5/31/2013 4:15 PM ET|
Confessions of a trust fund baby
A young woman with a big safety net discovers that there are more important things in life than shopping, travel and parties.
Just before my 16th birthday, my mom wrote a check from my account to buy me a BMW 328i, and that is where I learned to drive a stick shift.
That car had a lot of power under the hood, and I used and abused it. I almost crashed it twice, once while I was racing someone on the highway.
I didn’t realize how quickly I was coming up behind another car -- it looked like it was standing still -- until a friend riding shotgun started screaming. The car saw me and swerved out of the way just in time (thank God). The other time, I was racing another young brat in his BMW on a backcountry road. I spun out and narrowly avoided sliding into a copse of trees.
That’s what happens when you give something powerful and shiny to a 16-year-old. When I blew out the clutch on my toy, I traded it in for a luxury SUV and started driving a little more like a grown-up. So I survived high school.
Coming into my inheritance
I am a trust fund baby. Ever since I can remember, I knew that there was an investment account with my name on it with enough money to buy a home, in cash.
Every month, money drops into my checking account. It’s a solid middle class salary, untaxed, and it’s contingent on nothing. I don’t have to work for it, nor can anyone take it away from me if I behave badly. I did nothing to earn it, unless you count growing up without a dad. It stemmed from a wrongful death lawsuit. Every year, the annuity increases by 3%, and it will continue to show up, every month, until I die.
As far as trust funds go, it’s no Hilton fortune. My mom claims she could have negotiated for a much larger settlement, but she chose an amount that meant my sister and I could do what we love but still be motivated to earn money. (For the record, that was a really smart move.)
However, that was the extent of her financial education. In our household, budgets were not discussed: Money showed up, and we spent it. My mom seemed to take pleasure in cultivating two young women with a taste for fine dining and expensive clothes.
Then, when I turned 21, I was handed a ton of money. Here’s something to consider if you ever want to do the same for your kids. (When you’re done laughing, I’ll continue.) The prefrontal cortex, which helps you make responsible decisions, isn’t fully developed until you’re 25. So I wasn’t really capable of making the best decisions concerning my money. I didn’t even get a financial adviser to go along with it, just my mom’s advice to “Always pay off your credit card bill every month.” Well, that part was easy.
First, I took a summer in Europe and brought along a little guide to shopping. Whenever I was bored, I took off for a new boutique. I had enough sense to back out of the stores selling $4,000 gowns. But I racked up about $15,000 on my new card in three months. Then I paid it off by selling some stocks. No big deal. When I missed my flight home, I just bought a new ticket.
Managing my money
I researched heavily before taking over my investment account. I was petrified (and still am) of making a stupid mistake that could decimate it.
When the market tanked in 2008, a year after the documents had been signed giving me control, I took the lazy route and left my investments as they were. An excellent decision, it turns out.
After college, I moved to New York City, land of a thousand trust fund babies. As I searched for an apartment, I pulled a rent number out of thin air, without ever looking at my supposed budget. “$1,400 seems reasonable, right, Mom?” She agreed. Finding a job took some time, but I was more bored than panicky.
In fact, I was the cliché everyone loves to hate. I spent my days eating organic eggs benedict at the local café, doing The New York Times crossword puzzle, then traipsing off to afternoon yoga. I fell in with a group of friends who, like me, had outside financial resources (read: rich parents). We spent our money on shopping, ski trips, all-night parties with $50 entry and drugs. I could blow $350 in a weekend on coke, ecstasy and alcohol.
I felt like I was being reasonable. I enjoyed dressing well, but felt good about not buying the quilted Chanel bag I coveted. I would do weird things like walk 30 minutes downtown to avoid paying subway fare, then blow $250 on a purse when I got there. I donated lavishly to charity. One time I wired $6,000 to Thailand to help out a former tour guide who was in a financial scrape.
I did finally land a job I loved, and worked hard at it. I still partied, but I had the sense to keep my partying to the weekends, showing up on time and never coked up or drunk.
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At one time I would have raged against this kind of person, but not at their kind of life. I have waited my whole life for yoga lessons I will never have; waited for the kind of time to actually do a New York Times crossword puzzle; for the time when I didn't really have to worry about how much something cost -- all of it. They call it "hope" and hope is a fiction.
After a lifetime of working for stuff that would be mistreated and wrecked by friends and family. (What are you going to do?) After paying for 80-percent of my college education myself. (And for what?) Being the only sibling in my family to have supported themselves all these years. (And still being hated for it by them.) Having paid off my debts all by myself. (And have it count for nothing.) I can say with complete honesty that the only thing that mattered in all ot this was the money . . . how much I had, how I spent it, and how I could have used the money (or maybe not the excuse that I had to keep making it), to have been able to spend more time with the people I loved.
All things considered and after a lifetime of the grind, the meaningless, exploitative, unappreciated, laughed at for being such a sucker hard work, I would thank my lucky stars to be a person of independent means.
It's a nice diary entry--but except for those who are planning trust funds (and, yes, should make sure that the recipients either don't get control until they are 30 or never get control), I don't think that this has a lot of bearing on the rest of our lives. There's nothing here for most of us to learn--well, not that we don't know anyway.
I do, however, appreciate that you don't have the cliché here that money isn't important. It is important, and it can buy one a relatively stress-free life. It's nice that you appreciate that.
It would be nicer if you developed an interest in using some of your money for the less fortunate--but, then, you aren't 30 yet, I don't think. Pleasure in helping others might come later.
Coke is only a rich person's problem anyway. Now crack on the other hand.
This is the quote that got me: " I can afford to have a job I love"
Very lucky, indeed.
What would make your Dad happy? Maybe a scholarship in his name for writers at a local college? That would be a fun project for you.
Her story is of one of awareness. She is becoming the person she is to be. Her path taught her what is truly important to her as she grows to be the woman she so desires to manifest into.
Sure, she is fortunate to have a "trust-fund", however much like anything it comes with a price only she could pay. Her experiences are hers alone and if her story helps another young person realize that life is more than just a party, they too can possibly achieve a sense of happiness and contentment.
The point of the story is to give perspective. She lives a life many on this thread don't. She doesn't have the fear of being destitute nor the need to worship money. There are many who don't have those fears of being homeless and hungery because their parents planned well, or they were compensated richly for an unplanned windfall.
They live in a world of the entitled and top of the food chain consumer.
Many believe they are "different" from the masses because they don't need to devote their time to the pursuit of the dollar bill. She is just saying that she finally realized that she is part of a larger picture and the world doesn't revolve around her just because she is wealthy.
Give your children enough to do something, ...... not so much that they can do nothing!
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