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,
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.
winning money = earning money
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
Does reading about this marriage give you hope?
Are you looking to get married? Married, but looking to thrive?
Wish to bless someone in your life?
Take a look at
The Lasting Love Set
On sale now