It's Christmas already. Since I shop on Amazon, I think I've only heard Christmas music once! Shopping for the holidays has really changed. The kids are getting older, and when we ask them what they want from Santa, they say, "Money."
My parents are coming down for the holidays, and we plan on playing a lot of pickleball. The weather forecast doesn't look great, so I don't think we'll head to the beach. My Dad has never seen the puppy, and he is a real dog person. I'm sure she'll get to go on some long walks.
Have you heard of the new trend of "pretzel cabins?" We tried This year, and it is much harder than it looks. Next year, we will use a hot glue gun instead of frosting!
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 their careers, they lived on $4,500 a month of social security income.
With no debt and a habit of reasonable spending, the Powers found that Social Security alone 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. We want to be responsible, so let's only spend the money that our money is making."
Jim and Linda decided to take a stand. Instead of worrying about outliving their money, they put together a spending plan allowing 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 were 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 or have no real interest in traveling internationally. What do we do next?"
A lightbulb went off in Jim’s head.
"You know what? Our kids are in some challenging financial situations. They barely balance their weekly budgets between starting new careers, raising their kids, and buying homes. Why don’t we give them a little money each month now, when they actually need it? By the time we pass away, they could be retired. They need it a lot more now. I think three hundred dollars a month for each kid could work. That’s a little over $10,000 annually, perfectly fitting 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.
As Linda and Jim grew older, their generosity continued. They began donating $5,000 a year to various charities but did it differently. 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.
The Powers did not only express their generosity through money. Whenever they interacted with someone, they asked themselves, "How can we improve this person's day?" They would compliment them on their outfit or express how kind their children were. They found themselves living constantly in a generous spirit. Jim always tried to tell the cashier he saw each week, "You are the best cashier I've ever had!" Every little bit helped.
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.
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."
As the Powers grew into their 80s, they began considering their legacy plans. Even though they had used a lot of money during their retirement years, their net worth remained at around $700,000 due to their portfolio’s investment gains.
Linda had her lightbulb moment. "Jim, I have an idea. Let’s set up a plan to divvy up the money so that when we pass away, we don't give them a lump sum, but instead, why not give a little bit each year? We could also include a different message each year in the letter accompanying the money," she said.
The money would always arrive on December 25th 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. 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 to live a life where I love everyone around me outrageously."
Paul became so emotional he had a hard time speaking.
"I’ll never forget when 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 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 occasionally 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.
That’s a legacy. That’s a life. This story — and all the empowering, fulfilling, joyous stories I hear from my clients, inspire me daily. I hope this one inspires you, too.