I didn’t see it coming: not the money; not the challenge of money; and not the deliverance, years later, from the craving for money. Instead I was simply in grief, struggling to cope with the death of my parents. This was 10 years ago, after my widowed mother suddenly became ill and unexpectedly died. My beloved dad had passed away some 20 years earlier. Now they were both gone and I was adrift and heartbroken, hardly thinking about something like an inheritance.
Then suddenly here I was, executor of my late parents’ estate—which sounds fancier than it was. Mama and Daddy were just two hard-working American folks—an elementary school gym teacher on her part and a government employee on his. Yet together, over 40 years of marriage, they pooled their modest incomes, saving much of what they were paid and living debt-free.
Their “estate”—a word I’d never before used—now suddenly left me (and my one sibling) an opportunity to become debt-free too. So I took the plunge and paid my parents’ taxes—and then paid off my grinding home mortgage, a refinanced second mortgage, and a really irritating furniture store bill, along with every credit card balance I’d managed to pile high.
Relief? Not totally. Once those debts were paid, the cash part of my inheritance was mostly gone—almost as fast as I received it. What a waste, I thought, to see so much of my parents’ hard-earned gift—money they’d saved and invested over a disciplined lifetime—eaten up by my irresponsible debt in a matter of months. My creditors were happy, but I felt miserable.1