Money matters

I unexpectedly inherited a bit of money. It’s changed my life in ways that have surprised me, It’s also supported behaviors set in place when money was my enemy.

I used to run tabs in my head. I kept an account of everything coming in and out, cash or credit. Being an older parent, I was obsessed with squirreling away all I could for our kid’s education, and possibly even a year or two of “retirement” for Fawn and me. I’d been through bankruptcy, which had rid me of the biggest yoke I was carrying, a student debt that had ballooned tenfold.

That student debt was the first thing I paid off when I got flush. We fixed our roof, did a plumbing overhaul on our home, and upgraded some other systems in the house.


We had been fortunate to sell out of our life in the Hudson Valley and buy into downtown Albany without a mortgage. We found that costs were lower in the Capital Region. And one drives less. We were doing well.

We aren’t the sort who’ll suddenly develop new spending habits like becoming snowbirds, say, or boating enthusiasts.

I’ve started noticing the way my friends live, especially those following artsy paths. I found the courage to ask them about their money. It’s not something we spoke about much. It turned out that wealth doesn’t accumulate from the work one does as much as I’d been taught.

My own need to juggle jobs as a way to maximize income out of niche careers hasn’t changed. But I’ve started dropping work that doesn’t feel fun, or that begins to irk me. My son and wife have pointed out how I’m less stressed about money matters now.

I still run numbers in my head, but they’re more closely tied to dreams now. I’ve started putting time and savings into what some could call hobbies: a community radio station, a wacky idea for Milo’s high-school education scheduled to start in a year with long trips to Mexico, then maybe to Italy.

I’m eyeing the time when I can concentrate on pure creation, for myself. But I want to get my kid launched by then. I know the way my head can clutter.

But I’m also not worried enough to rush anything. I’ve done that long enough to know that I can survive if I fuck up and need to start scrapping again. Fawn feels the same way.

What about these mortality scares from Covid, Trump, and the rumblings of complete economic collapse? We’re all operating on a karmic plane, for now.

Read more installments of Village Voices by Paul Smart.