It stands to reason that that question, although unasked, is likely in the minds of people out here who have known me a few years. I never hid, although I did not often mention, that I came into money when my parents died in 2002 and 2003.
Three answers. One: I lived on it for about eight years. Two: Most went into the house. Three: Some went (rather compulsively because it made me feel good) into buying pretty things.
The inheritance was released in dribs and drabs over six years, so there was never enough at any given point to invest and live on. I do wish it had all come at once; I would have faced the decisions about investments once, put most of it into long-term investments I wouldn’t be tempted to spend, and made a home with the rest.
But I can’t blame anyone but myself for not putting the money to better use. It was me who made the bad decisions, me who over-improved my money pit of a house, and me who bought more pretty stuff than I had room for.
There. I’ve broken what my first fundraising trainer called the “cone of silence” around money. Never talking about money permits unequal wealth distribution to continue unchallenged. It reinforces the myth that any American can get rich (which is less true now since more and more wealth become concentrated in the hands of fewer and fewer people in the last 30 years. Thus the Occupy movement.)
Also, never talking about money keeps many of us, like me, ignorant about what to do with it if and when large sums of money do arrive. My parents never talked with me about money management. Even though they were savvy business people who built two successful businesses, they rarely discussed strategies and major decisions. When my father died and I had to take over management of his investments, I discovered that I hated it. HATED it. Mostly because I didn’t know who to trust, and never found an advisor I thought had my best interests at heart, even thought I worked only with….what-cha-ma-call-its who are certified to put the client’s interest before theirs. Dad’s advisors were all sharks who charmed him by taking him to baseball games.
I talked with an advisor or two who specialized in socially responsible investing. I looked at the television shows and books that discussed gender differences in attitudes about money and advised women about investing. I settled on a likable and competent advisor in the city, and he mapped out a financial plan, but it was not his role to discuss the decisions I was making about the home renovations. I had no one with whom to discuss those decisions — no family, no friend close enough to look over my shoulder.
I had way too much fun renovating the house. I hope the next owner values the creativity the house displays.
Bye bye money. Here’s another word, like “homeless,” that is difficult to apply to myself: “impoverished.” I’m poor. I’m living in poverty.
Pshah. I’m living as I’m living. And I still have that certificate of deposit that matures in six years. It is not enough to live comfortably forever, but it does separate me from “the poor” in terms of wealth. And disqualifies me from all public assistance like food stamps or housing help.
If I can just make it six years.