The Legacy of Grandpa’s Money

My grandpa, my mom’s dad, was a hoarder.

He was a straight up, legitimate hoarder.

I’m sure much of this stemmed from him growing up in the middle of the Great Depression. It left quite an imprint on his concept of abundance. While it was hard on our family to see him accumulate so much stuff and a pain to clear it all out when he died in 1992, his hoarding left a positive legacy.

In addition to the magazines he kept stacked too high and whatever he filled that 3 car garage full with, he also hoarded money. When driving cross country, he’d stop along the way to open a new bank account. After he died, the family kept receiving bank statements from around the country and finding books with money hidden inside.

His primary account was, of course, in our hometown. He opened it in 1947, 2 years after he came home from the War. Along the way, he added my mom as a joint account holder and she still has that checking account today.

The business of banking has changed a lot in 69 years. The name of the bank has changed many times, eventually settling on Wells Fargo. But my mom still has that account because it was her dad’s. Even though the interest rate sucks, even though they charge her the occasional fee. She has so much pride when she holds up her card and it shows its been open longer than she’s been alive. That’s Gramps’ account and that means something.

And I can’t say that I blame her. I too have Grandpa money. For all the kid’s birthdays every year, we got savings bonds, back when those paid interest. Much of it covered my expenses to go to college. Without my Grandpa money, I wouldn’t have been able to graduate debt free with my undergraduate degree.

He also started a whole life insurance policy for me and my siblings when we were born. My sister cashed hers out to cover the down payment for her house. I still have mine. I’ve kept it as a safety net, just in case, but also because its Grandpa money. It’s what I have left.

My mom and I aren’t making rational financial decisions with this money. It is Grandpa/Dad money and that’s why we keep it. I know whole life isn’t a good investment. My mom knows that keeping her money at Wells Fargo isn’t the best for her money. The only reason we keep it is because of him.

But to honor him, we shouldn’t squander this legacy. After all, what we are cherishing are an expensive account and an inefficient savings vehicle. Grandpa wouldn’t have tolerated that. It is time to cash in and close down these accounts.

Nothing about these accounts can bring him back. The best I can do is do him proud.

Miss you, Gramps!

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21 comments

  1. Totally understand. I have a half-written post about how I’ve never done anything with my “inheritance” – it’s $5k but it was all my grandma had. Too painful to use for anything, too hard to finish the post.

    I think we honor the legacy of people in a way that makes sense to use and makes sense to the people who knew them. You do whatever feels best with that money, and if it changes over time, so be it. Grandparents are the very best, huh? 🙂

    1. What if you invest it, all by itself? Throw it in a solo taxable account and let it grow to whatever it can be. That’s what I want to do with Grandpa’s money. I’m hesitant to bundle it as part of the house fund – then its commingled money. Then it’s not Grandpa’s money. I also don’t have any big things to do with it, where I can feel like Grandpa bought me that… and then hope it lasts forever?

      It’s hard to honor them in a way that makes sense when its a smaller amount of money. I’m sure we’ll figure it out eventually. And yes, Grandparents are the very best.

  2. My grandpa money was what allowed me to put a down-payment on my first condo. He was a banker, so I know he would have been proud of me using it to get in to the housing market here in Victoria.

  3. I still have a GIC from my Dad, who died six years ago. It pays less interest than I’m charged on my student loan, so it makes no sense to keep it, but I can’t seem to get rid of it.

    1. Don’t get rid of them until you are ready to. Or put them to use on something your dad would have wanted. I recently learned that my grandpa had a ton of real estate. It feels pretty cool that I’m continuing what he would have done but in my own financial house.

  4. You just helped me realize something pretty big. Just last night I posted about how we’re revising our plans a bit so that Mr. Smith can remodel our rental property. It’s very important to him, even though it might not be the smartest financial decision. What I failed to recognize was the fact that he used the small inheritance from his mom’s death as a down payment. It makes a little more sense to me why he’s so committed to keeping the property and using it as a long-term investment. Thank you!

    1. That makes total sense that he’d be committed to the property! Glad I could unintentionally help you along in the realization. I hope everything goes well and that you can balance the emotional and financial aspects of the property. Good luck!

  5. My grandpa had boxes of rubber bands hidden ALL OVER his tiny apartment when he passed away and every single magazine he ever got! And I’m with you… I still have the treasury bonds my grandpa gave me. I think they max out in 2032!

    1. Rubber bands! What were you saving them for gramps?? That sounds like a lot of magazines… and now I’m getting flashbacks to my grandpa’s apartment.

      Are you going to keep them until 2032?

      1. My dad offered the magazines to museums or libraries but they all said every old person had them all and they had received plenty. So we ended up recycling most of them

  6. Very few people realize that if their parents of grandparents were/are penny-pinchers, it’s for everyone’s benefit, and I’m happy to see you totally see the bigger picture here. Leaving money for my near and dear ones is something I often fantasize about doing too and the only missing part of the equation is the actual money 🙂 Nevertheless, I can see it leaves a lasting impact on the people you leave behind and that in itself is a big plus…even if it isn’t a lot of money…

    1. Leaving money behind is an optional legacy. It’s not like you are out blowing it. Everyone who has been blessed by the money has been incredibly responsible with it. Even the irresponsible ones in the family don’t want to tarnish the legacy! It’s pretty cool to see!

  7. Aw, love this! I’m sure your grandpa would be super proud of how well you’re managing your money, and how much you’ve accomplished in life! I totally get hanging onto things for sentimental reasons, but applaud you for being willing to let go.

    1. Thanks ONL! It sucks that he died so early. I really only know him through stories and pictures. It’s funny though. There are so many things that I’ve conjured up as my own ideas that I found on the internet. Turns out he was doing all the same things 65 years ago. So much for being original!

  8. This so reminds me of my dad (who is still living) but it’s like you wrote a letter from me, in the future. So sweet. And yes… if money was only math, everyone would be millionaires. It’s emotional.

  9. “Nothing about these accounts can bring him back. The best I can do is do him proud.”

    This is wonderful and a stark contrast to the reaction of some folks who inherit money. Some fight over it and others spend it on nonsense. I can tell that you’re going to do good with it.

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