My $10,000 Safety Net (Thanks, Gran)

by Anna Mason

My grandmother was generous to her grandchildren when she was living, and generous to her children upon her death. My dad has always been generous — I’ve seen him win $200 and turn around to donate it to charity — and he was extremely generous after my grandmother died. He chose to give part of his inheritance to my sister and me — $10,000 each.

Like many women of her time, my grandmother was a homemaker, and my grandfather had responsibility over all the money. She only found out how their finances worked once my grandfather was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s, and what she found made her frustrated.

She discovered that there had always been enough money to do certain things like renovate the kitchen, get working appliances, and really help out her children and grandchildren when they needed it — and she wished it had been used earlier.

The kitchen part really sticks in my mind, because my whole childhood, they only had an under-the-counter fridge. As I child I thought it wasn’t a real fridge, and as a teen, I wondered how much time was spent grocery shopping with eight people to feed.

Once Gran was in charge of the money, she really used it to help the family (and to buy a full-sized fridge).

She helped a family member with health issues buy a house; she renovated the ground floor of the house so that she and my grandfather could stay there as long as possible (he was there until two weeks before his death and she died at home in bed); and she was very generous with us grandchildren. My sister and I got $100 to $250 during Christmas and birthdays, and whenever we visited, she would sneak money into our coat pockets.

When my parents sat my sister and I down at the kitchen table and told us about the money they wanted to give us, they were very clear that the money should not be spent on trivial things. They told us both to start a Tax-Free Savings Account with the money and save it for something worthwhile. We both did, and happily.
It’s a large percentage of the savings I have, but I know it’s not a lot of money in the long-term. But it already feels like it has a purpose. Having that $10,000 has made me feel really secure.

Last summer I was working really unstable part-time hours. It was really tempting to dip into that money, but I knew that I was eventually going to have a full-time job and that I would be mad if I had spent that money eating at restaurants or going out for drinks all the time.

My mom always refers to it as Gran’s money, as in: “If you don’t get a job for a while after your current contract, there’s always Gran’s money.” Having that safety net has made me feel really secure — but I want to put the money towards something Gran would appreciate. Being reminded of her makes me want to save for something real and long-lasting, like her kitchen; I want to put the money towards something Gran would appreciate. So I add to her $10,000 every month, and in the meantime, am generous with my own money as well. Small things like tea with my mother and sister, dinner for my boyfriend’s birthday, drinks for my unemployed friends. Gran would approve.

Anna Mason lives in Canada.

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