I'm Spending My Children's Inheritance
Posted: Saturday, December 29, 2007
by Rebecca Ashby
Have you ever seen the bumper sticker "I'm spending my children's inheritance"? When I first saw this sticker, I thought how selfish and thoughtless for seniors to frivolously spend their assets and not leave them for the young folks. I assumed that this attitude connoted greed. Looking at it today from my own perspective as a senior citizen, I see it as necessity. I'm not going to advertise my plight on the back of my vehicle but certainly "I'm spending my children's inheritance."
In my family, it was an unwritten law that you, as the next chronological generation, were entitled to the wealth accumulated from the previous generation. Always believing I too would follow this tradition, I set about accumulating land. After all, being of Irish heritage, I was taught that the best investment was real estate. Woe is me for putting all my eggs in one basket, my home. I didn't diversify over the years and now I am stuck with exorbitant taxes and high insurance in a monthly mortgage payment which exceeds sixty per cent of my income. By the time I pay electric, water, phone and cable, I barely have grocery money. So, here comes the part about spending my accumulated assets.
Actually, my plan would have worked except that I bought a new home in July of 2005. Today, as I struggle to maintain, I look back in retrospect and ask myself, based on historical trends in the housing market, did I make a sound financial decision? No data existed at that time to predict an unprecedented fall in real estate. I was renting an apartment after I sold my previous home; it seemed like a waste of money to just slowly eliminate my funds to pay off another's mortgage!
Did our parents install fallacious financial equations into our heads when we were growing up? My father believed in paying his bills on time. He drummed this into my head at any early age. Consequently, I always have paid my bills on time. The last generation believed in Social Security and retirement income from the company that they had served loyally all their lives; certainly, this is fallacious reasoning in today's world. I have a picture of my Dad standing in front of his Esso gas station when the price of gas was twenty-five cents. Did our parents have any idea of the staggering inflation that would ensue over the years or that we would ever instigate a war over oil? Did they picture a country, the US that would not have unions to protect its workers? Did they envision "right to work" states where government and large corporations would just manipulate their employees and then discard them like an old worn out pair of shoes?
Only the wealthy entrepreneurs of today will be able to save their children's inheritance. Clearly, for those who enjoy financial clout, many useful tax breaks arise out of contributing excess funds to a trust for the offspring. For the rest of us menial middle class citizens, we will, I fear, have no choice but to reduce our accumulated assets in a way unforeseen by previous generations. "I'm spending my children's inheritance."
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