January 10, 2011

200 year plan

Posted in inheritance, money tagged at 9:47 am by weiszguy

A while back I wrote about a five-year plan. Recently I’ve been challenged to take a bit longer view – I’ve started working on the 200 year plan. Whoa! Why 200 years? I’ll be long dead, and so will my children and grandchildren. In fact, I expect seven to eight generations will be following me in the next 200 years.

What will life be like in 2211? Will it be as different from 2011 as 2011 is from 1811? Will we finally have Jetson-style flying cars? Will we fly faster than light? Will my great-great-great-great-great-great-grandchildren still be suffering from the common cold? What will that eighth generation look like? How many people will be members of that generation? And more importantly, why should I put together a 200 year plan that proposes to teach that generation anything? What can I possibly teach somebody who won’t be born until after my name is long forgotten? What can someone 200 years ago teach me today?

200 year from now technology will be completely different; national boundaries will be different; moral, ethical, and cultural norms will be different. Even the world’s major religions, while they will probably still be around, will be very different. About the only thing that will be unchanged is human nature, which has been constant for millennia.

Humans will always be looking for happiness. We will always try to make the world better for ourselves and for our children (although maybe not for someone else’s children). We will always have the need to explore and invent. We will always feel the effects of love and hate, friendship and betrayal, birth and death.

Given the constantly changing state of the world, and the unchanging state of human nature, I’d like my progeny to know it’s not all about money. In fact, looking at a 200 year time line, money is almost useless, unless it is used to further human development and understanding. Money can’t buy love, friendship, or eternal life, but it can ease hunger, search for cures for incurable diseases, and establish colonies in outer space.

If you’re reading this in the 23rd century — Hi! I can’t tell you how to communicate with your “computers” or how to get from point A to point B in the least amount of time. But I can tell you to seek the things money can’t buy, and to use your money to help others seek the things money can’t buy.

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January 14, 2008

the ultimate gift

Posted in giving, inheritance, money, newspaper, opinion column tagged at 6:14 pm by weiszguy

There are certain character traits that are extremely important in life.  Traits like a strong work ethic, understanding the value of a dollar, and the importance of generosity and hospitality, for instance.  These qualities are far more important than skills like the ability to understand math or the ability to start a new business.  People who are nearing the end of their lives don’t want to pass on the knowledge of starting businesses, they want to pass on the knowledge of being a better human.  Skills are important, of course.  They are the tools that can help us reach our goals.  It’s just that our goals should be more others-oriented than self-oriented.  The goal should be to make the world a better place, not to start a business, but starting a business may be a valid method of achieving the goal.

I just read The Ultimate Gift, by Jim Stovall.  In it, a wealthy cattle-baron has just passed away and in his will he lays out a plan of action for developing strong character qualities in his grand-nephew.  The nephew isn’t excited about the plan, but as the book progresses he becomes a better person as he submits himself to his uncle’s plan.  The uncle has the nephew perform twelve month-long tasks, each task teaching him a new, and highly valuable, quality.  The nephew learns lessons about work, money, friends, and the thirst for knowledge, to name a few.  By the end of the year, the nephew has become a new person, having been transformed by the hard lessons he has learned.  Because he has learned all these lessons, he earns the ultimate gift, control of a $1 billion charitable trust.

Here’s the thing, I don’t have a $1 billion trust to leave my progeny.  And even if I did, I’m a long way from leaving it to them in a will.  But I desperately desire my offspring to understand and internalize all these lessons just like the nephew in the book.  How do I instill a strong work ethic in my children?  How do I get them to crave spending time with people and giving themselves away?  How do I instill any of these desirable character traits?

April 18, 2007

newspaper column on retirement

Posted in inheritance, money, newspaper, opinion column, retirement, saving at 7:44 pm by weiszguy

This column by yours truly appeared in the April 18, 2007 edition of the Greenhorn Valley View:

What would you do if you didn’t have to work to provide for your needs? Imagine for a moment that you have a bottomless bank account, that just magically has money in it that you can use to pay your expenses. Now you’re free from having to have a job to pay the bills. What would you do?

Would you continue to work, just to have something to do? Would you do volunteer work with your favorite charity? Would you travel ’round the world to see the sights?

Where would you live? Colorado City? Waikiki? Costa Rica? How about hobbies? Would you learn to play a musical instrument? Learn a new language? Write the next best-seller? Paint the next Mona Lisa? Take up golf?

Make a list of your answers to these questions. Draw a picture of yourself doing whatever you would do if you weren’t required to work. Imagine yourself speaking French while painting a picture of yourself playing guitar for underprivileged children in Rwanda. (Your image may vary.) Now tape that list and picture to your refrigerator.

Congratulations! You’re half way there! You’ve just discovered your motivation for saving for retirement! You can provide that bottomless bank account for yourself. With a few bucks a month, and your new-found motivation, you’ll be living your dream sooner than you know it.

People in their 20’s and 30’s have a hard time getting motivated to save because retirement is a distant uncertainty. People in their 50’s and 60’s have a hard time getting motivated to save because retirement is nipping at their heels. But if you take time periodically to imagine how your life would be if you didn’t have to work, saving might not seem like such a futile activity.

Personally, my goals are less about retirement and more about leaving an inheritance for my children and grandchildren. I imagine my grandchildren spending their time in philanthropic endeavors, possibly directing large, multi-national charity organizations, without having to worry about how to put bread on their tables. Obviously, I have to spend copious amounts of time now and in my retirement years educating my children and grandchildren in the principles of making and managing money. And the chunk of change required to fund this vision provides me the motivation to keep saving.

But every person is different. Each person’s motivation is unique. Spending some time thinking about your future can be a very healthy exercise. I think you should do it often.

Six straight weeks of writing this column! I’m on a roll!

February 25, 2007

how much money would it take to change your life?

Posted in inheritance, lottery, money at 8:01 am by weiszguy

I was checking out blogs at random yesterday, when I ran across the British Bull Dog. He raises an interesting question.

Often we dream of winning a lottery or inheriting a gigantic pile of money. (Yes you do; admit it.) Most of us are so far from ever falling into a pile of money that daydreaming about it is a complete waste of time. But what if you didn’t dream about a pile of money? What if you dreamt, instead, of just enough money to change your life? Obviously, $1 won’t change your life, and $1 million is probably a daydream. So where is the line? What is the magic amount that, if it was given you, would have the power to change your life?

This type of thinking isn’t daydreaming. An amount that could change your life is probably attainable within your lifetime. And if that amount is attainable, maybe you’d start trying to attain it, instead of just dreaming about it?

I’d have to say the amount that would change my life would be the sum of all my debts. If I didn’t have any debt payments to make, I’d have an extra $2000 per month. And I can think of a whole lot of things I’d rather do with that money than service my debt. Support a missionary, for example, or take an annual vacation.