Thursday, August 12, 2010

When all is said and done...

The Millionaire Next Door: The Surprising Secrets of America' s WealthyWhere does the time go?

I had such high hopes for this year. Goals, really. Expectations. I started writing a young adult novel shortly before summer started and was convinced I would write it this summer, especially after my agent said he liked what he'd read so far. But time got away from me. It is mid-August, and I never even opened my laptop again. (I do all my “real” writing on a dedicated laptop. It sits in the corner of my room, blinking at me, mocking me.)

I still haven't read the complete works of Jane Austen. I still haven't written my novel. And, for you ladies out there, I still haven't hit my goal weight. Or gotten my house clean. Or my exercise program more in line with where I want it to be. In fact, the only thing I have marginally managed to do is pay down some of my credit card debt!

The comic books sold for $30 with $10 shipping. So that's $40. Except that it isn't. Paypal took $1.46. Ebay took 75 cents. And then my errand boy and ex Dan mentioned to the post office clerk that the box contained COMIC books, at which point he was no longer allowed to ship the box media mail because comic books don't count because they allegedly contain ads. So that was another $15.90. My only hope was that my errand boy would forget to turn over the post office receipt to me, in which case he would never get credited the money. (he he he) But, alas, he turned over the receipt in a timely manner, thereby bringing my take on the comic books to $19.19. Based on my predictions, they should have sold for around $60. But didn't.

The silver didn't fare much better. According to my calculations, if I had sold the silver to the coin shop, my best-case scenario was $420. But I sold it on eBay. After nearly 100 people looked and a number declared themselves “watchers”, in the end I only received four bids. I guess some people think that $5,000 worth of silverware is only a bargain at $480 and not at, oh, $510.

The winning bid was $511. Paypal took $15.12. Ebay took $45.99, which was actually less than I'd anticipated, thank God, or I really would have ended up screwed. Shipping with insurance cost another $26.85. In the end, my take was a disappointing $417.54, roughly what I would have gotten if I had just driven to the coin shop and sold it there in the first place. Oh, well. I had to try!

Letting go of that silver was harder than I'd anticipated. I mean, my grandmother bought me this silver one piece at a time, thinking that someday I would have a complete set and keep and use it for the rest of my life. But I never used it. I never turned into the kind of person who uses silver for formal or really any occasions. Letting go of the silver was almost like letting go of a dream.

My family immigrated to this country when I was six years old. I read once that there is a pattern: the first generation comes here, the second learns the language, and the third makes the fortune. Well, three generations of us immigrated here simultaneously, so I was immediately that third generation.

As is the case with so many folks, my family has a history of fortunes lost. Before World War II, the family was apparently loaded and living in Bohemia. We're talking many millions. But a year and a half after World War II drew to a close, the Russians threw the “Sudetendeutsche” out of Bohemia. My family became refugees. Well, not exactly refugees. In German, the word is Vertriebene, those who were pushed out. All of the money stayed behind. But the memories of the money lingered on.

My grandmother had grown up with that way of life. Her two children (my mother included) remember being driven out of the country, a memory that permanently molded them. And growing up I felt this expectation that not only would the family reachieve its former glory, but that it was up to me to get it there. I was the first person born in my generation (18 years ahead of the next), so I felt a good deal of pressure growing up.

But, alas, I grew up and turned out to be perfectly ordinary. I mean, I've achieved things with my life, to be sure. But my credit card debt alone will tell you just how average I am, just how much like the neighbors that live on either side of you, and hardly some grand lady who's made a family's worth of fortune.

But I've never moped about the lack of funds. In The Millionaire Next Door, the authors discuss that there are two basic ways to be or create a loser. One is to spend your life moaning about that family fortune that no longer exists. (And, honestly, how many people have my kind of story up one branch of their family tree? Very very many, I suspect!) The second is to spend your life waiting for that inheritance, instead of actually getting off your duff and making your own way, accomplishing. One of the interesting things about the millionaires next door was that their kids tended not to know how well off their parents were! As a result, they went out and achieved in their own right.

So if I'm ever wealthy, I just won't tell my children. But I do not believe that any breath-holding is in order here! Especially since my clearest path to wealth would have been writing that novel!


  1. Ooooh - what is the novel about this time?!?!?!? I liked the first part of the first one that I read.

    And I like and agree with the fact that even if your parents have/had money that doesn't mean it was yours in the first place. Get out there and earn your keep and then reap the rewards!