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When an inheritance is a burden

By Judy Martel · Bankrate.com
Wednesday, December 4, 2013
Posted: 6 am ET

For everyone who dreams that an inherited windfall would make their lives easier, there are plenty of inheritors who say otherwise. Chuck Collins, great-grandson of packaged-meat magnate Oscar Mayer, is one of them.

Inheriting a bundle of money at a young age won't necessarily make you happy.

Inheriting a bundle of money at a young age won't necessarily make you happy.

Collins says that when he found out he would inherit a small fortune at the age of 21, his sense of self-worth was knocked a little off-kilter because he always expected to earn his own way. "I remember feeling a little bit of dread," he adds.

When young inheritors discover they may never have to work for a living, it alters their values as well as their position within their social network of peers, who are busy building careers. "Kids tend not to do well when they come into an inheritance at 21," says Madeline Levine, psychologist in Marin County Calif., and author of "The Price of Privilege" and "Teach Your Children Well."

Levine says that for many young adults, an inheritance is a burden.

Giving it all away

Collins says he felt the money would separate him from his goals and his friends. So by the time he had full custody of the inheritance, in his mid-20s, he made a somewhat drastic decision to give all the money to charity. He donated it to a variety of community foundations. "I didn't do this immediately," he says. "I had about five years to think about it."

Nearly 30 years later, Collins doesn't regret his decision. "I felt like I was doing it from a healthy place," he says. "I didn't want to be seen as a bag of money just because I was born into certain circumstances." Today, Collins earns his living as an author and expert on economic inequality and taxation. In 2008, he co-founded Wealth for the Common Good, a network of business leaders and wealthy individuals promoting fair and adequate taxation.

"My advice to inheritors is to pause, take a breath and think about what kind of values you want to live by," Collins says. "All around you, people will want you to hold onto the money; there's an entire industry devoted to wealth preservation." He encourages inheritors to figure out how much they need in order to invest in skills to earn a living and then consider giving the rest away.

Fear of being without will be a challenge that will lead many young people to hold onto the money as a safeguard, but Collins advises giving in to the impulse to be generous. "Trust yourself to share," he says.

He also suggests gaining perspective by examining the relationship between consumerism and happiness. "Look at role models of happy people and look at how much materialism is necessary," he says. More money doesn't increase happiness, he adds.

Read more on overcoming the challenges of inherited wealth.

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79 Comments
MIke
December 07, 2013 at 9:21 pm

Charities = Big Joke = 99% Their pocket - 1% Maybe to poor = 0

Donate to me
December 07, 2013 at 8:44 pm

If anyone want to donate/ give me some of that fiats... If you don't want your fiats $$$$ I will be please and happy to take it from you...

James Lebovitz
December 07, 2013 at 8:10 pm

If I came into money, the only people that I would give to would never be charity foundations, they don't deserve it, all they do is pocket it anyway and give a fraction to those in need. I would give to my family because charity begins at home.

Annie
December 07, 2013 at 8:03 pm

You never know what struggles may lie ahead. Unemployment, health and/or legal issues can wipe you out and you may even end up homeless. It is wiser to give some money to charity, but to hold onto the rest because serious struggles in your future can destroy you.

Carole
December 07, 2013 at 6:54 pm

I don't think this man is looking for praise at all. He's just sharing his story probably because someone asked him to. Larry and Mary just sound bitter about their lives.
Chuck did a good thing and I give him credit for sharing .....

larry of olympia, wa
December 07, 2013 at 6:22 pm

that is the most stupid comment I have ever read....I would wager that no matter what he says he did, he took care of himself first....I lived in foster homes from age 14, been robbed, lost all my money.. I made it....I survived...charity to people is not an option.....I ask for no help....give not help....and for the short version...I have done foster care, coached kids 13 years.....they didn't ask,,,, I wanted too...sooooo take your money and pretend that you helped...but in truth you praise yourself....I'm not well off but I praise who I have been......take care

mary
December 07, 2013 at 6:01 pm

If you want to give it away give it away, but you want at big pat on your back for doing IT PLEASE!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

The true givers are the ones that one it without praise, I know some that is a billionare, and has made donotated tons of money without praise, that is a person with a heart in the right place

mary
December 07, 2013 at 6:00 pm

If you want to give it away give it away, but you want at big pat on your back for doing IT PLEASE!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

The true givers are the ones that one it without praise, I know some that is a billionare, and has donotation tons of money without praise, that is a person with a heart in the right place

carroll redd
December 07, 2013 at 4:59 pm

keep a 82 in mind for some.

Diana
December 07, 2013 at 4:49 pm

I grew up during the "depression era" and lived in a house very
much like "Little House on the Prairie". Yes, even an out-house.
worked on farms as soon as I was old enough to pick berries -
around 8 years old. We were very poor, had no conveniences but
cold runnning water and a kerosene stove. Went to a 1-room school
house. The one thing we had was love and protection from our
parents - which is the most important thing in life.
We all grew up as hard workers and appreciating anything we had.
My point is: hard work and love are what gives a person character. Never believe that rich people are the happiest - they
too commit suicide, get into drugs and crimes.

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