When my mother passed away a couple of years ago, she left each of her three children a modest cash legacy. It was nowhere near enough to nail a permanent “out to lunch” sign on the front door and buy a one way ticket to Nirvana. But it was, in my case, enough to replace our forlorn patio with some pleasant decking, crowned with a set of new garden chairs.
You see, my mother was a keen gardener and this seemed a fitting way to both use the money wisely and remember this sweet, warm-hearted lady. But as a widow of some 25 years who had spent decades carefully scrutinising her daily expenses, how I wish my mum had simply spent the cash on herself. For while she was too cautious to become a bling-chasing “gold timer” eating into her savings with splashy post-retirement holidays, I would have taken greater pleasure knowing she had spoiled herself a bit more.
That is one reason why I repeatedly tell my own children not to expect me to leave them anything.
In my twilight years I want to join those older, baby boomers intent on enjoying the fruits of all that graft (both domestic and professional) with long held retirement goals. Yet a new study has found that today’s young people are relying more than ever on being able to inherit their parents’ money and property in order to retire. Despite the fact that two out of three baby boomers plan to spend rather than pass it on, 25 per cent of 18 to 34-year-olds are depending on inheritance for their future financial security.
Well, not in this house.
I have no intention of being like the grandmother of a young man I met recently who, he said, refuses to put the heating on so that she’ll have more money to leave him. Self-imposed austerity to future-proof the young seems an unsound algorithm.
Not that I haven’t made a will – unlike the findings of a survey by solicitors’ firm Gorvins which revealed that most Brits would rather go on holiday, buy a sofa or pay for home improvements than spend the money making a will.
It’s crazy not to be clear about who gets your estate (and garden furniture). But the bequests I make are predicated on what’s left – not what I’m planning to leave. So am I being a selfish, cold-hearted hedonist?
Well, setting aside long-held dreams of cruising Sunset strip in an open top Cadillac, there’s a far more serious issue at play here too. By telling my children that it’s dangerous to base financial planning on their future inheritance, I feel I’m helping them far more.
Instead, I impress upon them the importance of making their own way – pursuing careers which will guarantee solvency as well as satisfaction. Or as my father-in-law so wisely told his own three sons, “get your label” – a mantra my husband and I have repeated (endlessly) to our own children.
Of course, as parents, we help them all the time – especially our two eldest who are impecunious university students. Although I got an enormous glow of satisfaction when our 23 year-old recently purchased his first car – funded with his own savings.
I should point out that I’m not joining the likes of rock star Sting, who has revealed his children will not inherit his £180m fortunebecause it will be an “albatross around their necks”. If I had that kind of albatross, perhaps I would think differently.
But who knows what my generation may need money for? Especially since a report earlier this year by Public Health England (PHE) found that life expectancy at older ages in England has risen to its highest ever level.
I know it’s harder for today’s young people, unlike the post war generation who may have profited from the huge rise in property prices. Yet I don’t believe the “we’ve never had it so bad” ethos should be a reason to let our children pin their hopes on what may come.
Anyway, would you want to raise sons and daughters who shoot withering looks every time you dip into your bank account for a fancy new coat or smart city break?
Not that I’m not enjoying the decking and Rattan furniture bankrolled by my late mum’s legacy. It’s a lovely place to sit in the sun. But I’m sad, so sad, that it’s something my own mother never spent enough money doing for herself.