Thursday, July 31, 2008

Please, give me the strength to spend a windfall wisely

You know how I love watchin' my Oprah. Say what you will; it's pretty good television. Yesterday was about people who unwisely spend millions after winning the lottery or inheriting money. One guy did a social experiment where he gave a homeless man $100,000 to see if it would change his life. A year later and the guy has spent through the money and is homeless again. What I love is that Oprah called him on the carpet about his foolish choices. He was complaining that he ever got the money in the first place. Oprah basically called him ungrateful and said many people would love to have $100,000 to do whatever they please with it--but she did it in her very diplomatic, Oprah-ish way

Being around our old homeless friend Douglas, we learned pretty quickly that homelessness really does seem like a life choice. Douglas had mutliple job offers while he stayed with us, but he always turned them down. I know there are exceptions, but for the majority, it's a choice. But truthfully, how many of us are just a family-member away from being leaches on society? I grew up with a wealthy grandma. Actually, in my adult years I've learned she wasn't really "wealthy" but more "better off than us." My grandparents sent a letter when we were young that they would like to help each of the grandkids with college. When the time came, however, and especially after Grandpa died, Grandma wasn't so "forthcoming" with the money. To put it shortly, I didn't see a penny from this college fund.

But here's the point I'm getting at: hooray for Grandma! I used to be kind of bitter and upset by it, but now I'm glad I forged through college on my own (and some government help via Stafford loans). Grandma may have had a lot of money, but if she would've spent through it willy nilly-like, she may not have much of it now when she needs it most--and then she'd be a burden on her children. Her money is her money. We can, and should, be able to make it on our own. And Grandma did let me live with her while I went to BYU my first year, and she let me use a car she bought for more than four years. The next year I lived on my own, and I can still remember that incredibly great feeling of being nearly completely independent (Mom and Dad would still occasionally throw me a bone, and they paid for my car insurance.) I put a very high value on independence. I only have four more months of paying on my student loans; hallelujah. I fear that if I ever do happen onto a lot of money that I would pepper it on my family with vacations, expensive gifts, and hand-outs. What I took away from the Oprah show is that I will definitely be keeping any windfalls top secret. You won't be reading about it on my blog anytime soon.


Fish said...

Great! So, can I spot me some cash? I just need a few thousand dollars for . . .. something really important. It'll be the last time I ask. Plus, it'll totally change my life.

MarySquare said...

I guess I benefited from the Grandma College Fund, not only did I live in her house my sophomore year of college, like you did your freshman year, but I think she paid for most of my housing when I lived in the dorms my freshman year. I know I (the govt) paid for a month or two's worth with my leftover pell grant money but I'm pretty sure Grandma picked up the rest of the tab.

And I saw that Oprah episode too -- I do think homelessness is a choice to a certain extent, but after working with people in RS, you realize, some people literally do not have the skills to be self-sufficient. For a lot of people it seems, if they didn't learn these skills in childhood and young adulthood, they will never be able to master them.

Like that homeless guy that got the $100,000. He went out and financed an expensive truck. You and I would never do something like that because we know about interest rates and car depreciation and buying something you truly can't afford (even if you think you can). This guy didn't know that stuff. He had no financial skills. It was like giving an 8 year old $100,000 worth of allowance -- of course he's going to blow it. (stepping off soap box now...)

Morkthefied said...

No, that's not all true. The producers of the movie set him up with a financial counselor to help him learn how to best spend the money. And they purposely chose a guy who didn't have a drug addiction, passed a psychological evaluation, etc. And I might be tempted to spend a big chunk of the money on a new car...that still doesn't mean I should be ungrateful about getting the money.

Morkthefied said...

And to make myself clear, because I didn't in the blog post, I don't think it would have been BAD for Grandma to give us the college money. But for whatever reason, she didn't. It made things a bit tougher, but I made it through nevertheless. Kulani and I view paying for children's education as an investment: you set them up for some type of work or career and they can support themselves for the rest of their lives. Less likely to mooch off us into their 30s, 40s, and beyond. But Grandma is Grandma and we love her and I have made peace with the whole college fund thing.