BEST SELF.”

As I stop, I look at my C, wondering how the story is affecting her.  Is she too young, too inexperienced, meant not to be touched – at least, not yet – by stories about money…?  She looked puzzled, but interested.  D, on one side of the room, is smiling, probably recalling his own stories.  I have none, having been the product of parents who were stable financially, neither poor nor rich – but probably, that is my story.  This life of an entrepreneur – this life of adventure, endless challenge and opportunity to be her best self – I want for my daughter.  But I realize too that she has to choose it.  She has potential, I think – she did enjoy going caroling door to door during Christmas, earning (and spending!) her own money.  Yes, I can give her little nudges down that path, continue to tell her stories, finance a venture, and maybe, together, we can learn the lessons.

I am excited.

Be rich,


Article by Issa.  Art by D. Copyright 2009.
Website: www.YouWantToBeRich.com
Email: [email protected]

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  1. Ayeh says:

    I like the design. it is simple but colorful. the information is very useful as well.

  2. Glenda says:

    Hi Issa! I find your blog very interesting. I chanced upon it only this morning, and it’s a long story to trace back how I found it. Anyway, this particular blog struck me because of this story. I have a child too. She is 11 and does not have any idea on how to handle money even though I have started a few years back on urging her to save. But just yesterday, as we were strolling in the mall, she suddenly asked me why people living in the streets have more children. (She is an only child.) As a good mother I always try to be, I tried answering her query until our conversation went to saving money. I was still struggling at making her realize the value of money when all of a sudden she handed over the Php500.00 allowance her Lolo gave, for me to add to her bank account. This is when I realized that I hit the jackpot!

    Just wanted to share,

    Tell D his art is cool.

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