Inheritance: Pennies from Heaven, or Climate Change?

Pennies from Heaven“Some people see pennies from heaven, while others see climate change.” – Taken from the one panel comic strip “Rubes,” by Leigh Rubin

I got a big laugh out of that when I read it! Next, I thought of the people I know would complain if it was actually raining money; I imagine you did too. In life, no amount of silver linings will deter some people from focusing on the clouds, but it doesn’t mean that person has to be you.

To illustrate: I enjoyed the movie The Shawshank Redemption and still do when it comes around on TV on a weekend night. The movie was derived from a Stephen King novella: Rita Hayworth and the Shawshank Redemption. I think it, along with The Green Mile, is one of the best books he’s ever written — but I do have a nit to pick. Do you recall the guard who is lamenting an inheritance and the taxes he will owe on it? Andy Dufresne offers a solution whereby the fellow who inherits the money can avoid taxes (by gifting the money to his wife.)

On a side note… none of that makes any sense to me. Yes, there was an estate tax in the 1930s — larger in percentage terms than we have today — but the tax should have been charged to the estate before any transfer took place. Even if there is something going on that renders that untrue, I cannot imagine gifting the inheritance to another person, spouse or otherwise, would have made any difference on the tax impact in the end. Granted, this is a little nerdy on my part, but it does bug me.

Taxes

Pennies from Heaven… and a little perspective

The greater point is: some guy is complaining that an inheritance (read: money) fell out of the sky into his lap, and the only thing he can think of to do is to complain that it is taxable. Really? “Darn, Long Lost Aunt Susie died and left me a million dollar inheritance, and I really wanted a million and one. Oh, yeah, too bad about LLAS too.” Sheesh. People like that grind my gears – and saying that is about as close to profanity as I am comfortable with!

A different way of visualizing the stock market

Ocean Treasure So let’s get back to Earth, where most of us won’t be getting any surprise cash anytime soon and are saving for our own retirement. The S&P and NASDAQ recently reached new all-time highs. Did your 401(k) also reach an all-time high? Whether it did or not is probably a flip-of-the-coin chance, as other indices didn’t perform as well. I heard one commentator describe the domestic stock market as “levitating.”

I prefer to think of the markets differently. Say, like the ocean tides. They roll in and they roll out. But if you invest wisely — and patiently! —  the tide often leaves some treasure behind in its wake.

Some investors call that value. Others look at it simply as muck. Just like some people call money falling from the sky “climate change.” The key is to see the positives; even if you didn’t hit an all-time high this year, your well established plan has many years to generate value through the tides.

Financial planning can help maximize the treasure left behind over time, and get you through the mucky parts. But perhaps more importantly, approaching the journey of investing with a positive outlook can help prevent hasty or otherwise poor decisions that impact future financial wellness. And if you ever get any of those financial windfalls or “pennies from heaven,” remember to see it for what it is: a treasure.

 

September 2018

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