Bill Johnson was 63 and felt like the best years were behind him. Susan had been his wife and soul mate of forty-six years and had recently passed away suddenly from cancer. He never expected or planned that he would be the one alone. But now he was and having to deal with it the best way he could.
He could not believe how huge, empty and cold their house felt especially since the couple had been constant companions and never had children.
He began to wonder out loud to himself what in the world would happen now and what should happen to all his possessions once he was gone.
Over the years both Susan and Bill had been generous to several charities. Both Susan and Bill’s parents had died years ago, and Bill only had one younger bother named Roger, and Susan was an only child. Bill had never been close to his brother and only visited once a year usually around Christmas or Thanksgiving.
Bill did not consider himself a wealthy man but he had inherited some property from his family that turned out to be quite valuable especially after Wal-Mart wanted it for a new store.
Both Susan and Bill had worked over forty years before retiring. Susan had worked for the phone company and Bill had worked in sales all his life. His first sales job was with a life insurance company and later he worked for a hardware store before finally settling in to working for a family owned plumbing supply company for fifteen years. He worked the counter and was one of the best and most liked salesman. All the building contractors hated to see him retire because they knew the younger kid that took his place would not be detailed oriented or really go out of his way to help them like Bill did.
Bill and Susan grew up in families that constantly struggled to make ends meat and their upbringing caused them to both want to live modest lifestyles. No fancy cars or clothes and the most extravagant thing Bill ever purchased as a toy for himself was a few extra chisels, files and gouges for his wood whittling hobby.
Their retirement money was invested in conservative investments which were mostly tax free bonds and some blue chip stocks. The money from the sale of the property had been put in CDs. At Susan’s death Bill had totally forgotten about a whole life insurance policy Susan had taken out years ago at the phone company for $250,000.
Susan had always been the bookkeeper in the family and had everything organized in little piles in her office. It took Bill two weeks before he stepped in her office to begin to sort things out. After a few days looking at the check book and adding all the investment figures up he was shocked to see how their nest egg had grown to a nice little sum of over $1.5 million dollars which did not include their house which was paid for or their two older cars.
Bill’s younger brother Roger and his wife Jill had one son named Tom who was 22. Roger and Jill’s lifestyle was completely opposite of Bill and Susan. They had a big house, big new leased cars and even a big John Deer lawn mower! Roger and Jill wanted it all and wanted it all now. While both had good paying jobs, Bill realized they were living way beyond their means and knew they must be drowning in debt.
Like Bill, Roger also had inherited some land from their parents as well but quickly sold it right after he got it so he could buy more toys. While Bill and Roger love each other like bothers do they never understood how both could have grown up in the same house but be so totally different.
Bill knew from past experience that Roger’s way of living was all about making the payment and never about owning anything outright. It didn’t matter what it cost it only mattered if he could get it with no money down and how small the payment might be. In his mind being debt free was just a dream like winning the lottery.
Ten years before their parents died the boys had been given a check for $10,000 with an understanding that the money was to be used to help pay off bills. Roger paid off one credit card and Bill used the money to help pay off the little bit they owed on their home. A year later, Roger had run his credit card bill back up to $10,000 and Bill’s home was paid for.
Bill knew that what ever money he decided to give to his brother he would probably blow through it within a year or so and he wasn’t sure that was the right thing to do.
Roger likewise never understood why Bill never seems to enjoy life and have some fun. He saw his older brother work all the time and never spend much money on anything but that stupid hobby of his. He hated thinking about his childhood and having to wear his older brother’s used clothes and how everything he seemed to get growing up was used.
Roger and Jill felt they were happy but always were juggling the bills to make it work. Living on the edge of their financial ability was all they knew as normal and they were not interested in changing how they lived.
If you were the judging type you might draw your own conclusions as to what was “right” or “wrong” in the lives both bothers live. Regardless it all comes down to personal decisions and choices and living with those actions.
The path and decision you make truly is like a pebble thrown in a pool of water. The ripples, while small, have the ability to effect things that are far reaching beyond your immediate field of view.
Finally, I am reminded of a phrase I was told many years ago: You can only spend it once!
A dollar one spends on one’s self is lost and cannot be spent helping another.