recommended reading list for a wealthy teen
February 8, 2016 12:29 PM   Subscribe

My recently deceased brother provided life insurance for my 17 year old niece, but neglected to set up a trust, so she will be in charge of the 6 figure insurance money next year when she turns 18. She is a good kid but we are concerned her limited experience could lead her to make some decisions she might later regret. She is a gifted writer and I am considering challenging her to accept my commission to conduct interviews with a number of adults about the events and decisions which most shaped their lives, write up her analysis of their stories and develop her plan for what to do with her life. It occurs to me that this project might benefit from a research phase and I would like suggestions for a recommended reading list for someone who is going to be in a position to make their own dreams come true. I am not looking for tax free municipal bond investment strategies. I am looking for advice on making life choices. Any suggestions would be appreciated.
posted by grahahw to Work & Money (40 answers total) 9 users marked this as a favorite
This may or may not be the direction she is leaning in but William "Upski" Wimsatt wrote a book (and sort of started a movement) called Resource Generation specifically directed towards young people who wind up with wealth and class privilege and helps them find ways they can direct that towards issues that they care about. The Resources section has some links to print materials that might be worth reading.
posted by jessamyn at 12:36 PM on February 8, 2016 [4 favorites]

Honestly rather than a "here's what to do" reading list I would aim more for a "look how money fucked up these people's lives" thing where you talk about young athletes signing massive contracts and then being broke 1 year out of retirement from an injury, or how lottery winners end up losing everything. (Especially if this money will give her a radically different standard of living than the one in which she was raised.)

I say this as a person who was in her exact situation and did not make good choices, not just some meddlesome killjoy. Your idea is a good one but I feel like it will likely only appeal to someone who doesn't need to hear it.
posted by poffin boffin at 12:37 PM on February 8, 2016 [29 favorites]

Seconding recommendation for Resource Generation -- in addition to the books to read you might look for a local chapter. They are a relationship based organization, and could probably connect her with another young person that has been trained to talk about wealth and has personal experience dealing with it. Many chapters also host group meetings, so if she didn't want a one on one chat she might be able to sit in and hear others talk about the issues they are dealing with.
posted by cubby at 12:42 PM on February 8, 2016 [1 favorite]

The Millionaire Next Door might be good, because it paints a very different picture of how the wealthy live than, say, Hollywood usually does.

If you want to scare her, look up some stories about lottery winners. There are plenty of horror stories.
posted by colfax at 12:46 PM on February 8, 2016 [3 favorites]

I'm far from a financial expert but I do know that people can, in fact, set up irrevocable trusts with their own money. This would possibly still require your nieces buy in but could be an end around subverting a day to day need for financial discipline and knowledge.
posted by Exceptional_Hubris at 12:55 PM on February 8, 2016 [9 favorites]

I highly recommend making a list of biographies for her. Try to come up with bios for three categories:

1. Folks who inherited and it ruined their lives. (I would start with Barbara Hutton
2. Folks who had big bucks at one time and lost it all.
3. Folks who somehow "did it right" -- managed their wealth and seemed to be basically happy people, not people who couldn't trust a soul due to their goddamned money.

Best of luck.
posted by Michele in California at 1:04 PM on February 8, 2016 [1 favorite]

The first thing you need to tell her is that she is not wealthy. If she tried to live off her "wealth," assuming that "six figure insurance money" means $500,000 and a 3% withdrawal rate which would be the absolute maximum for someone her age, she's looking at an annual income of $15,000 (below the poverty line for a family of two). Her opportunity is to set herself on a path which will let her do much better than that, both financially and in terms of realizing dreams.
posted by drdanger at 1:04 PM on February 8, 2016 [38 favorites]

Ooh, that is a great idea and would be a great idea regardless of whether or not she inherited any money.

Does she at least have any thoughts/interests of what she wants to do, or role models she admires? Reading memoirs by your heroes or biographies of prominent people in a field you're interested in can be helpful in terms of getting a sense of what being successful in your field actually consists of.
posted by phoenixy at 1:29 PM on February 8, 2016

I think if her father just died in the last year then it's too much to expect such a young woman to have a lot of mental or emotional resources available to sort out her future. She is just so young and freshly traumatized! I suggest you pick some stories of people who have overcome great odds (like the glass castle memoir) and show that money doesn't make you happy... Perhaps you can help her plan out the next year, figure out a way that she could use a bit of the money to do something special, like a trip or something.
posted by catspajammies at 1:33 PM on February 8, 2016 [23 favorites]

(Eventually if I were her parent I would hope she bought a home with her money- perhaps that is a way to frame it that she can get excited about)
posted by catspajammies at 1:36 PM on February 8, 2016 [2 favorites]

I think if her father just died in the last year then it's too much to expect such a young woman to have a lot of mental or emotional resources available to sort out her future.

Yeah this. I think it's great that you're trying to guide her but I'm hearing some symptoms of engineer's disease here that could make this backfire if you don't go somewhat easy on her. At least to start. I think it would be easier to program the money to keep itself safe rather than try to program the ability to keep it safe into her.
posted by bleep at 1:41 PM on February 8, 2016 [12 favorites]

The Teenager's Guide to the Real World is always a good choice.
posted by megatherium at 1:47 PM on February 8, 2016 [2 favorites]

someone who is going to be in a position to make their own dreams come true

I think the best position for her to be in as far as making her own dreams to come true is to preserve her wealth and not cut herself off from choices she might want to make in the future.

The dreams of an 18 year old are not the same dreams one has as a 30 year old or even 20 year old. She might make the dreams of 18-year old her come true at the cost of what she wants to do later. Many of us find our dreams and goals change over time, or that what was a mere dream we knew little of when we were dreamers has become less than the imagined paradise once we reach it. Preserving options for the future can be a very good option.

I suggest the essay, What You'll Wish You'd Known.

Personally, I think 18 is a bit young to know "what to do with your life" -- there are plenty of people out there in what was their dream career as an 18 year old who don't like what it is they do.

While keeping some options open is good, spending a small portion of the money on getting out into the world and experiencing it might be a very good experience that will help her know what she wants to do with her life.
posted by yohko at 2:18 PM on February 8, 2016 [8 favorites]

Response by poster: First, thanks for all the comments and suggestions. You have all been helpful

I think it would be easier to program the money to keep itself safe rather than try to program the ability to keep it safe into her.

We would program the money if we could. We have no authority to program the money. We are trying to minimize the chances that she will make choices she will later regret.
posted by grahahw at 2:30 PM on February 8, 2016

Giving her a stack of biographies to read can be therapeutic and help her process. It doesn't have to come across like "While you are in the depths of grief, here is a ginormous assignment." It can help her understand who she is now and help her move forward psychologically and emotionally, not just financially.

Her parents aren't coming back. She has already been through the worst of it -- their actual deaths. Helping her look to the future instead of wallowing in her pain and the past is the best possible thing you can do for her. It isn't an easy task and it is full of potential pitfalls where you can easily send the wrong message. But that doesn't mean it isn't worth trying to do.

She gets one shot at this. I saw someone get a pity party as part of their one shot at something and they didn't get the thing they wanted. I don't know how much the pity party may have contributed to them failing to get it. I do know they arrived ready to take on the world, had lunch with someone who felt sorry for them and projected all their own personal pain on to this person, and I spent the rest of the goddamn day trying to help them put the pieces back together so they could give their presentation.

She isn't going to feel better about their deaths by letting her just piss the money away because "17, right after their deaths, is too soon/too young/whatever for handling this." You are doing the right thing to try to help her.

So, again, I would give her a stack of biographies. I would do that without necessarily saying anything about "You have one shot at handling the money right." I would just give her the biographies after carefully selecting stuff that I felt she could relate to in some way and that I felt would be educational in some way. And then I would back off.

You can lead a horse to water. You cannot make it drink. Letting them decide whether or not to drink is often the hard part.
posted by Michele in California at 2:38 PM on February 8, 2016

Make her read a Random Walk Down Wall Street! The whole point of the book is to stick your money in index funds and DON'T TOUCH IT.

Also, probably apart from any books - the best thing to do would be to have a conversation or series of talks with her about her life plan and how to get her financial house in order for key milestones like college, first downpayment on a house, first car, and retirement. I think if you can give her a realistic sense of what some big life expenses are, she'll be less likely to blow it on something temporary.

Also, six figures is a big range - you could be talking a 100k or a million bucks. 100k gets devoured by two years of private college tuition if you don't do something now to protect it. If you don't know how to do this, ask around at Vanguard or Schwab for an advisor for her. If you get all her money in one account at place like that (not just an ordinary bank, but one oriented to trading / investments), you will get free financial investing advice too.

I think if she focuses on how nice it would be to not have college debt, or not have to scrimp for a downpayment, or to not have to worry about immediately getting a job because you've stocked your retirement accounts at the age of 18, that would put her in a savings mindset. Depending on the amount, you probably won't be able to do all of those things though.

Echoing the comment above - she is not never-work-again wealthy! That's a great place to start. She needs to think of her money as a lucky nest egg for the big things.
posted by hyperion at 3:48 PM on February 8, 2016 [3 favorites]

This is so not going to go the way you want it to go. And if I was her, a "challenge" from my uncle to read a bunch of biographies and write an essay on how I would responsibly manage my life would not only be the LAST thing I'd do, it would turn me against him for the rest of my life.

Are you open to other possible ways of handling this? Are you close with your niece? Does she know what is about to happen? Has she had a series of meetings with a financial advisor with a trusted adult?
posted by barnone at 4:23 PM on February 8, 2016 [24 favorites]

We would program the money if we could. We have no authority to program the money. We are trying to minimize the chances that she will make choices she will later regret.

First of all, there are worse things. I blew a huge chunk of money when I turned 21. Do I regret that? Intellectually, yes. Realistically, no not really. I mean, I wish I had a chunk of money that no longer exists for me, in order to fund a retirement that doesn't yet exist for me, but since none of that exists, it's all a bit existential. Other than that, well, that money bought a lot of fun and a fantastic car and some really amazing clothes I still remember fondly.

Is she going to college? Because paying for college with her own funds will at least mean she gets out of college debt-free, which will be a huge win against almost all of her graduating cohort.

How oppositional is she in general? I would have taken advice that was presented in a meaningful way rather than just being presented with a ginormous check. The only advice I got was "that's a house or two" and I was like "I'm 21. I live in a rental with 3 other people. That is not a thing I need to worry about."

How feminist is she? Because one thing that would have totally worked is a woman financial advisor explaining to me how to fuck the patriarchy by being responsible for my own life-long financial independence so that I never, ever needed to depend on man no matter what my life choices.
posted by DarlingBri at 4:41 PM on February 8, 2016 [12 favorites]

You haven't said whether her mother is still living, what her relationship with you is like, or what kind of kid she is in general (aside from being a gifted writer). My uncle was the type to give me assignments and lessons. I usually dutifully followed them, but I also really resented it, and I don't think I learned anything from them except to avoid him as much as possible (which is sad because he did love me). I got enough of assignments at school. My father, on the other hand, told me stories of his experiences, including his mistakes, and of people he knew and I learned a lot from that. As others have pointed out, this doesn't sound like "never work again" money. It does sound like she could benefit from talking to a financial advisor - one who would recognize that it's perfectly appropriate for a young woman in her position to put some of the money aside for something fun (maybe a vacation or a car) and then figure out the best use of the rest. She is nearly an adult, and asking her if she'd like a private meeting with a financial advisor would be treating her as one. My own memory of that age was the absolute worst thing was being treated like a child - and I would put being given an assignment by a relative in that category.
posted by FencingGal at 4:56 PM on February 8, 2016 [11 favorites]

Honestly, if she's otherwise a level-headed kid, I'd give her a copy of a personal finance book aimed at young women in their 20s and offer to sit down and talk through--without judgment--various scenarios for the use of the money.

Because you can't necessarily predict what she'll want to do, you actually just want her to come to you when she's envisioning a largish purchase and talk through the pluses and minuses, and the only way that is going to happen as she gets older is if she trusts you to treat her like an adult and carefully consider her input, and give your input in a way that is not condescending or overbearing.

Unless you have a very special relationship, 17-year-old me would definitely have experienced a "challenge" of this sort as incredibly condescending (unless by "commission" you mean you are planning to pay her to do this project) and would definitely have made me think three times before discussing any major purchase with you. She is 17, she doesn't have to have a plan for what to do with her life, she just has to have a plan for what to do with her money.
posted by The Elusive Architeuthis at 4:58 PM on February 8, 2016 [4 favorites]

At this point, she probably would benefit from seeing a fee based financial planner. Not for the investments that would come with that, but for the beginning of a financial plan for her.

A good planner would start with a discussion of her goals for the money. Having a longer term goal would help her resist the temptation to spend now. At this point, given her age and recent loss, the plan will probably just be the start of a discussion. There might be a smaller immediate need (laptop for school, new phone), and a longer term need, (education savings). More importantly, it's the start of a longer conversation. That money is connected to longer term goals, that spending is one way we express our values, that it can be difficult to save because we are wired to want the tangible thing we can have now, vs. whatever it is we might want at some nebulous point in the future.

Then she gets a plan, something in writing, that describes her situation now, attempts to prioritizes some goals, and hopefully commits her to engaging with a process going forward. It's not something definitive, but it is the start of a process that will grow with her.

Our values and feelings about money go way deeper, and so the reading list, if it's about how people make choices about money would be interesting, if she's up for it. One thing I've learned as a financial planner is that not everyone wants to spend a lot of time talking about or thinking about money. Even if they have a lot of it.
posted by thenormshow at 5:17 PM on February 8, 2016 [1 favorite]

I think even if you pay her to do this "project" (and that's how I'd understand "commission"), this still comes across as condescending and unrealistic. Do you have a "plan for your life" that you can articulate? Would you want to write an essay about this plan and share it with your family? Do you think that interviewing people a bit older than yourself would allow you to figure out a better plan or do so faster? If so, that's awesome, and YOU should write this essay. But I suspect the vast majority of grown-ups who have their lives together would (a) say no to all three questions and (b) feel decidedly uncomfortable with pressure to do so and share with the group.

That's especially if this "assignment" comes with money attached--now she's ungrateful and/or already fiscally irresponsible if she says no, and if she says yes she's in some sort of weird not-actually-employment situation with her uncle.
posted by cogitron at 5:24 PM on February 8, 2016 [9 favorites]

I would suggest exploring having her put the assets in an asset protection trust, with someone else as trustee to protect her from herself and others.
posted by jpe at 5:39 PM on February 8, 2016 [1 favorite]

Best answer: If this is about the money: Help her choose a financial advisor, and maybe go with her to the first meeting. However, it's her money; unless she asks for your help, you should encourage her to make the (informed) decisions. The worst that could happen is she spends the money irresponsibly and ends up like any other 18-year-old who didn't happen to inherit wealth. The best that could happen is she slowly learns to trust you and the advisor and makes solid financial choices. In both paths, she will be OK.

If this is about making good life choices... that's a lesson that can't be taught; it can only be demonstrated. Let your words and actions show her you'll always love her. Let your words and actions show that you're available for advice if she asks, but that you won't provide (too much) unasked/unwanted advice that will make her avoid raising questions that might be embarrassing. Let your words and actions show her that you have her back.

I would not recommend assigning her homework/interviews. However, you can bring those insightful people into her life more organically, perhaps as dinner guests, or weekend guests, or even just finding excuses for her to rub shoulders with people you trust ("My friend needs some help organizing books to take to Good Will. Can you help? She'll pay.") If she wants to find advice from adults who've Been There, then she will find it; if she doesn't want to hear that, then she won't see it even if you challenge her.

You're a good uncle for looking after her as she transitions to an adult, and your brother would be grateful. It sounds like you're exploring options to balance your sense of obligation to your brother, but also meet the real-life needs and desires of your almost-an-adult niece.
posted by samthemander at 5:58 PM on February 8, 2016 [5 favorites]

Best answer: A therapist! A grief counselor!

If she is a somewhat sensible 18 year old, the thing that is most likely to make her do something impulsive and regrettable with her money would probably be an unhealthy coping response to her grief - drinking, shopping, gambling, getting involved with a cult, etc. Anything you can do to help support her making good choices for her mental health will also help preserve her financial health.

Yes she is 18 and can do whatever she wants. 18 is a baby to lose a parent, and no, in my experience, the worst of it isn't over. The worst keeps coming and coming.

You know her better than we do. But I wouldn't be at all surprised if she would welcome the active involvement of a grown-up in her life who loves her unconditionally and if anything I would be more concerned about making sure not to exploit her vulnerability.

Let her take time off, if she feels like it. Life does not continue as normal after a loss like this. Help her find support, if she is struggling with the logistics. Set up first meetings, drive her there, take her out for lunch before or after and let her talk or not talk. Be a supportive part of her life.

For the money, find a fee based advisor who will have a fiduciary duty to *her*, even if you pay and arrange their services. Maybe help with setting up space and time for them to meet. Let the advisor see that she has an adult in her life who is looking out for her. And ultimately, she'll have to do what she has to do.
posted by Salamandrous at 6:35 PM on February 8, 2016 [2 favorites]

It's her money. She's 17, but it's her money. Keep repeating this.

Find a really good financial planner. Ask her to come and at least talk to them. It's her money but now that she has real money she needs a crash course in finances.

Tell her to write a list of financial goals. Does she want to go to college? Maybe grad school? Buy a house one day? Buy a car? Maybe bounce around Europe for a year, you know just drinking and making out with a lot of people?

I encourage you to embrace all of these goals as equal. No judgment. What does she want? Write them all down and go to the financial planner and figure it out. 15k for Europe? Great 250k for education? Great let's put that in its own account. Want a car? Well it looks like 20k would be a reasonable budget for that. And let's say 5k a year in spending money just for fun.

Don't tell her what to do with it. Let her decide what she wants to do with it and then give her the tools to help hold herself to those goals. Do not express judgment. Do help her do the math and understand that even though it seems like a huge amount of money, it'll go quicker than she realizes if she isn't careful. Help her set up various accounts, investments, etc foe her different goals. Let most of the advice from the financial planner and not you. Again, it's her money.
posted by whoaali at 6:59 PM on February 8, 2016 [1 favorite]

Lol, I read Mr Money Mustache's blog and A Random Walk Down Wall Street and some other stuff in my early/mid 20s, barely spent a cent, and saved up enough to weather any conceivable storm. If anything I wish I had spent more money, I didn't take a single vacation or buy a car and lived in an apartment with regular gunfire outside the window. But financially it worked out well.
posted by miyabo at 8:10 PM on February 8, 2016

So hmm.

A formerly really close(like of a decade) friend of mine landed in almost exactly the same situation. The difference was that the money was in a trust, but the limitations on it expired/opened up completely when she turned i believe 20. But she knew it was there, and worked this way, when she was 17/18.

Family members, friends, and her boyfriend(who had also inherited money) tried to get her to do something smart with it. Instead she just spent a couple years drinking, playing videogames, and laying around in her house in a depressed haze.

Especially considering it's her dad, maybe that's sort of what needs to(or at least, is most likely) to happen? It did give her the ability to live on her own while she figured her life out and just sort of explore life without working some dead end food service job or something. It was sort of an extended gap year.

I don't think all the money is gone either. But i guess what i'm saying is, i know exactly what i would have done at that age.

And on preview i have another friend who inherited less money, but did the same thing. Me and him rented a nice apartment and just partied really hard for a couple years.

I guess what i'm saying is don't be too crestfallen or heartbroken if she blows 50k on just moving out and getting fucked up for a while. I've seen it happen twice with close friends, and been on the periphery of it happening more times than that.

I think the goal here should be more encouraging her to make a plan for some of the money. Not You Must Manage It All And Be Responsible. That pissed off BOTH my friends and i think was a primary driver in them doing what they did.

And to be fair, both did go to college. They both dropped out, but could still go back. And it was more of a "this isn't for me" thing than a "what's the point" thing.

Both of them are doing ok now, for what it's worth. I just really really remember how fucking mad my friends were that everyone around them was like "you HAVE to do this like THIS!". The books did come out, and so did lots of condescending advice even if it wasn't meant that way. That's how it came off. I remember being there for some of it. I honestly have no idea how you could structure said advice that wouldn't get lost in the noise of all the other advice like this she'll be getting.

Pretty much i don't know if there's a way to do what you want to do and have it work. And my friends emphatically really hated the way everyone was trying to advice at them.
posted by emptythought at 8:35 PM on February 8, 2016 [2 favorites]

Agreeing that Resource Generation is a good start - they have books and a conference as well, and she will be surrounded by people who are equally mystified by wealth but interested in learning more.
posted by Toddles at 8:40 PM on February 8, 2016

Dave Ramsey, preferably some of his earlier writings; 1) buy and own a home; pay cash; get it over with. This solves one of the greatest accomplishments of adulthood immediately.

Taxes are not the end of the world. Making a nice bank with dividends; F, AAPL, DRI, GE, RDSA (shell oil); fat dividend stock owned outright pays a nice woo-hoo quarterly; and a lot of proper big companies really just don't vanish. OK, big holding companies do; Enron, Lehman, blah blah; yep. But actuall companies? Not so often. Might go down half for a while; then back up; and grow over time; sure. Taxes on dividend income? Boo hoo; paying taxes on ownership income? BFD.

Get that home line one. No mater what becomes; a home is a home.
posted by buzzman at 9:09 PM on February 8, 2016 [1 favorite]

When my kids were teens, we were revising our will and talked with them about what the terms of a trust might be if they suddenly came into a lot of money. Both kids were pretty overwhelmed by the idea of that much responsibility and appreciated the idea that would be an adult to help them figure it out.

If your niece is at all sensible, she might be feeling the same thing - too much responsibility too fast. I'm thinking that she is not ready to figure out everything it takes to make good decisions about that much money. Talk to her but if this is the case, then suggest a financial advisor. If she is open to it, come back with two or three suggestions. Let her decide if which one she likes best or help her to set up an interview to meet them in person. Normally, I recommend something like Vanguard but for her, a real life person is probably more supportive (although, again , you can ask her)

In the long run, many of the other suggestions could be a great idea but right now I would imagine that she is still making so many other adjustments that it is not a good time for this project.
posted by metahawk at 11:50 PM on February 8, 2016 [1 favorite]

I know you mean well but this does sound like it might be a lot for her to do right now. Have you considered the option of helping her find a planner to do something very basic and safe with the money so that it can sit for awhile if she doesn't want to commit to a detailed life plan right now? FWIW the emphasis on regret vs. opportunities would have lead to full on decision paralysis for me and people I knew at 17. I feel like a lot of messages to teenagers are about how making one bad choice will ruin your life forever which isn't really true and isn't really helpful to them.
posted by oneear at 12:38 AM on February 9, 2016 [2 favorites]

I'm a fan of the book "Anything You Want" by Derek Sivers. It's about entrepreneurship, interspersed with life lessons. Some financial planning books are also useful. "I Will Teach You To Be Rich" by Ramit Sethi is a good one for millennials, and is written in a non-stuffy, casual style.
posted by theorique at 3:21 AM on February 9, 2016 [1 favorite]

Yeah, no. Has she asked you for help? Doesn't sound like it, so stay out of this. My family has a history of doing this kind of thing to all of its young people "to protect them from themselves and bad decisions" and it has ruthlessly backfired every single time. This is her life, her inheritance, her karma, her opportunity for growth. Let her come to you for help if she wants it. Otherwise support her decisions and be a loving safe harbor so she knows she has resources if and when she wants them.
posted by Hermione Granger at 8:18 AM on February 9, 2016 [2 favorites]

I cannot think of specific titles, but if you do want to help her financially, gift her female specific money books. I read a couple some years back. Even when women inherit, if they marry, the money tends to get treated like "family" money and the man makes all the decisions and it is common for some man to run through her money while acting like he is the breadwinner and head of household.

My mother used to work for an heiress who had to get a job after hubby ran through her inheritance and then divorced her. Women get endless social messages that reinforce the idea that they should do absolutely nothing to protect their own interests when they are sleeping with a man. Get her some bios of women who inherited and get her some female specific money books.

I would feel a lot better about her running through her own money than about some man running through her money and promptly dumping her when it's gone. At least she would be exercising agency and self interest to a greater degree than most women. We get brainwashed from birth with all kinds of messed up stuff.
posted by Michele in California at 10:14 AM on February 9, 2016 [2 favorites]

I am a Resource Generation member, and I think their book Classified: How to Stop Hiding Your Privilege and Use It For Social Change is pretty handy - the second half is full of interactive financial planning exercises. As far as this project/assignment you have in mind, though, I have had relatives try to foist this sort of thing on me and been really annoyed and turned off by it. It's kind of condescending, and she probably has enough going on in her life (actual homework, college applications, not to mention the grief process) as it is.
posted by naoko at 10:45 AM on February 9, 2016

Nope, nope, and nope.

This is going to backfire, and how.

I would do two things: get her into therapy and grief counseling, which is what she needs right now, and set up an appointment with a fee-based financial planner.

Also, do not be that preachy adult who thinks they know what's best. Nothing will make her less willing to listen to you. Offer support, and be prepared for her NOT to take it.
posted by Tamanna at 12:32 PM on February 9, 2016 [2 favorites]

Your proposed project of interviewing multiple adults, developing a life plan, and reading through a lengthy list of recommended books makes ME feel stressed out, and I'm a 30-something who has not just recently lost her father. I agree with those who note that the most appropriate support is grief counseling/therapy, as well as loving, supportive, and non-judgmental adults in her life who she can turn to to speak openly with. A financial planner is also not a bad idea if/when she can handle that emotionally.

I'm also curious where your niece's mom is in this picture. Has she also passed away? If so, who is your niece's current guardian? I think it is probably not a bad idea for her to have conversations with trusted adults about her goals for the future, the timing of those goals, and how this money might relate to that, but I think it maybe needs to happen more organically than in some big PROJECT. Like, if she is someone who wants to/intends to go to college, this money might be able to help her do that debt free (depending on the amount). If she feels like she needs a gap year or two before continuing her education to deal with the recent loss, the funds could also help finance that. Etc. I think having someone to talk through options in an open and non-judgmental way will be good, but I don't know if you are that person. Again, if there is no one in your niece's life who seems like the right fit for this, a therapist + financial planner could help fill those gaps.
posted by rainbowbrite at 12:49 PM on February 9, 2016 [4 favorites]

I just really really remember how fucking mad my friends were that everyone around them was like "you HAVE to do this like THIS!".

Agree 100% with this. Compounding personal grief (loss of a parent) with pushy advice is a rotten idea.
posted by theorique at 6:00 PM on February 9, 2016

Response by poster: perhaps I am the one in need of a writing assignment
thank you all for your comments

The Captain

The dock’s rough planks pricked the soles of the Captain’s feet as she looked out over the great expanse of ocean before her. Despite its beauty, the sun glistening off the water caused her to squint as she watched the circling gulls hunt unseen fish. She closed her eyes to drink in sounds and smells and sensations.
She felt the warm kiss of the sun on her face. The briny sea mist stung her nose and filled her lungs. The gentle rhythm of the waves lapping on the shore was broken by the gulls’ plaintiff cries. She was happy and content to tarry in nature’s gentle embrace.
But she was far from alone and the sounds of other captains and other vessels invaded her revelry. Boats of all shapes and sizes were making ready, leaving their moorings and making their way to the deep water of the waiting sea. She strained to see the most distant ships, knowing that many more, having left long before, were beyond the horizon.
As it is with captains, each set their own destination and charted their own course. Some had vessels better suited the task than others. The clattering of the oarlocks mixed with the grunts of the oarsman as he strained to power his dory through the waves. Skiffs gently purred and speedboats roared as sloops silently glided out to sea.
The Captain silently wished them all “Bon voyage, Godspeed fellow travelers” knowing full well that not all would find their way. Some would become inescapably entangled in fetid swamps. Others would be reckless and crash upon the rocks. Some would be overcome by forces beyond their control. While she recognized the dangers, the Captain was confident she would not share their ends.
Before stepping aboard, the Captain paused to consider the imposing vessel fate had provided her. Capable of comfortably taking her anywhere she wished to go, she would trade it in an instant for a rickety raft or a piece of driftwood if its terrible cost could be avoided.
She climbed to the flying bridge and considered the journey she was about to embark on. Her possibilities had always been unlimited. Now she had the means to achieve them.
As she took the helm, she hesitated, hearing all the warnings she had been given…
“You’re too young.”
“You don’t have enough experience”
“The world is a dangerous place filled with dangerous people”
“Pirates, cutthroats, charlatans, cheats, heartbreakers, false prophets, false friends, and worse.
A wry smile crept across her face as she turned the key and the engines burbled to life.
“Yes, the world contains evils and dangers”, she thought, “but it also filled with caring and generous people, wonders of man and nature, astounding thoughts, fascinating ideas, and marvelous experiences, none of which are available to those lacking the courage to venture forth and discover them. “
This would be no thoughtless gallivant. Her entire life and all the people in it had prepared her for this voyage of discovery. While the final destination was too distant to name, her orientation was well defined. She had been given a trustworthy compass which would keep her headed in the right direction through fun filled days and the darkest of nights.
There would be challenges to overcome, dangers to face and storms to weather, but with the support and guidance of those who love her, she was quietly confident she could stay the course.
“Cast off all lines. We are under way.”
posted by grahahw at 12:03 PM on February 11, 2016 [2 favorites]

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