Monday June 25, 2012
Cashing in on greed
But Then Again
By MARY SCHNEIDER
The notion of somebody undeservingly having fun with our savings after an untimely departure can be a turn-off for hardworking souls.
MANY years ago, I read a report about an old Scottish woman who died alone in her meagrely furnished apartment. At the time, her wardrobe contained very few clothes, her fridge housed nothing more than an almost empty carton of milk and her purse had barely enough money to buy a loaf of bread. Neighbours described her as a woman who kept to herself Ė a quiet woman who refused their offers of clothes, food and company.
During the cold Scottish winters, the old woman could often be seen hanging out in her townís public library, just to keep warm. If she was receiving any sort of pension, it was obvious that there wasnít enough to pay her heating bill.
Shortly after her death, when the local authorities went into her council apartment to clear out her belongings, they discovered about half a million pounds in a cupboard in her bedroom.
Half a million pounds could have bought her cosy clothes, a warm apartment and enough nutritious food to fill her belly and keep her warm, for some years. Instead, her family, people who had not visited her for decades, swooped in to claim their share as soon as they read about her stash in the newspaper.
Even worse, other than the woman in charge of the library, no one showed up on the day of her funeral.
Since she didnít leave a will, no one knows what she had planned to do with the money, but every member of her family had a story to tell about how they were entitled to it. It seems they had kept away because that was the old ladyís wish. Not because they didnít care. You have to be on some sort of mind-altering drug to buy that story. As far as Iím aware, the family are still bickering over the money.
I just hope none of them gets a single penny.
Although this is an extreme case that doesnít reflect the amount of money I have hidden in my underwear drawer, I did decide long ago not to squirrel anything away, or hold onto a property just so that I can leave it to my children. Not that I have anything of value to leave them, mind you. But my circumstances could change. I could publish one of my novels, sell more than a million copies, and have Steven Spielberg knocking on my door, begging me to give him the movie rights.
When people inherit money, they often squander it on inconsequential stuff; a young man buys a flashy sports car with his grandfatherís money, a daughter takes a trip to some far-flung exotic place while a widow gets a facelift and a new pair of boob.
I donít want to spend a gazillion hours hunched over a computer keyboard just so my children can sip Margaritas on a beach in Acapulco shortly after theyíve attended my funeral service.
I should be the one sipping cocktails and watching the sun slip below the horizon at the end of a perfect day. I should be the one barrelling down the German Autobahn in a car paid with my own sweat. I should be the one with the new face and boobs Ė to match the car, of course. And I should be doing all of that before itís too late.
As I get older, I plan to downsize my life. I donít see the need to maintain a large house, just so my children will have a place to sleep when they come to visit me twice a year.
Other than freeing up funds for me to do some of the fun things that Iíve always wanted to do but havenít been able to afford, it will free me from the tyranny of constant rounds of housework.
A small apartment is relatively easy to maintain, and there would be less for me to worry about as I go for a Himalayan hike, or visit my children overseas, or float down the Niagara Falls in a barrel.
I also donít want to be in a situation where certain family members rub their hands in anticipation as they wait for me to go. I once had the misfortunate of having to sit next to a man at a wedding dinner, who talked about the property he hoped to inherit upon his fatherís death and what he intended to do with it. There was no mention of what he planned to do without his father, a frail man sitting at a neighbouring table.
To their credit, both my children have told me they want nothing from me when I pass. Later in life, they want to be able to look back on their achievements with a true sense of accomplishment. I hope they still feel that way after Iíve cashed my cheque from Steven.