I'm worried about what people will think after I die...


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24 Aug 2015
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..OK, the title is actually a scenario - it's not my scenario. I'm worried about quality of life and doing meaningful things while I'm alive.

I have a relative who has spent his life generating money and investing it into an absolutely bonkers absurd amount while he lives on the state pension level of income. He spent decades in some odd mode of worrying about becoming poor somehow (50 of him could live on his means and be comfortable - maybe more). He was raised that way, but for some reason, making the pile bigger increases his satisfaction. He wanted to give the money to his kids, but they're already set for life, too (thanks to imitating dad) - and they haven't met his criteria for being absurdly enriched - having children and creating generational wealth and comfort that he sought.

So in the last two or three years, he's suddenly realized that his money will outlive him by a large amount and he's horribly concerned about what will happen with the money, and whether or not he'll think the spending of it is approvable by him (as in, he would like to see people have chances to take the profession that he took in - a branch of applied mathematics as well as automation and computing applied to it - that would be OK. Lots of other things wouldn't).

I've never known him to worry about anything but accumulation, so this is a funny thing and I always torture him with "if I were you, I would worry about what I wanted out of the rest of my life, which could be short at your age, and I guarantee if you do some basic legwork and line up where your money is going (none is going to me, that's for sure!!), I guarantee if you don't let it bother you while you're alive, it won't bother you while you're dead". He laughs nervously - as if he can't make the rational step to knowing that he won't notice anything at dirt temperature.


Enter scenario 2 - my MIL has a plot in a cemetery. It was purchased probably 40 years ago with her husband. They switched churches and now she doesn't love the overlook that the cemetery sees. She's very worried that people will think she's an silly person for having such a plot after she dies. My wife is into this kind of thing, too - worried about being embarrassed (I am a constant source of embarrassment for her, whether I'm disagreeing with her in public or not wearing the right clothes for the occasion, etc). I ask my MIL - what does your plot matter? It's a nice church. There's a highway in view a mile away where it used to be rolling hills, but you won't be able to see it. Within a few years, the people walking through the cemetery will have no clue who you are, and the other people you're afraid of passing judgement are thinking about themselves 99.5% of the time, anyway. They're not going to make the effort to pass judgement.

She says "they will think I'm an silly person for having a plot that overlooks a valley with an interstate". She's very concerned about that and I cannot convince her that she won't be able to feel embarrassment.

Why do people care so much about things like that unless there's a meaningful consequence (e.g., the constant worry that we will die and someone will get our tools for half price at the cost of our spouse - if our spouse is materially affected by that - mine probably won't be - then it's an issue. If they won't be, then we should think about ourselves selling all of their decorations around the house - would we care? No. Why do we wind ourselves up about stuff like that? I don't at this point - knowing I won't be here, I don't care if whoever is left burns all of it. I just hope it's not a burden (and it won't be, because my spouse will give it all away to a haulage firm).
Not an unusual synario, some people just live for money, more money and then even more money and there will never be enough to satisfy them, but if you leave huge sums then have you fully lived and reaped the rewards from earning it in the first place. When you are no more then it is better if people remember you for being a kind helpful type of person and not a grumpy old miser who just wasted there life counting money.
People think and do stupid things. Life is short, if making plans for their death gives them comfort now, don't mock them or try to convince them, just try and make them happy.

For your MIL, help her find a new plot. For your other relative, help them find a way to bequeath their money that will make them feel happy.
Money may not be the absolute. Its the thrill of earning, or its the tool which enables them to feel me secure.
My mother used to visit my sister in NZ every second year for three months. She debated buying a property there (30 years ago - affordable then) so she could have six months here, six there - no winters. The only reason she didn't was because she was afraid of dying there. I could never understand why it should make any difference.
A friend, a multi millionaire , spends his life worrying about his children wasting his money when he dies - which they will.

My wife knows my wishes when I die - chuck my body on a fire and a couple of grand on the bar.
Money may not be the absolute. Its the thrill of earning, or its the tool which enables them to feel me secure.

This is the case - it was security at the outset, I'm sure - growing up poor and being told you can't have anything and then growing up and realizing that having things isn't what this person wanted (there's nothing flashy about him - still cuts his own hair). He's not a grouchy, unfriendly, or undergenerous guy - just unlikely to be spending his money on something frivolous.

I've met folks who have a lot of money and are really nice, and folks who spend all of their money but have a lot and it's them and their stuff against you because they're trying to keep something up. My mother used to question the same thing "why have all of that money if you don't spend it" (she's not in a good position to criticize, though - same thing, just with less money), but people who spend money for ego or appearance have married themselves to a fruitless exercise. And they're a pain to be around as they're always the type who end up on nonprofit boards, etc (and I end up dealing with them as a service provider - everything is about ego).

Not all are like that, but the relative of mine who lost contact with reality about how much he has is intensely satisfied because he's not worried about taking advantage of people (he'd never do that) and he's looking to be his person, not what someone else wants.
(the constant fear of being embarrassed by someone else or being embarrassed after death is MUCH less friendly to deal with in my experience).

I'm trying to make sure it doesn't get passed to my kids.
When you die you are just atoms for the universe to recycle as it sees fit.

My Dad mentioned something about inheritance to me the other day, I told him to spend it all on fun stuff and not worry about leaving a penny.
I understand that wanting to leave something for your family comes from kindness but I think if he earned it he should spend it, they will only tax the heck out of it anyway.

In contrast I know some people who were actually concerned about what there mother would leave them, as if it is some kind of "right". I found this to be a shameful, entitled way of thinking and was kind of surprised they thought this way.

I agree with your assessment and have said the same to my father, who mentions that he doesn't want to give away any money now (I'd gladly stuff it into my kids' college accounts without taking any of it), and boasts of the inheritance that he'll be leaving behind for us (the kids).

I know him well enough to know that what gives him a thrill is simple stuff like watching sports and playing in golf league (which is free - he works part time at the course). But I've mentioned to him more than once ("please seek some estate planning somewhere else you or mother will end up in a specialty nursing home for a decade and someone will do something untoward and you'll lose the whole lot").

I hope he lives long enough that I don't need any additional money - which is what happened with his parents. They were "un-giving", let's say, while alive ("what's mine is mine"), and gave all to their kids when they died. By then, their kids didn't need it.

I'm getting to the point slowly. In the US, the estate laws have a higher cutoff and it's possible to have generational wealth at a moderate level without getting taxed to death. That's very functional, and of the examples of family structure that I've seen - close knit families (parents giving their kids expectations and not just handing them money) with generational wealth are almost always more successful with greater comfort. They end up being doctors, engineers and such while other parents are boasting that they kicked their kids out at the age of majority and their kids are "hard workers because of it" (and destitute).
Another issue with the offspring is that you really want them to make a go of life and work using their skills, wisdom and graft. It has often been said that the worst thing you can do is spoon feed the kids with a silver spoon and this can reduce their motivation to suceed, often said by the rich although an awful lot of them give the growing kids the lifestyle they have earned and they have done nothing. So what do you do with your worldly goods in your will, I would like to leave some of my tools to something like the mens shed group or to an aspiring young woodworker just to give them a kickstart.
This is the tight family part with expectations. The above-mentioned relative pushed his kids a little (not socially, but to do something valuable). They took the cue and have done that and in their 40s could retire permanently at any time).

I've noticed around here in families with physician parents who are involved closely with the kids, the kids end up doing something similar. When someone is entirely into themselves and their career and figure their kids will just turn out (worked with some people like that) and their kids turn into lunks, they always act surprised - and find someone else to blame.

The above mentioned physician thing here in the states is maybe unique because physicians may spend half a million dollars or more on schooling before they are out of residency. Each generation banks the next, generously giving money.

Amish are another example. Amish parents generally set their kids up with land and a business or something similar when they set out, but the families are close and expectations for behavior are there. It's not uncommon for an amish business owner or farmer to build their kids a house, or move out of their own house and build a smaller house, giving the larger house or property to the kids when they get married. Starting the kids off in the clear with house and in some cases, a business or part of a business. Whatever they do, the kids who inherit the assets stay in line and continue to build on what they were given and then pass it along (some of this has to do with expectations from more than just parents - the bishop in the amish community controls your ability to function within the amish. If you get out of line, they will take control of your finances including controlling your financial transactions). This may sound like a myth to some, which is fine - except I know an amish trim carpenter and cabinetmaker who has to do his finances through his bishop. If he wants something for his shop, the bishop writes the check - not sure how long that arrangement will last, but he bounced a couple of checks and that's a no-go.
My parents left most of their money, not life changing amounts, to my three daughters and I was happy with that. They had helped me when I was younger and if they have left it to me I would probably have wasted it on more tools :D. If by some circumstance I had not wasted it it would probably have incurred death tax when I died.

Estate panning is essential, I have seen cases where the surviving partner inherits, gets dementia, goes into a home and the Local Authority use all the money and sell the house to fund the care. I have read of the many cases where the elderly survivor of a marriage, offend with dementia, is persuaded to marry again, usually to a much younger person, and all the estate goes to the new partner when the survivor dies.

My uncle died without leaving a will as he did not want to pay for a solicitor. It cost a small fortune for solicitors fees to sort out the estate and that was with all the beneficiaries being in agreement. We will never know my uncles wishes.

Everyone should think about what they want to happen with their assets when they die and make a will, with professional advice, to ensure those wishes happen with minimum tax liabilities.
A bloke i know is very wealthy, he is absolutely paranoid about money to the point of being an awful miser, investments everywhere & wont make a will "In case my wife finds out how much i have", I pity her & their kids if he pops his clogs unexpectedly.
There are no pockets in a shroud.
A bloke i know is very wealthy, he is absolutely paranoid about money to the point of being an awful miser, investments everywhere & wont make a will "In case my wife finds out how much i have", I pity her & their kids if he pops his clogs unexpectedly.
There are no pockets in a shroud.

It sounds like his money owns him. There was a local here (this story is probably oft repeated) who was promoted quickly at work and obsessed with his title. He worked at a global audit firm but was horrified that his wife would spend his money so at each promotion, he'd understated what he was making and perhaps what his title was. A couple of decades in, he had his wife believing he made 1/4th of what he made. She found out and divorced him instantly.

He was a nice guy. Something went wrong somewhere in his decision making, and he was still a nice guy afterwards. (can't ever get away from that story, though - "you know that guy? you hear about the story of him hiding money from his former wife?...."

Relative of mine mentioned above is so confident that not much changes, but you wouldn't gather that he's confident (not executive confidence, but comfort in being different and feeling like it's OK to be different). His wife was on board, but she predeceased him and it broke his heart. I'd translate worrying about what happens with your money as suddenly realizing it's real and being afraid that if it's wasted, you unknowingly made a hobby out of making, saving and investing it for nothing.
"I spent most of my money on fast cars, fast women, drink and drugs. The rest I wasted."

If your happiness depends on what other people think of you, you're never going to be very happy. If your happiness depends on money, you're really going to struggle.

Carpe Jugulum, as per Mr Pratchet.

(I've just started reading How to be Free and I strongly recommend it - covers everything you need to be happy).

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