We’re Receiving an Inheritance

My loving wife (50) & I (52) have been married 27 years and have four wonderful children who have just completed leaving the nest.  For the duration of our marriage I’ve been the sole breadwinner.  My wife is fortunately about to get a multi-million dollar inheritance that will soon start being paid out in large annual sums.  Though we’ve made some mistakes financially in the past, we’ve been pretty aligned with our finances. Currently, we have a strong foundation of the children’s college is saved, very little debt ($150k on our house), $100k cash savings and $500k+ of retirement savings.  I’ve watched your ten-part video series on Ancient Hebrew Wisdom’s 10 Commandments of Financial Prosperity.  My concern is in relation to what this windfall will do to our marriage as I will no longer be the breadwinner.  How can this fortunate circumstance be handled so it’s a blessing rather than an affliction to our relationship?

Grateful for response,

GP

Dear GP,

First of all, congratulations. Even before responding to your question,  we congratulate you and your wife because you seem to have a multi-decade loving marriage, four maturing children, and a wisely put-together financial portfolio. Clearly, many of you and your wife’s decisions have been good ones. Indeed, God seems to be openly blessing your hard work. 

Regarding the inheritance, we’re pretty sure that a number of readers are saying to themselves, “That’s a problem I’d love to have,” but you are wise to recognize that a large influx of money is a blessing that can easily turn into a curse. Just like any other major life change, both ones that we eagerly embrace (such as marriage) or those we dread (such as illness), our reaction to the new situation matters a great deal. 

One of the many incomplete sayings that people like is, “Money can’t buy you happiness.”  This is a bit like saying, “Cars can’t get you places.”  Well, if you put in gasoline and have a driver, yes, cars can very much get you places.  Similarly, money you earn or make can make you very happy.  The very process of making money means you have successfully improved the life of at least one other person and that helps to make one happy.  Winning the money from a lottery is quite different.  A year or so after winning, very few lottery winning families are happier. 

Hebrew and English are among the few languages that clearly discriminate between earning money and winning money.  

 Spanish

ganar dinero

winning money = earning money

  French

gagner de l’argent 

winning money =  earning money

Which brings us to inheritance. Is inheritance closer to earning money or closer to winning money?  If the inheritance is an unexpected bonanza  from a great-uncle, twice-removed, whom you’ve never met it’s more like a lottery win.  If it is just as unexpected but it’s from a relative to whom you have been dedicated for years, then it is closer to having earned it. 

You didn’t tell us which kind of inheritance yours is but in any event, the crux of your question revolves more around the effect the inheritance can have upon your marital dynamics since it is coming from your wife’s side.

Since you seem to be running your lives  so well, we assume that you are also exploring  the effect this inheritance can have on your children. We say this especially since you mention college and that you seem to be accepting at least some of the financial responsibility for advanced education. We do hope your eyes are discerning and that you are alert to and approving of the direction your children’s lives are taking. 

However, your question has more to do with your income no longer being financially necessary for your household’s well-being.  Here is the key: we hope that through the years, you and your wife saw the income you earned while she worked on the home front as resulting from the efforts of both of you and thus belonging to the two of you. We hope that now both of you will see your wife’s inheritance in exactly the same way. Sitting down to purposefully discuss this, both by yourselves and with spiritual and financial advisors might be wise. 

What vision do each of you have for the next few decades? Is one of you picturing your life not changing very much while the other is dreaming of stimulating travel?  Do you share views on charitable giving? We hope that your job has provided more than a paycheck—do you relish the idea of continuing doing what you have been doing or does this windfall provide the opportunity for finding a new way to serve others? Your awareness that you need to feel productive, and indeed to be productive, is real; so is the possibility that your productivity may take a new form.  

The word inheritance in the Lord’s language is YoReSH which is one of those Hebrew words where the first and last letter lay out the main theme of the word, while the middle letter modifies it. 

For instance, a child, YeLeD means an educated or trained extension to your hand. (YaD means hand, the L sound means learn/teach)  When you hand over some aspect of your affairs to the management of your child, that is exactly what you are doing. 

י – ל – ד

Likewise, inheritance means something that comes into your possession (YeSH) that requires wise, thoughtful handling (R means head/intellect)

י – ר – ש

As in so many of life’s circumstances recognizing both opportunities and potential pitfalls allows one to take advantage of the first and avoid the latter. Your past record suggests that you and your wife will behave with foresight and reflection. The concerns you have are valid and we are quite sure that new questions will arise. Keep the lines of communication open and our overarching advice would be to make changes slowly and deliberately rather than feeling pushed to act hastily. 

May this inheritance be another blessing in your life,

Rabbi Daniel and Susan Lapin

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12 thoughts on “We’re Receiving an Inheritance”

  1. That sounds like good advice. You would think they would have known this day was coming and planned for it. At least discussed it. People are funny about money. What’s mine is yours can be tricky in a case like this. The husband might embrace the money, but worry about losing power. I hope it brings them much happiness which is what the benefactor would want. A good financial advisor would be wise and perhaps look at setting up a family trust.

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  2. Rabbi
    That was a wonderful thoughtful response. If you believe the money belongs to The Lord and you are the Steward you will have no problems. After many years of watching people suddenly come into a lot of money I know one thing for sure. Please do not tell anyone outside of your immediate family. Money does strange things to people and suddenly your friends are your enemies! It takes a long time to accumulate money and it can vanish quickly! Since you have done a great job handling money in the past keep up the good work! Just act the same as you usually do and enjoy the blessing.

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  3. Rabbi Lapin, I agree with you 1000 percent. Money gives qualitative life hence that contributes to happiness. I am waiting for mine, mom recently passed and she worked hard so we are waiting for the courts and the proceedings. Thanks to God!

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  4. Carmine Pescatore

    I read the Proverbs and Psalms every morning for my inspiration and there is something there that I realized years ago . Just give me enough. I am healthy for my age, my bills are paid, and things are reasonably good in my life. I do get pleasure with my modest philanthropy. A fantasy I have is that I am left with a fortune and have the opportunity to do good with it at my level. Donations to food banks, anonymous donations to struggling individuals, etc. Don’t be the servant who buries his “talent” in the ground.

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  5. This was a great response to a very important issue of marriage. I always love the way you get right down to the foundation of life through the Hebrew. It is encouraging, fascinating and life changing to behold all that information. Thanks be unto God. 🙏

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  6. Rabbi Daniel and Susan,

    This is an interesting view I would have never considered. “If the inheritance is an unexpected bonanza from a great-uncle, twice-removed, whom you’ve never met it’s more like a lottery win. If it is just as unexpected but it’s from a relative to whom you have been dedicated for years, then it is closer to having earned it.” The relationship is the key! Thank you for your sharing your wisdom!

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    1. Karen, this is one of the reasons that trust funds often end up supporting movements and lifestyles that would have appalled the original creators of the trust. If there isn’t a relationship, then the money and the individual leaving it are disconnected.

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