By Rebecka O.
Six years, 3 months and 13 days ago my mother died and changed the way that I look at money. She had always been frugal and a constant saver. When she passed away, she had an estate worth more than $1.5 million which had been accumulated on the small wages of being a house maid over 60 years.
I was shocked when I heard the amount of the estate. I knew that my mom had enough money to meet her necessities, but didn’t think she had much more than that. My mother lived in a tiny 2 bedroom one bath house where I had grown up sharing a room through high school with my sister. It was cramped. Who could use the bathroom was always a daily battle. My mom constantly talked about how she would love to have more space if she could afford it, and $1.5 million was more than enough to buy a place with more space.
But far beyond the amount, it was what she hadn’t done with it that shocked me most. My mother had dreams. She often talked about how she would like to one day travel to Paris and Rome. She wanted to see a Broadway show and walk by Niagara Falls. Living near the east coast, she often said that she had seen the sun rise over the ocean many times, but that it would be fun to see it set over the ocean once. And she wanted to see a penguin in the wild. I don’t even remember why she wanted to do this, but she mentioned it on more than one occasion. She never pursued any of these dreams even though she had the money to do so.
To this day it still bothers me why she didn’t take some of that money and make her dreams come true. Had she been so frugal all those years that no matter how much she had in the bank, she didn’t feel like she had enough to spend a little on herself? Was she saving it with a misguided thought that the money would be better given to others rather than spent on herself? Why hadn’t she done all those things that she told us time and again that she wanted to do when she had the means to do them?
Until the death of my mother I had been frugal and a saver, too. I was debt free, had a nice amount socked away in retirement accounts and a fully funded emergency fund. I had foregone a lot of my own dreams in order to save money for the future when I would have the time and the money to pursue them.
My mother would have told me to save the $300,000 that I inherited from her for a rainy day. In the six years since she died, I have spent it all. I no longer have a large emergency fund. I am still debt free, but I have even raided some of the money in my retirement accounts. I have spent this money on making sure that I will fulfil my dreams before I die.
I do not regret spending the money. I do not regret not saving as much as the experts say that I should. What I do regret is that I was only able to learn this lesson through the death of my mother.
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