Always in the back of my mind is that if
I save money on X, I will have more to give away, and
if I indulge myself with Z, I will have less. I'm not
even mildly deprived. I travel, live in a nice house,
and plan on buying a new car soon. Yet the numbers do
make a difference to me. I would never buy a $50,000 car
or even spend $100 on a pair of pants. I just love giving
money away. It feels wonderful!
My husband can't conceive of giving money away.
He used to be on food stamps and he had a $20,000 debt
when I met him because he had cancer and no health insurance.
Now he just LOVES to spend, spend, spend, and I feel he
even flaunts things in front of friends who can't afford
them. I want to gently bring to his awareness the idea
that we should be grateful, grateful, grateful and think
beyond ourselves. How can I lovingly interrupt this affluenza?
I have my "other half" to think about. I consider
the money I inherited to be ours and, through no pressure
from my husband, I want to consider him in my calculations
about how much to give. He is a talented artist and carpenter
who creates some beautiful things that wouldn't be possible
if I gave away too much money and he had to work a 9 to
5ish job instead.
I give money to nonprofit organizations,
but I am very careful about how much I give. As someone
who has worked a number of blue-collar jobs, I know that
the likelihood of my being able to earn the kind of money
I've inherited is very small. Certainly, the statistics
on women's earning power confirm this. I even worry that
I could end up as a bag lady if I give too much away.
A friend offered me the best antidote for this I've heard.
She said, "Sarah, if you ever were a bag lady, you'd be
the most creative one out there." We laughed, and a little
of the fear went away, but it still lingers.
When I worked for a living, I really didn't
worry much about the future. Now that I am financially
independent, my fear is that it's all downhill from here.
When I look at this squarely and see it for the kooky
greed and neurotic insecurity it is, and forgive myself,
I find I can let it go, both literally and figuratively.
I remind myself that I've been without much money before
and was happy, and that I can live that way again. Focusing
on this allows me to let more of my money go to where
it's really needed, i.e. the various organizations that
I contribute to.
For a long time I gave away 50 percent of
my taxable income (not my actual income) because that
is what was deductible. A couple of years ago, my taxable
income dropped dramatically (though not my real one) and
my accountant told me I "couldn't" give away so much that
year. That provoked some real thinking on my part, and
I decided I wouldn't let the government or my accountant
make that decision for me. So now I give what I want,
and it's more than 50 percent.
For many years, our family advisors had
assumed that they were grooming me as a customer. When
I told them that I was going to give half of my mother's
estate away, they immediately drafted a letter from me
to them (they even made "stationery" with a fancy typeface
for my name and address) requesting the immediate termination
of the 25-year old relationship with my family.
When my wife died, I donated our farm to the
a nature study preserve and moved to New
Mexico to be closer to my children.
Because I did not receive any proceeds from the farm,
I had to take money out of my investment portfolio to
purchase a new home. I was pretty uneasy as to where I
stood financially, and wondered if I had enough to keep
sat down with a financial planner and told him: "Here
is what I have and how it is managed. My kids agree that
they need no inheritance from me, but I don't want to
burden them if I someday need to be in an expensive nursing
home over a protracted time. How much of my invested money
must I reserve to protect my retirement income against
the vagaries of the market and the nursing home contingency?"
He understood my goals and figured it out for me.
he said, "go have fun with the rest." He knew what that
meant, because he was aware of the community projects
in which I was involved. (I had even gotten him to be
treasurer of one of them.) So, with a solid plan in mind,
I began to give substantial gifts again.
© 1990-2005, More Than Money, All rights reserved