I am neither a person that has ever had money before, nor expected myself to be someone that was considered wealthy. After my parents separated when I was eight, my mom and I lived in a tent in her friend’s back yard. (It’s important to note that while my parents were married, my father did not allow my mom to work, therefore when they separated, she literally had nothing to her name asset-wise, a high school diploma and zero work experience for 8+ years.) We eventually moved into a different friend’s garage, and later to a teeny-tiny house that barely fit the two of us and was especially cramped whenever my older (half) sister would come stay. That is the level of “I-am-a-person-that-has-never-
I worked all through high school to buy myself clothes to put on the façade of me “being cool” in order to look the part that came with my popular group of friends. I was strategically living a double life between school and home. I rarely invited my friends over to my house, because I was embarrassed by how small and sad looking it was in comparison to their middle class, three-bedroom mansions. I am the first person in my family to go to a four-year university; I have a Human Services degree and I always knew in my heart of hearts that I likely wouldn’t have much money as an adult, but that was less important to me than loving my job so I didn’t mind. I always survived without much money before and I would continue to do that for as long as I needed.
After a series of chaotic, morbid and uncomfortable events in October 2015, the world that I knew was aggressively pulled out from under my feet. My 86-year-old paternal grandmother, whom I loved dearly, passed away of natural causes; she left half of her net worth to my father and his sister. Twelve days following my grandmother’s passing, my father overdosed on heroin at the age of 63 and died after spending three days in the ICU with zero brain activity. I was the only person who was legally able to decide to take him off life support. His doctor and the hospital’s Ethics Team fully supported and encouraged my decision. Being that I am my father’s only biological child, his half of my grandmother’s net worth went to me. My lawyer, a family friend, placed a check for $174,210.05 in my hand in late February, gave me a hug, and literally told me not to spend it all in one place.
At this point in the process, I was in counseling once a week, was approved to take eight weeks of medical leave from work by both my boss and my therapist after I had been diagnosed with Adjustment Disorder (turns out no one wants a supervisor that has full-blown panic attacks at work on a daily basis), I was having fairly consistent dissociative flashbacks/hallucinations regarding some domestic violence stuff I saw as a kid, and was incredibly depressed. It took me a few weeks to understand that this money truly belonged me, and that my father wasn’t going to rise from his grave and take it all away, laughing about how it was all a big joke, leaving me in survival mode once again. After copious amounts of therapy and support from my best friend and boyfriend, I slowly got better and I started to understand how this money could positively affect my life. This is a very honest breakdown of how I went through $70,000 of that money before April was over, two months later.
• $6,000: IRA account for both 2015 and 2016. There will be $3,000 a year that is withdrawn directly from my bank account that contributes to it.
• $11,000: My financial advisor helped me invest in two separate long-term growth stocks (Berkshire-Hathaway and Google). He is a family friend, and he was so incredibly helpful and informative. He also helped me with my taxes.
• $7,000: My best friend and I went to Europe for two weeks. It was the most memorable and exciting trip of my life. We backpacked to four countries and visited friends that I had made when I lived abroad for a year after college. I paid for majority of the big costs and she paid for what she could. I would have paid for every cent of the trip, but she insisted that she contribute what she could, which was fine. Normally, I would be adamant about staying in sub-par hostels and eating on a budget, which we did a frequently just by nature. I also, however, had fierce ~treat yo self~ moments on that trip, too, and I don’t regret a goddamn thing.
• $1,000: SonyA600 and a zoom lens for aforementioned trip.
• $500: Backpacking accessories for aforementioned trip. I replaced an old backpack that I had somehow managed to keep together with safety pins and shitty sewing that I used while living in Europe. This new backpack situation was legitimately a huge investment for future vacations.
• $1,300: MacBook Pro with Retina Display. My old MacBook was 6+ years old and I paid some dude $25 who worked out of his garage to reset it to factory settings and then I gave it to my long-time boyfriend.
• $22,000 (after all the bullshit fees that come with buying a car): I bought my mom a 2015 Toyota Rav4. She completely freaked out, it was the most amazing and hilarious scenario to watch. My mom is the type of hippie woman who didn’t even so much as have a bank account until 2008, and used to straight-up bury money in our backyard. She still has no credit history, and has definitely never had a new car before. She is constantly driving my nieces and nephews around, and it brought serious peace of mind amongst myself and my two siblings for her to be in a reliable car with them. Needless to say, best birthday ever.
• $2,000: Went toward my own personal car loan on my Prius.
• $1,500: Random maintenance on my Prius that I had previously been neglecting.
• $8,000: My mom, sister and I decided to put my 7-year-old nephew into an expensive private school, since he is fairly behind for his grade. He has a partial grant of $2,000 since he is a foster child (my mom is his legal guardian, my older sister’s life has been… chaotic) but I want to pay anything else the school won’t cover, and they charge roughly $10,000 a year.
• $4,000: My brother, sister and I are taking my mom to the NFL Hall of Fame this summer for a Christmas present. Since my brother and I are the only ones who have money out of the four of us, we are splitting the cost of this vacation in half. We have literally never gone on vacation with just the four of us before and I am actually really looking forward to it.
• $6,000: I don’t know.
As far as the remaining $6,000 of this eight-week assessment, I didn’t track it. I have bought various household items to spruce up the old, drafty Portland house that my boyfriend and our roommates live in, like lamps, rugs, drapes, new refrigerator, etc. I’ll take all of those things with me when our lease is up and have them in my own home. I have not hesitated to buy dinners for my friends, to go to concerts when invited, to replace items in my wardrobe that either have holes in them or don’t fit me, I spent more than $20 on a purse for the first time in my life, I paid off my iPhone that I was financing, I bought RayBan glasses frames, and I now shop and bougie health food stores instead of cheaper options.
Eventually I will have around $265,000 more when the dust settles on everything involved with selling my grandmother’s house. I have a very long list of future financial goals with the remaining money, such as paying off my student loans, buying a house, investing more in retirement and starting trust funds for my nieces and nephews and potential future children of my own. I’m learning to understand the fact that money is not only for having and keeping, but also for spending on experiences.
Throughout my childhood, I watched my mother cope with the horrific situations she was faced with, and the process of saving and hoarding money and only using it for emergencies was deeply internalized in me. This is the first time in my life where I’ve had the option to spend money and have fun without feeling ashamed of myself. For the first time ever, I don’t feel an abrupt surge of panic in my stomach when I think about my future. I know that if my father had ended up with this money, I would have remained in survival mode for a very long time, and he still would have chosen to be irresponsible and I would not have seen a dime. This isn’t to say that I am thankful he died. I was unhealthy for a long time after his death, and I am still in weekly therapy sorting out how to forgive someone that once caused me so much trauma, but is no longer here to make peace with.
But I am now able to provide myself and my future family with the financial security that I wouldn’t have gotten otherwise, and for that I am thankful.
Renae lives in Portland, Oregon with her dog and boyfriend. This is the first time she has ever written anything that is worth a shit.
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