Spending the Kids' Inheritance and Not Feeling Guilty

An employee at a money changer counts USD 100 bills in Manila on October 25, 2012.  AFP PHOTO/NOEL CELIS        (Photo credit
An employee at a money changer counts USD 100 bills in Manila on October 25, 2012. AFP PHOTO/NOEL CELIS (Photo credit should read NOEL CELIS/AFP/Getty Images)

To My Darling Children,

I hope you don't mind, but your father and I are spending your inheritance. Actually, it doesn't matter if you do mind because we are spending it anyway and we don't need your permission to do so. After a Thanksgiving that was delicious on so many levels... a Thanksgiving during which all our children were present at our table for the first time in more than a year, we decided it wasn't enough.

To be honest, we're only spending what's left of your inheritance. The recession took care of the largest tranche. Our house is not worth nearly what we paid for it, our stocks have done nothing but go down and I seem to have misplaced my grandmother's pearls.

We were, for a while, among the luckiest of people. We were able to live a comfortable life, save for retirement and still leave a financial token of our esteem to our beloved offspring. We are still among the luckiest of people, but unfortunately, dear children, you are not.

What are we stealing from you, you may wonder? What could be so important that we would selfishly squander the money you could squander yourselves in your golden years? Why, we're spending it on you of course.

You, who had to live on the opposite coast, and you, who had to get a college education at a really expensive school, and you, who'd rather sleep in a bed than on the floor in your new apartment in New York City.

Don't get me wrong. We're not bitter. We don't begrudge you your dreams. We helped you build them. But our dream involves spending time with you, our firstborn, and if that means having to fly to L.A. a few times a year or having to pay to fly you here, then United Airlines will be the beneficiary of our discretionary funds. If spending time with you, our youngest, involves traveling to whatever godforsaken venue your band has booked next, then we're paying for travel and tickets. And if spending time with you, our stuck-in-the-middle boy, means a train ride and dinner in the Big Apple, then we are on that train and at that table and footing that bill.

I have always known that experience trumps "stuff," when it comes to happiness, but recent studies on the subject have proven it. These studies indicate that engaging in fulfilling activity rather than acquiring material possessions is what truly feeds our souls. Time spent with loved ones is far more valuable than anything money can by. But what if your family lives all over the damn place? In that case, money buys the time you need to experience the happiness.

I don't believe any child longs for visits from a parent as much as that parent yearns to see her child. If I put the onus of plane, train and automobile costs on you kids, I'm not sure we'd see much of you. I couldn't live with that. So this is our choice. We are buying memories and the money has to come from somewhere.

You have no say in this matter. If we're lucky we will have a few more decades together. Try to cherish the memories we will be making during that time. Those memories are your inheritance.

We love you. So, when are you next coming to visit?