I have a beautiful old clock sitting in the garage. I bought it for $200 back in 1973. Last time I had it fixed, a few years ago, the guy told me, “This is a museum piece!” He said it was worth thousands. But my wife won’t even let it in the house. And leave it to my kids? Hah. There’s a joke. They think it’s an old piece of junk.

     My wife has an old icebox. It’s a beautiful piece of furniture, made of oak, and it weighs a ton. Somebody ought to prize this piece of furniture, too. But no one does, except us. 

My antique clock

      We have a friend who recently downsized from their huge old farmhouse into an 1800-square-foot, one-story house. Their old barn — now owned by their son — is full of their discarded furniture. The son doesn’t want any of it. He wants the barn cleared out so he can use the space for his equipment. None of their other kids wants it either. So they are agonizing over what to do with the stuff. Sell it? Give it away? A lot of it will undoubtedly end up in the junk yard.

     It’s a shame, but there’s a lot of stuff our kids don’t want.

     And it’s not just our old furniture. There was a news item last week in our local paper. Marvin Frederick, 81, has spent a lifetime running his butcher shop in a local farmers market. He wants to retire. He has two grown sons, but neither one wants to take over the shop. And the man can’t sell the shop either. He’s asking $850,000 for the business, which includes all equipment, recipes, his customer list — and he’s willing to provide one month free training. But so far, no takers. “It’s hard work,” he admits. “You’ve got to be someone who isn’t afraid to work.”

     The kids don’t want your business, they don’t want your precious antiques, they probably don’t even want your property. The house — especially if it’s a second home — can cause all kinds of headaches, especially if there are a lot of expenses and maintenance issues involved. Arguments and hurt feelings could cause serious divisions if the property is being split among several family members. Time-shares just compound the problem since getting out of a time-share can be difficult and time consuming.

     The only lesson to be learned, I think, is that we should use our things, and not worry about “saving them for the kids.” So don’t worry if a piece of precious furniture gets scratched, or if you break a cup or saucer and no longer have a full set of dishes. You’re enjoying these things, appreciating them for what they are and what pleasure they bring to your life. Then, if the kids don’t want those things, at least you’ve enjoyed them — which is the reason you acquired them in the first place.

     Leaving our children an inheritance can be a blessing — something they will continue to cherish in the future as we have in the past. But that’s only if they truly want it. Do we really think our kids want our old boat, or an antique car, or the china set we inherited from Aunt Alice? And for goodness sake, do not leave them a storage unit full of old furniture, clothes and sports equipment. 

My coin collection

     Our kids will surely not object to inheriting money. But even an IRA or 401K can cause difficulties. These assets aren’t necessarily easy to transfer. The rules are complicated, and there may be emotional issues involved. If it’s a substantial amount of money, it’s worth the effort; but otherwise it may cause nothing but trouble.

     The best thing to leave our heirs is cash, or financial assets that are as close to cash as possible — publicly traded stocks or bonds, CDs or bank accounts. Or, go ahead and make an exception for the storage locker . . . but only if that old piece of furniture is stuffed with hundred-dollar bills.

     So, I don’t know. Do you think my kids will want my old coin collection that’s been shoved into the closet in the guest room? After all, it is cash!


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