Filthy Lucre

19 May

Letterbalm Fluttering MoneyDear LetterBalm: Recently, I came into a lot of money from a financial settlement – enough so that I don’t have to work again. I’m working with good financial and tax advisors to make an investment plan. I haven’t quit working yet because I like my job and I need the health insurance coverage until we figure out my next steps. I received the money in a public way, so people in my small town know my situation. I would have wanted to keep all this private. Now, everybody wants a handout. I’m hearing from distant relatives I haven’t heard from in years. Co-workers I don’t even know accost me at my job. Distant friends and acquaintances buttonhole me at my front door and when I go out. I’m getting letters and e-mails, some of them heartbreaking. I had to discontinue my landline and get a new cell number. All this is very upsetting. How can I deal with people to stop the intrusions and keep my sanity?

–Cash Poor

Your instinct to keep things private was right on the money. People become quite weird about financial settlements, inheritances, lotteries and other windfalls. Perfectly normal human beings – some of them in genuine need, others ready to take advantage – feel strong emotions when they hear that someone has received a bonanza. They may feel the cash is endless so they should share in it, even if they don’t know the individual. Or, they may believe a friend or relative (no matter how distant or estranged) must share the wealth. Sadly, you’ll never be rid of the petitioners. Ms. L.B. hopes you haven’t given out or promised a cent. You and your advisors are the ones to decide how to spend and invest the money – and, if you do give gifts, they should be selective and anonymous (and spread out over time) as much as possible. Only you can control your behavior. So, bear in mind that money itself is neutral; you are the same person you always were. You might talk with a counselor who can help you be comfortable with the fact that you owe no one anything and you won’t be guilt-tripped or bullied. Work up a few responses and keep your equilibrium:

  • It’s nice to hear from you, but I need to tell you right away that everything is tied up in investments and trusts, and I have advisors who are telling me what to do. I’m afraid I can’t help you.
  • I’m sorry that you’re going through hard times, but what you’re asking is not possible for me to do.
  • I’m sorry, but my advisors have informed me that I can’t handle any requests from anyone.
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