The Miser

The Miser is a classic Aesop Fable. It’s a story about a man who buries his gold under a rock. He visits his gold stash so often that a thief follows him and steals it. The miser is distraught when he realizes it’s gone, though he had no plans to use the gold to buy things. A lot of us are probably like the miser in the story. We check our investments daily to make sure they are safe and sound, but we don’t intend on using them to purchase anything. We’re happy when our balances rise and sad when they fall.

Money is a useful asset, intended to buy goods and services. It’s the heartbeat of commerce. But, some investors are reluctant to spend for fear of running out of money.  Since March, investors have poured $3.6 billion into savings accounts and money market funds. While it’s prudent to save money for the future, hoarding it today does not benefit anyone.

I’ve completed more than 100 financial plans over the past five years, and one of the most common fears is running out of money in retirement, a valid concern. However, this fear should not stop you from living your life today. If you don’t plan on spending your money to live, your no worse than the miser in the story. And, you can’t take it with you once you’re dead.

Here are a few ideas to help you with your spending.

  • Complete a financial plan. Your plan will guide your spending and give you projections for your assets. Once you see your spending plan on paper, you may be more comfortable in tapping your nest egg, and if you’re not pleased with the results, it can be adjusted to meet your needs.
  • Spend on experiences. If you’re reluctant to buy things, spend your money on experiences. Is a post-COVID trip in order? How about purchasing a vacation home so you and your family can create lasting memories? According to Momentum Worldwide, 76% of consumers prefer to spend money on experiences than material items.[1] My family and I enjoy visiting National Parks in the summer and skiing in the winter; it has been money well spent. My grandparents owned a vacation home in Laguna Beach, and I have fond memories of visiting it often.
  • Donate to your favorite charity. Despite a roaring stock market and robust real estate returns, people are hurting. Recently in Dallas, more than 6,000 cars and 25,000 people waited in line to receive food from local food banks.[2] Donating to your local food bank or other charities will help those in need, and it will help you as well. The IRS allows you to send up to $100,000 from your IRA to a certified charity through a Qualified Charitable Donation (QCD). If you own stock in a taxable account that has appreciated, consider donating it directly to a charity. You can write off the fair market value, and your charity can sell it free of taxation and use the proceeds to fund their operation.
  • Help the next generation. You can give away $15,000 per person per year, and your lifetime gift tax exclusion is $11.7 million (2021). If you give money away while living, it will allow you to witness the beauty of helping others while reducing your taxable estate. The government is giving you a gift to give money away, so take advantage of their generosity.
  • Donate now, give later. A donor-advised fund allows you to make a considerable contribution today and defer distributions to a later date. Your irrevocable gift is deductible in the year you make it even if you do not distribute any funds. The money can be invested for growth or safety, potentially allowing you to give more money away as your investments grow. For example, if you contribute $100,000 to a DAF today, you’ll be able to write it off your taxes regardless if you distribute any funds or not. Here is a link to Schwab’s Donor-Advised Fund: https://www.schwabcharitable.org/donor-advised-funds
  • Spend your gains. A balanced portfolio consisting of 60% stocks and 40% bonds is up 10.75% for the year.[3] If you invested $1 million on January 1, your gain would be $107,500, so you could spend this amount without invading your principal.
  • Spend your income. A portfolio of dividend-paying stocks or income-producing bonds is an excellent way to spend money without touching the principal portion of your account. If your account generates 3% in income, you can withdrawal $30,000 from a $1 million portfolio.

It’s a delicate balance between spending money today or saving it for the future, but it’s possible, especially with proper planning.  Also, tomorrow might not come, so spending money while you’re happy and healthy is recommended.

Happy Spending!

Here is a link to Aesop’s Miser Fable: http://www.read.gov/aesop/112.html

Spending money is much more difficult than making money. ~ Jack Ma

December 3, 2020

Bill Parrott, CFP®, is the President and CEO of Parrott Wealth Management in Austin, Texas. Parrott Wealth Management is a fee-only, fiduciary, registered investment advisor firm. Our goal is to remove complexity, confusion, and worry from the investment and financial planning process so our clients can pursue a life of purpose. Our firm does not have an asset or fee minimum, and we work with anybody who needs financial help regardless of age, income, or asset level. PWM’s custodian is TD Ameritrade, and our annual fee starts at .5% of your assets and drops depending on the level of your assets.

Note: Investments are not guaranteed and do involve risk. Your returns may differ from those posted in this blog. PWM is not a tax advisor, nor do we give tax advice. Please consult your tax advisor for items that are specific to your situation. Options involve risk and aren’t suitable for every investor.


[1] https://www.prnewswire.com/news-releases/76-of-consumers-prefer-to-spend-on-experiences-than-on-material-items-new-study-finds-300937663.html, website accessed December 2, 2020

[2] https://www.cbsnews.com/news/thousands-line-up-in-dallas-texas-to-receive-food-ahead-of-thanksgiving-food-bank-donation/, by Danielle Garrand, November 16,2020.

[3] YCharts – 1/1/2020 to 12/03/2020, PWM ETF Moderate portfolio