“Where your treasure is, there will your heart be also.” (Matthew 6:21)
18I hated all the things I had toiled for under the sun, because I must leave them to the one who comes after me. 19And who knows whether that person will be wise or foolish? Yet they will have control over all the fruit of my toil into which I have poured my effort and skill under the sun. This too is meaningless. 20So my heart began to despair over all my toilsome labor under the sun. 21For a person may labor with wisdom, knowledge and skill, and then they must leave all they own to another who has not toiled for it. This too is meaningless and a great misfortune. (Ecclesiastes 2)
Money is a concern for seniors. Some are barely making it on social security. Twenty percent of married couples and forty percent of singles over sixty- five live mainly (90% +) off of social security. There is another 40% of seniors who have most of their debt paid and are making it. While half of those (20% of those over 65) are making investments so that they can make it into the future and are wrestling with tax and estate advantages.
The problem is that we cannot take our money with us. There is no moving van at the grave. We leave our stuff behind often to people who don’t appreciate it. Even valuable antiques, heirlooms and precious tokens are not appreciated many times. The government may take so much through estate taxes which come and go. I know of a family who left everything they owned to their three children- it was all Wachovia Stock valued at millions of dollars when they died at the end of 2007. But in 2008 the market crashed and Wachovia stock was worth less than a penny on the dollar. They still had to pay estate taxes though they had inherited nothing (or they really inherited negative money). Some of the children lost everything- going bankrupt.
You may have seen the show “Hoarders.” There are people who literally keep everything in case they might need it. It is usually not organized and their possessions literally possess them. I knew a lady who kept every newspaper, every magazine, every shoe, every piece of clothing she ever bought. We must be able to let go. I have seen the deep pain of those who have a hard time letting go when they move into a retirement home or have to move in with their children. It is important to simplify.
Some try to shelter their children from such taxes and probate by establishing trusts, tax shelters, annuities, and endowments. The problem with endowments is the same problem indicated in Ecclesiastes 2. We may want our money to be used frugally to support some cause, but often it is not done that way. Harvard was started by a Christian minister (giving his library) for the training and propagation of the Gospel. Today those wishes of Rev. John Harvard have long since bent away. James Brown wanted to help the poor children of South Carolina through his estate and he specifically warned off relatives who he knew would prey on his money after he died. The estate is still in probate (10 years now) and no money has gone to help the children of SC. People can twist your wishes. When you die, you must relinquish control- even if you make your wishes known. It is generally better to give away our possessions before we die with more than we or our children can use. We can easily forget there are many needs out there. There are starving people in the developing world. There are hungry people even around us. Certainly church benevolences are a way to give in an effort to do the Lord’s work. Jesus said, “Where your treasure is there will your heart be also.” The illusion is that we need to hold onto all we can…just in case. But we end up getting taxed if we hold too much, and it could get wasted by those who will inherit it. Opening up our hand to the needy is important. If you have tithed, then you know the joy of giving. Only 3% of the population and 10% of the church tithe. Those who don’t simply get and spend but seek to manage their money tithing are less likely to owe a significant debt (40% less), miss a payment on credit card debt, and tweice as likely to be debt free (Relevant Magazine 2013). Tithing is a sign of good money management. It is also hard, in our consumer-drive culture, to live simpler in order to give more. But it appears Jesus (with the rich young ruler, Zacheus, the Pharisee at table) wants us to give more and spend less on selfish things. What we do with our money is a spiritual thing. How we give thanks to God with what we have determines whether we will be a grateful and generous person or not.