Tom Purcell: Bribing kids’ way into the ‘easy life’ robs them of true happiness |
Tom Purcell, Columnist

Tom Purcell: Bribing kids’ way into the ‘easy life’ robs them of true happiness

Tom Purcell
In this Feb. 28, 2019 photo, actress Lori Loughlin (center) poses with daughters Olivia Jade Giannulli (left) and Isabella Rose Giannulli at the 2019 “An Unforgettable Evening” in Beverly Hills, Calif.

Boy, do I feel sorry for Lori Loughlin’s daughters.

It’s been all over the news that Loughlin and her husband allegedly paid $500,000 in bribes to get their two girls into the University of Southern California. The fellow they allegedly bribed is said to have helped them falsely identify the girls as USC crew recruits, helping them gain admission, even though neither girl had ever been part of a crew team.

Their story reminds me of a quote, source unknown, that has long stuck with me: “Surviving poverty is one thing, but surviving wealth?”

While much of the country cannot imagine having enough dough to be able to spend $500,000 to get their kids into an elite college, no small number of people do have such money to spend on such things. I feel sorry for parents who use their money to game the system for their kids, though they should know better — and even sorrier for their kids.

Because these parents are robbing their children of true happiness.

Consider: A study — conducted, ironically, at USC — found that money ultimately doesn’t make us happy.

Though it’s true that a lack of money causes stress and unhappiness, it’s also true that once people’s incomes enable them to meet their basic needs, with a little left over for some nice things like vacations, their happiness level does not increase further as their income soars further.

In other words, more stuff does not equal more happiness.

The USC researcher concluded that the more we have, the more we want, and so we end up working even harder to get even more — and have even less time to enjoy things that truly make us happy, such as good health and time with loved ones.

Status, big houses and crazy-expensive cars don’t make us happy, you see. Cheating your kids’ way into an elite university won’t do it, either. How can anyone ever feel good about “getting ahead” this way?

And being forever labeled as a cheat is surely a source of unhappiness — a label that has already cost Loughlin acting roles in Hallmark movies and one of her daughters a lucrative deal with a cosmetics company.

Lucky for me, my parents had limited financial means, but blessed me with massive wealth in many other ways.

For starters, they knew that if I were to be a successful, happy adult, I’d have to earn it through hard work and sacrifice — and failure.

Allowing their children to experience failure is one of the best gifts that parents can give them. Through failure, we learn what we’re not good at — and, eventually, where our true talents lie.

Sure, failure is a painful experience. But if we’re smart enough to learn from it, it’s a far better experience than the queasiness that shrouds our feelings when our “success” results from cheating.

Only when real success finally comes — only when we’re recognized for our hard work and for accomplishing things that are meaningful and benefit the world — can we enjoy true happiness.

Some Americans who have unimaginably vast financial resources are burdened with choices that those of lesser means will never confront. And some of those wealthy Americans, who really should know better, make poor choices that rob not just themselves, but also their children, of true accomplishment and real happiness.

And that’s why I feel so sorry for Lori Loughlin’s daughters.

Freelance writer Tom Purcell of Library is author of “Misadventures of a 1970s Childhood.” Visit him on the web at

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