The Unexpected Story of Jim and Linda Powers
The details of this tale come from a few of my client’s stories, not one individual couple, and all of the names have been changed. But every single example I’ll give I’ve seen play out during my career.
John and Linda never considered themselves wealthy. They worked hard, lived below their means and saved what they could. By the time they finished up their careers, they found themselves living on $4000 a month of social security income.
With no debt and a habit of reasonable spending, the Powers found that Social Security alone easily covered their monthly budget.
The Powers had also learned to “pay themselves first” throughout their careers. They maxed out their 401k contributions and created a healthy savings account at the bank. Now retired, their net worth totaled nearly $700,000.
“Linda,” John asked, “When do we start spending this money? What is it for? We don’t really need anything.”
Linda smiled back, “John, I think this money was given to us for a reason. I don’t want to hoard this abundance and then die with a bunch of money. The kids would be appreciative, but I don’t think a large inheritance dumped in their laps is a good idea. You know Bobby. He’d be driving a Lamborghini in no time.”
Jim and Linda decided to take a stand. Instead of worrying about outliving their money, they put together a spending plan that would allow them to use the perfect amount now. Not too much, and not too little. Taking a stand and making a plan.
First order of business? Jim and Linda took their three kids and five grandkids to the Grand Canyon. After a week of family bonding, Jim and Linda found themselves at their kitchen table again wondering aloud….
“That was wonderful. I can’t believe how precocious little Suzie has become. Ok, so…… now what? We don’t need a new kitchen, we don’t have any real interest in traveling internationally. What do we do next?”
A lightbulb went off in Jim’s head.
“You know what? Our kids are all in tough financial situations. Between starting new careers, raising their own kids, and buying homes they’re barely balancing their budgets each week. Why don’t we give them a little money each month now, when they actually need it? When we pass away they could be retired! I think five hundred dollars a month for each kid could work. That’s $18,000 a year which fits perfectly into our financial spending plan.”
“Maybe they can afford special tutoring for little Suzie and tennis for Joey. That is a great idea!” Linda replied, getting excited.
The golden, and generous, years.
As Linda and Jim grew older their generosity continued. They began donating $10,000 a year to various charities, but did it in a different fashion. Each year, the entire family — grandkids and all — gathered to discuss what causes they wanted to support. The seeds of charity and giving were planted in their growing family.
Their daughter-in-law lost her mother to breast cancer, so she always asked that some of the money go to research. Their son had a soft spot for children and “adopted” several kids from around the globe through a global outreach organization. Their other son preferred to keep it local, supporting mental health nonprofits in his city.
This generous and creative giving continued as the Powers grew older. Linda’s niece got involved in a nasty divorce and found herself debt-ridden and jobless. Linda helped her get through that trial. Their oldest grandson, Peter, had the opportunity to study Shakespeare in London for a summer. Without his grandparent’s help, Peter would have spent the summer playing video games and eating Taco Bell burritos.
The Powers tipped their servers generously. Sometimes they even left a 50% tip with a note that read, “You’re doing a great job. You work so hard. You deserve it.”
A legacy of living and giving.
As the Powers grew into their 80s they began to consider their legacy plans. Even though they had used a good bit of money during their retirement years, their net worth still remained at around $700,000 due to their portfolio’s investment gains.
Linda had her own lightbulb moment. “Jim, I have an idea. Let’s set up a plan to divvy up the money. Instead of a lump sum now, why not give a little bit each year? We could also include a different message each year in the letter that accompanies the money.”
The money would always arrive December 1st, as a sort of Christmas present from heaven. With each annual payment a letter was included, written beforehand, that would instill an important value or share a vital life lesson.
Jim and Linda’s legacy would last long after they were gone.
The Powers both passed away in their late 80s. So many people attended their funeral they had to put extra chairs in the church.
One by one, people stood and spoke about what wonderful and kind people the Powers were.
But their son, Paul, stole the show.
“Mom and Dad,” Paul started, voice breaking, “were the most generous people I have ever known. Not only were they generous with their money but also with their time and wisdom. I learned patience and kindness from their everyday actions. I learned to support those in a time of need. They taught me that life was too short to worry, and that it was okay to pursue your dreams, loving people along the way.”
Paul became so emotional he had a had time speaking.
“I’ll never forget the time Mom and Dad had a repairman come to their house. He was clearly distraught and Mom couldn’t help but ask what was wrong. It had turned out that he had just lost his home because he couldn’t afford the rent after his son was diagnosed with leukemia. Without missing a beat Mom told him that she would pay the first six months’ rent at his new apartment. They even brought them meals from time to time during his son’s treatment.”
“Mom and Dad always reminded us what was important in life. They showed us that family, friends, and relationships should always be first on the priority list.”
For the Power’s final act of kindness, they had prepaid their wake — which was more a celebration of life.
They even had a band.
That’s a legacy. That’s a life. This story — and all the empowering, fulfilling, joyous stories I hear from my clients, inspire me every day. I hope this one inspires you, too.