A few days ago, we had a $5,000 surprise in the mail. It was a check from my 92-year-old grandmother (my “Rich Grandpa‘s widow”) with my name on it. Having never had experienced anything like this before (except for the one time I received a big wedding gift that ended up losing half its value during the financial crisis), I had to stop and think about what we were supposed to do next.
I have always felt a special connection with my grandparents, and the fact that my grandma is my last living grandparent makes my connection with her that much more significant. She and I are 60 years apart to the day. While I was turning 32 last month, she turned 92.
Faithful, energetic, & selfless
Those are the words I would use to describe my grandma. Despite her wealth, she always bargained for the best price, and she always gave. She also has incredible faith. So much so that I’ve called her at least a dozen times over the past several years to ask her to remember me in her prayers each time I took a part of the CPA exam, the GMAT, or had foot surgery.
Whenever I start whining about being 30+, it doesn’t take me long to stop when I think of her and how much energy she has. She is the most energetic 90+ year old I have ever seen, and she probably has several more good years left in her. But at 92, you can’t help but think of the reality that she may not be around for much longer.
A gift for posterity
The week before our birthdays, I was talking to my mom, and she said that though my grandma still has the energy of a 70 year old, she is starting to feel whatever feelings really old people feel as they approach the end of their lives (I’m paraphrasing there).
This has prompted my grandma to reflect on her life and on the lives of her children & grandchildren. She has wondered if there is anything she could do to help them get off on the right foot.
My mom said she was even toying with the idea of paying off any of her grandkids’ student loans. So much for busting our butts to pay off $50K in 18 months!
I called my grandma 1 day late to wish her a happy belated birthday, and we had a great chat. Just before hanging up, she asked me if I had any student debt. I said that we didn’t. I may, however, have mentioned that we still had a mortgage (what? It was worth a shot!).
She then asked me for my address. I figured she was going to send me a card for my birthday, but she said simply that she was going to send us a check for $5,000. After my heart resumed it’s normal beating pattern, I expressed to her how much I appreciated it.
Now I’m not sure what my grandma’s bank balance is, but with 3 siblings, 20 cousins, and a few step cousins (not sure if they got cut in on the deal or not), I didn’t want to take any chances. So the first thing I did after getting the check was head to the bank to deposit that sucker!
What to do with our free money
Do you know what you would do with an unexpected windfall? Since we have a pretty good idea of what our financial goals are, we didn’t even really have to think about how to allocate the $5K of good news.
Here’s how we are putting the money to work.
- $500: tithing
- $1,000: medical bills
- $1,000: top off our $10K spend fund
- $1,000: open 529s for the kids (I was supposed to do this last month)
- $1,500: the beginning of our mini-retirement fund (finally breaking through to our baby step 7!)
And POOF! It’s basically “gone” as soon as we got it. It’s amazing how quickly you can put your money to use, whether it be through spending or saving.
Having financial goals and knowing exactly where your money will go is the best way to live. I don’t think there are any true downsides to having financial goals, but if there were one, it would be the lack of a sense of spontaneity that you could otherwise have with your money. But people who benefit from the excitement of spontaneous spending are either very wealthy or are only living it up in the short-term.
I’m getting financially soft
I’ve always read a lot of financial articles, and now that I write financial(ish) articles too, I’ve taken more time to evaluate what role money should play in my life. Writing my thoughts has really forced me to clearly articulate how I feel and why I feel that way.
As I’ve done that, I’ve noticed that I feel less and less like I need more money to be happy. Don’t get me wrong, I still want a lot of money (and I’m not above accepting it from family), but I don’t feel as much like it will determine my happiness.
I was pumped to get money from my grandma. I’m also grateful for the reminder that life is short and family is important. I hope to be able to do the same for my grandkids.
Have you ever received a financial windfall? Did you know exactly what to do with it, or did you have to think about it?