Spending spree

The Thinker by Rodin

Merrill Lynch has relented. For months they put up hurdles that kept me and my siblings from getting money my father left us. You can read the irritating story here if you want. Sometime in mid June though they seem to have surrendered and the funds bequeathed to us finally started to flow. The last batch arrived on July 1 when about $3000 in cash along with a bunch of mutual funds finally arrived. The only real hang up at the moment is not with Merrill Lynch, but Ally Bank. It has a policy that they won’t give you full credit for deposits over $5000 for five business days. Which means I can’t spend much of that money until later in this week.

I am tempted to go wild with $80K or so suddenly in my accounts. It’s not an enormous amount of money, but it’s by far the biggest windfall I ever received. Before I knew we were going to get money, I thought about simply giving most of it away to a few deserving souls. It would not change our standard of living much.

Yet with the inheritance, if I wanted for the first time in my life I could do something truly ostentatious. I could buy a BMW or take the wife and me on a round-the-world cruise, all guilt free. For better or worse, I’m not wired that way. First things first. About half of the money will be used to pay for the solar panels that were recently installed on our house and to pay off our remaining mortgage balance. Both are wiser uses of Dad’s money. Our mortgage balance wasn’t much, but paying it off will give us a couple hundred dollars more to spend or save every month. If the engineers were right then our solar panels would not only generate clean electricity but also add about $150 a month that we would have sent to the power company instead. Giving the gift that keeps on giving would be the sort of thing Dad would like me do with the money as he was relentlessly practical. Pay yourself first.

While I was comfortable with giving a lot of the balance away, my wife soon professed other plans for Dad’s money. Visions of style danced in her head. Take our furniture, for example. Much of it looks nice, but it’s cheap particleboard on the inside with a laminate on the outside. Until now we had always bought furniture when we needed it and had just what we needed. It sort of matched what we had, but not quite. She quickly developed a plan for part of the money that she executed with deftness and aplomb yesterday. For just under $5000 she bought us some quality solid wood furniture, stuff made so well it’s likely to last longer than we do. These included a new living room sofa and loveseat, a china cabinet, two armchairs for the sunroom and a corner TV stand. The wood furniture is in her favorite color (oak). The furniture with fabric on it will have colors and patterns that look nice with our peach walls, plus will be textured to resist cat claws and treated to deter cat vomit. The only downside is we have to wait about five weeks for it, as it is being manufactured in Virginia and Arizona. I haven’t seen her so excited about a project in at least a dozen years.

This doubtless is only the start. We moved into a new custom home last year but it’s still a work in progress. We have another list right behind the furniture, mostly things we used to have that we threw away or did not come with the house. For example, we need top quality screen doors that will probably set us back $800 or so. The old gas grill was discarded when we moved. We replaced it today and I assembled it just in time to try it out for a Fourth of July barbeque. Thanks Dad. What’s next?

I have had the same set of stereo speakers since 1979. Hey, they sounded excellent. All these years later though, it’s probably time to finally retire them. Our stereo system is early 2000s but the reality of stereo systems today is that they are kind of obsolete. Today it’s about projecting high definition audio and video where you need it in the house now, and streaming most content, sometimes between devices with a Roku or Chromecast stick. We’ll still keep a DVD player but I can see it’s already on the way out while a wider and higher definition TV is probably on the way in. Content will come mostly on demand over the Internet. I am baffled by how to do all this magic and not sure how much of it I want to do, but what seemed unwise before now has become, well, what the heck. Dad’s paying!

I’ve already replaced my desk chair to make it more ergonomic. My desk itself needs to be replaced. Cheap particleboard desks have always worked for me in the past but maybe this time, I’ll replace it with something solid wood. I’m confident if we worked at it we could spend it Dad’s money just on stuff for the house. For example, we skipped an upstairs bath to save money when the house was constructed. I could have one put in. Meanwhile, there are less costly items under consideration. My wife is petitioning me for a new top of the line standalone mixer, as she makes her own bread. What about an awning for the deck? A chair for the front porch? Our dining room table has scratches and the chairs need to be reupholstered. Why not just replace them? Dad’s paying. What about the sort of doodads that people with more money than we have usually have around the house? Like real china in the china cabinet. Sterling silver. Large fake potted ferns in the living room. An eight-foot long aquarium filled with colorful fish. Dad’s paying.

Most of this just doesn’t appeal to me. The stuff that matters is generally my computer, my monitor and a high speed Internet connection. I don’t need or want a fancy car. I don’t want fancy threads: t-shirts and jeans are fine with me. A fun indulgence might be a fancy vacation somewhere, perhaps a return trip to Hawaii. Dad can finance it.

Spending the inheritance should be more fun that this. Saving it should be more fun too. But it feels anticlimactic to me. Money can’t buy love, but someone you love can bequeath you money when they die, as my Dad did. It’s a way to show love, but while it buys real things it still feels somewhat hollow. In reality it means little compared to what I lost and Dad that was you. I would trade it all away for just another hour with you happy, healthy, and chatting about the Washington D.C. that you loved. I only have the memories now.

And a fatter bank account.