Over the next year, I will be sponsoring an informational column on retirement and estate planning every other week in the Jewish Chronicle. But, since this is our first meeting, let me introduce myself. I am a CPA and a lawyer who founded a business in Squirrel Hill thirty years ago (we are now located at the corner of Murray and Phillips) We have a CPA firm, a law firm, and a registered investment advisory that utilizes low-cost index funds. I was born and raised in Squirrel Hill, and I still live in my family home.
Furthermore, I have a family connection to the Chronicle. My mother, Barnetta Davis Lange (1916-2012), wrote for the Chronicle for many years—some of the more long-lived readers of the paper may remember her! My family has other ties to the greater Jewish community as well. My great-grandmother, Mrs. Barnett Davis, was one of the founding members of B’Nai Israel and then Montefiore Hospital, and I have been a member of Rodef Shalom for virtually my entire life. I feel like I belong here—both in Squirrel Hill and the Chronicle.
Most of my columns will be substantive. Recommendations for flexible estate plans, the looming death of the stretch IRA, Roth IRA conversions, Social Security, IRAs, and minimizing taxes. But I thought I would start with something more personal.
Several years ago, Jonathan Clements, who was the top personal finance writer for the Wall Street Journal, (we wrote 36 columns together for the WSJ) suggested happiness is derived from buying experiences rather than things.
When I heard it, I recognized it for the same wisdom that we have experienced in our own family for years now.
Walter Weinstein, my father-in-law, hosts a family vacation every year and picks up the tab. Through his generosity, he has taught us all some incredible life lessons—memories last, family relationships sustain you, and the happiness that comes with experience outlasts any bit of stuff you can buy.
After a lifetime of hard work, good investment, and personal sacrifice, Walter is 93 years young, and in the enviable position of being able to do most anything he wants. But, every year, he whittles the family inheritance down just a tad, and sponsors a family getaway. Why would he do this? Because he knows, deep in his heart that the lasting memories of family time, and the sense of “clan” are worth so much more than anything money could buy now or later.
For four days each year, the extended Weinstein family, including aunts, uncles, nieces, nephews, children, grandchildren—and even great-grandchildren now!— drive or fly in to the Poconos to stay at a wonderful family-style country retreat, reflecting some of the best attributes of a 1950s resort like the one in Dirty Dancing. It gives us time to catch up with individuals we rarely see. We play family games, relax at the “beach,” squirt each other with giant squirt guns, hike, bike, and golf. Our “camp” has a comedy club, live music and entertainment, parties, festivals, and family games so there is plenty to keep our multi-generational crowd happy.
Perhaps the most important part is we eat all three meals together family style in the dining room. Our daughter, Erica, is an only child and while that was absolutely the best choice for our immediate family, thanks to Walter’s generosity, Erica knows what it is to be part of a much larger family. She has strong connections with her cousins whom she otherwise might only see every few years—if at all. Her connection to her grandfather is especially strong, which is good for both of them! And the best part, the connections were formed through shared activities and shared events over a prolonged stretch of time, not just for a few hours at Thanksgiving, or the High Holidays, or a Bar/Bat Mitzvah or wedding celebration.
We are all grateful for Walter’s wisdom. When my father-in-law passes, he will leave a little less money to his family, but he will have provided a priceless legacy. So I offer this lesson from my father-in-law Walter—investing in shared life experiences for your loved ones is your best investment.
P.S. If you are interested in our more traditional financial information (we have written 5 bestselling financial books, many peer-reviewed articles, have 185 hours of our radio archives, etc) we encourage you to browse the rest of our website at: www.paytaxeslater.com which has a wealth of valuable free material of special interest to IRA and retirement plan owners, or call (412) 521-2732 for a free copy of The Ultimate Retirement and Estate Plan for Your Million-Dollar IRA.