I have worked for a man who owns his-and-her 747s. Another former employer has a 10,000-acre hobby farm he visits about 10 times a year. And, in a total coincidence, I have been hired by two people who each happen to own one of the 25 largest yachts in the world, boats that come with 12 times the living space of my house and are equipped not only with fully stocked wine cellars but also with helicopters and submarines.
So I know what wealthy is. And I know my wife and I are not.
However, my wife's consulting business is recognized nationally in her part of the universe, and every 10 years or so I write a book that sells a few copies, so we are doing O.K. No, we haven't ever chartered a private jet, ordered a $1,000 bottle of wine at a restaurant or bought a $10,000 watch. But we did manage (barely) to put our four children through the (very expensive) colleges of their choice.
After we had paid boatloads of tuition for 11 years, a funny thing happened: When the baby — all 6-feet-2-inches and 175 pounds of him — graduated, we relearned the meaning of discretionary income.
We now have a little bit of extra income. And because we are hopelessly middle class, there isn't anything outlandishly expensive that we want to spend it on. For example, we would feel uncomfortable taking a three-month vacation, even if my wife could get away. And we like the cars we have just fine and don't feel compelled to upgrade to something that would cost 80 times more, although Alison does drool every time — twice so far — she sees a McLaren P1 LM on the street (sticker price: $4 million).
So we have made a decision that gets some people to look at us strangely.
We have started to give our children some of our money.
We are not setting up substantial trust funds. Heck, we are not even fully taking advantage of the tax code that says I could give each kid $14,000 a year, and Alison could, too, so that we could end up gifting each of our four children $28,000 a year with no tax consequences to either us or them.
We are not even averaging half of that. But for the last four years, right around the holidays, we have given them checks — along with traditional presents. So far the total allotted in aggregate to the four of them adds up to about three years of higher education at a good private college.