Money in the 90’s
What do you do when you suddenly inherit money? Are you supposed to run out
and spend it like crazy? Are you supposed to put it all in the bank? Do you tell anyone
you have your money and where you got it from? These are all questions that went
through my head as I turned 18. I was an overnight “rich” person. What was I to do?
Ever since I can remember, my mother has been telling me, “when you turn 18
you are going to get the money your Daddy left for you.” For some reason I never really
believed her. I thought that I would get about $2,000 or something and be able to buy a
nice computer for college or something along those lines. I never thought I would be
able to buy a house. I dont even want or need a house, but all of a sudden I am able to
buy one. I did not grow up poor by any means, but I was not the kid on the street with
money to toss out either. Now that I had money, what was I supposed to do with it?
The first thing I did when I got my money was hug my mother really tight. Ever
since I was 2 she had been paying taxes on it, investing it, making sure it was safe, and
tons of other things she really did not have to do. She did it all out of the kindness of her
heart. When the judge in control of my funds would be a dork and send us a nice little
letter saying that he “was sorry but had decided to move the money from a 10% interest
account to a 4% account”, my mother would be talking to our lawyer and trying to get it
back to the good interest rate. We would always be getting letters like that, so having
dinner with a man who charged us $250 an hour was not unusual. Even then I never
realized that I would be getting actual money. I must have been in some kind of a dream
land, but it did not make any sense until one certain rainy Monday.

That Monday I had gotten called out of band by my lawyer, who to my suprise,
was standing in my high school hallway. He handed me a stack of documents about 4
inches thick and instructed me to sign on various pages. I did so, and afterwards he gave
me this big smile. “Congratulations, Beth. You now are in control of your money.” I
asked him exactly how much I had to spend and he directed me to the bottom of the next
to last page. I stared at an unbelievable figure – $84,000. Was my lawyer serious? I
actually had a bank account somewhere with my name on it that contained that much
money? I could go out and by a new car and give each of my friends cars? I did not
understand how overnight I had gone from my little dream world to reality. I now had a
bunch of dilemas to deal with, and I was not sure I even wanted them.

Would having money change me? That was a major concern of mine for a long
time after I got my money. I did not want to become one of those superficial people that
depend on money to make them happy. On the other hand, now that I could afford to get
nice things, I wanted to take advantage of it. I could now go out and buy a nice computer
for college, maybe buy a new car, and finally get some new clothes. The last time I had
money to spare on clothes, I was in the 6th grade, so I think I was a little overdue for a
trip to the mall. Clothes, a computer, and a car seemed very shallow to me, so I decided
to get some advice on what to do with my fortune. I did not want to spend all of my
money and then wake up one day and realize it was all gone and I had to hunt for tuition.

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That would be the last thing in the world I would ever want.

Randy Baird worked for American Express at the time, although now he works
for Prudential Securities, and he was more than willing to meet with me and discuss my
financial future. He explained to me that although it seemed like I had millions of
dollars to blow on whatever I wanted, I would actually need a budget to get through
college. I could not believe it. I thought I would be able to buy all I wanted and not have
to worry about spending a little too much on a fancy dinner or buying one too many
CDs. After our initial meeting, I sat down with a calculator and figured out exactly how
much I could spend on a computer. Since I love computers to death and I did not want to
have to upgrade during my Undergraduate education, I decided to buy a brand new
400MhZ computer. The funny thing about my computer was that although I picked a
very expensive setup, I had a friend of mine who worked with a local computer company
buy the computer for me under his employee discount. Even having $84,000 had not
changed my “penny pinching” style. I felt so proud of myself that I even called up Randy
and told him what I had done. After he recovered from my $2000 computer bill he told
me that I had made a wise decision and that he hoped it would be the first of many.

With those words ringing in my ears, I went out and bought a brand new truck. It
really makes me smile to myself to realize that although I have all of this money at my
fingertips, when I chose to buy a truck, I got a Standard because it was cheaper, even
when I did not know how to drive one. Those kind of things that I do for myself just
crack me up. Feeling insecure was way too common when I was trying to decide exactly
what to buy with my money and I was very grateful for my humble upbringing. Without
it I probably would have gone spend-crazy and ended up with a Corvette and about 5
cents to my name.

Now that I had a computer, a car, and clothes, I was ready to make a big decision.

I needed to figure out what I wanted to do with the remainder of my money. After some
long nights with my trusty calculator and a few dozen meetings with Randy, I decided to
invest the entire thing. If I had the will not to touch the money for 4 long years, by the
time I graduated I would have a considerable amount saved up. When I realized that I
wanted to do that and not withdraw money every week to buy stuff with, I was left with
a big dilema. I needed to ask my parents to support me through college. After I was
throughly rejected by them, I decided to get a job and work my way through school. My
mother decided that was a bad idea as well, and I settled on investing 3/4 of my money
and using the other 1/4 for college expenses. It was really funny to realize that even
though I was newly rich, I would have to pretend I was poor for 4 years and just ignore
the money I was saving up. My financial advisor helped me make up a budget that was
reasonable and my parents helped me understand how to stick to it. The hard part was
over, I knew what I had to do.

Finally college arrived and I found myself in a new town with nothing to do. I
thought of the thousands I had in my name and it was very hard not to drive over to the
bank and withdraw some of it just so I would have something to do with my time. The
thing I came to realize was that even though I did not want to spend it, it made me feel
happy and secure to know that I had it saved away. That cushion would be there for the
next few years and if there was ever some emergency, I could access it. That security
just made most of my other college fears fade away.

I do not think I am a superficial person at all. That fear of mine I can just throw
away, because it will never happen to me. I know what I want in life right now and I
know how to achieve it. Getting a lot of money just kind of forced me to re-evaluate
what I needed to do to grow up. Now that I look back on the last year or so, I can see that
I am financially secure and even better, I am more mature than I was as a high school
senior. I can only hope that I will be able to grow as quickly and have it turn out as well
as I have in the past.

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