Spend Your Money For You Will Die With Too Much

Don’t believe media schadenfreude as they drone on about how we aren’t making or saving enough money to live a comfortable retirement. You and I know that there is more wealth out there than people are led to believe. We live in America, where anybody with a vision can make it a reality and make boatloads in the process. We realize hard work and persistence are necessary for success. As a result, we will likely all be successful, but with one big problem. We’ll have too much money when we die.

Is it really a problem of having too much money upon death? In some customs, paper money is burned so that it can follow you to heaven. In other customs, one’s wealth can be divided uncontentiously among surviving kin. Having too much money when you die is problematic for many reasons.

You could also end up with too many assets when you die, which will also have to be divvied up amongst your relatives. For example, if you have a nice boat sitting at the marina, it becomes part of your estate when you die. Your children will then likely sell the boat and keep the money, but there is so much more that can be done with this asset.


* Hoarding. Having too much money when you die is a disease. It means that you didn’t spend enough while living or use the money to help someone else. Of course, you’d rather have too much money than too little money so that you live a comfortable retirement and don’t run out. But, if you have gobs and gobs of money when you die, you severely underutilized your abilities to do good.

* Wealth Inequality. Maybe your kids and relatives deserve everything. Or maybe they are already wealthy and your money could have been used to save a local shelter from shutting down. Who knows. But, what we do know is that you could have done more to help balance wealth inequalities. The government’s new proposal is to tax estates worth over $5 million a 35%-45% rate. The estate tax is affectionately know as the Death Tax, whose purpose is to redistribute wealth through government programs. Ideologically, this is the right concept. The debate lies in how much should be redistributed.

* Lost opportunities. Think about all the things you could do, or the fun you would have if you spent more of your money while living? Did you decide to save $30,000 for a rainy day that never came instead of taking that 6 month cruise around the world with your spouse? It’s too late now, because you’re about to die and have no more energy. Utilize your money for experiences.


Most of us will die with too much money. You are already maxing out your 401K and hopefully are saving some more on top. And if you don’t have a 401K, you’re saving much more than 20% a year because to not do so would be irrational. That said, live a little! Take a look at your budget and rework it to include a WTF Fund. Your WTF Fund is in addition to your vacation fund or any other fund you have. The WTF Fund is soley used to spend on WTF experiences and things, such as taking your loved one on a last minute trip to Hawaii. Totally uneconomical to book last minute, but WTF!

With money left over after 401k and savings, allocate 5% to your WTF Fund and spend it EVERY YEAR. Otherwise, you’ll end up hoarding your WTF fund as well! Remember that there is no end to the ability to make money in America, but there is an end to our lives.

You don’t want to look back 10 years from now and say:

WTF! Why didn’t I spend that $200 bucks to go on that jungle excursion in Peru since I was there anyway,” or

WTF! Why didn’t I just pay the $50 bucks so I could go see Rome by open double-decker bus,” or

WTF! Why didn’t I just spend the $180 for a dinner for two at La Maison Blanche in Paris to experience the view,” or

WTF! Why didn’t I just spend a little extra for that Audemars Piguet Royal Oak watch that will last me a lifetime and let me pass it on to my kids, than this dinky fake,” or

“WTF! Why didn’t I pay up for the custom wooden windows and Brazilian cheery wood floors rather than get aluminum and laminate floors.”

Super savers of the world, have no regrets! Your determination is admirable. Just don’t forget what you are saving for!



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Sam is the founder of Financial Samurai, America's fastest growing personal finance site. We believe in reaching financial independence sooner, rather than later. Slice through money's mysteries!


  1. Sydney says

    I love your tip on having a WTF fund! I’ve been super frugal the last few years and although I don’t regret that, there are a few things and activities that it would have been fun to have spent some money on without feeling guilty. I’m gonna go set up a WTF savings account today so I’ll finally have separate accounts for practical savings and fun/splurge savings. Thanks for the tips Sam!

    • says

      Definitely Syd! It’s a guilt free way go spend like the wind and not give a damn about anything since the rest of our finances are good to go.

      What would be one of the first things you’d buy with your WTF Fund?

      • Sydney says

        Definitely a new and faster lens for my camera. I’ve put it off for 2 years already b/c of the price tag. I take a lot of random pics with my iphone these days, but it’s a lot more fun to use a DSLR with a good zoom on trips abroad. Plus I’m not embarrassed to look like a tourist. :)

    • says

      It’s funny, I don’t have the time at all, but these iPhone app games have been awesome time killers on the 15-20 min bus ride home and to work! Best .99 cents I’ve spent! Then there’s free FB games by Zynga and others. Fun and free and cheap!

  2. Donna Freedman says

    “Don’t believe media schadenfreude as they drone on about how we aren’t making or saving enough money to live a comfortable retirement.
    “We live in America, where anybody with a vision can make it a reality and make boatloads in the process.”
    “As a result, we will likely all be successful…
    “We’ll have too much money when we die.
    “Most of us will die with too much money.
    “You are already maxing out your 401K and hopefully are saving some more on top.
    “And if you don’t have a 401K, you’re saving much more than 20% a year because to not do so would be irrational.”
    Sources, please?
    Seriously, Sam: This probably sounded great to you when you typed it, but not everyone is like you.
    I love the idea of a WTF fund but the rest of this is pretty flimsy, i.e., “This is the way I feel/live and the way my friends feel/live, so most other Americans must be feeling/living this way, too.”
    You would have been better off just writing about why the WTF fund is such a good idea — and it is! — than by trying to justify it by saying, “Retirement? We’re all set!” A whole lot of people aren’t, and might never be, due to a multitude of factors including but not limited to student loans (or lack of education), unemployment, underemployment or illness/disability.
    I think you’re much too intelligent to assume blithely that everyone has the same options/advantages. My own assumption is that you strike attitudes like this to get the conversation/controversy/comments rolling.
    If you truly believe that the world is EVERYONE’S oyster? Well…wow. How nice for you.

    • says

      I am an optimist at heart Donna. I believe those who live in America live in the greatest country in the world where nobody is holding us back from achieving what we want.

      Are you a pessimist or optimist Donna? Do you not believe that with hard work and determination, we can make a better life for ourselves? When I lived in Africa, I saw suffering and no way out for so many people. The same thing when I was in India. The biggest embarrassment I have as an American is that so many Americans don’t speak another language well and have never visited other developing nations to gain perspective. They think America is hard. America is a CAKE WALK compared to so many other countries!

      Everything is rational. If you want something, you will do whatever it takes to get it. If you don’t want it bad enough, then you won’t do it, and that’s fine. Believe in yourself Donna and don’t listen to all the doom and gloom out there. You might have had some bad things happen to you in your life, as most of us had. But, brush it off! I guarantee you that you’ll see the world in a better light!

      Best, Sam

  3. Donna Freedman says

    Sam: Please don’t lecture me about work. I’ve seen plenty of that and expect to remain acquainted with the concept until the crematory operator hits the “on” switch. Hard work plus optimism have allowed me to achieve more than I ever thought I could.
    But optimism is not a magic bullet. Too many optimists ignore the fact that not everyone has the same advantages/privileges. In fact, a lot of optimists would deny they even HAD any advantages/privileges — they’re so ingrained that they have become invisible.
    You know that old saying about the cream rising to the top? A whole lot of whole milk goes sour while the cream gets enjoyed by a relative few.
    I will ALWAYS advocate striving. (In fact, I just put up a post called “The value of work.”) What wears me out is the assumption among those who achieve that
    (a) they got there entirely on their own (most don’t)
    (b) therefore there must be something wrong with everyone who doesn’t achieve as much as they do. (Hey, maybe they’re….pessimists! Maybe that’s their problem!)
    That’s not to say that people without advantage/privilege can’t achieve. Obviously, they do. But you know that old Ginger Rogers joke, about her having to do everything Fred Astaire did, except backwards and in high heels?
    Likewise, some people bust their butts their entire lives and cannot achieve the successes you so blithely assume are there for the taking. They shouldn’t stop trying, ever. But success is not as “likely” as you assume.
    I don’t think you meant to sound elitist. But you do.

  4. says

    Donna, I’m sorry if you are going through hardships right now. I think you’ll be alright. Whatever set backs you are feeling are only temporary.

    You can call me an elitist, but that’s fine and I won’t say anything back. In fact, if we ever meet face to face, you are free to call me an elitist and i’ll buy you a drink.

    It’s fine if you are a pessimist. That’s just not me and I try to avoid pessimists because they bring me down, whether on purpose or not. To each their own. We just view the world in different lenses.


    • Donna Freedman says

      Sam: I’m not going through hardships right now. I didn’t say that I was. I’m *working* hard but I wouldn’t have it any other way.
      And I am in no way a pessimist. If I were, I’d have probably lain down and given up during the tougher parts of my life. I’ve always been an optimist, even when the odds were heavily stacked against me.
      Perhaps “elitist” isn’t the right word, but it’s as close as I can come right now. You seem to have the feeling that everyone has the same opps and everyone WILL succeed. How nice if that were true, but it flies in the face of a lot of people’s daily realities.
      I would be fine with sitting and having a drink to discuss this further. If you happen to be attending the PF bloggers conference in Chicago, look me up or attend the presentation I’m giving. If not, then perhaps some other time in some other venue.

      • says

        Hmmm, so you aren’t going through hardships right now, but you want to point out that other people are and that you are a success and that you are an optimist? Are you sure you aren’t the one being an “elitist” by saying how everyone else is doing bad but you yourself are doing great?

        This is the type of attitude that I’m trying to eradicate. People say there is so much suffering in the world, yet have never even lived in a 3rd world country, yet when someone asks how they are doing, they say they are doing great. Guess what? We are everyone else. There is more wealth out there than we can imagine living in America, and we should use the success of others as motivation to make ourselves do better.

        You might succeed in getting people to feel better about themselves by writing about how others are suffering. That is a tried and true strategy. I’m saying that will get people nowhere. I hope in your presentation, you focus on the positives, and the successes of people, and not the other way around.

        With all this said, I thank you for your perspective!

        Best, Sam

        • Lady Jane says


          To understand Donna, you have to understand her background. She actually does write for big media, and probably realizes that what you said is exactly right about “schadenfreude.” I’m a journalist, and when we have our weekly meetings, we make it a point to find the most suffering of stories, be it unemployment, people losing their money in the dotcom bubble, a family going bankrupt after losing their house, and so forth because we KNOW suffering of others sells, and it makes the writer, and everyone who reads it feel better that they don’t have it as bad.

          I think it’s admirable that you are focusing on the positives Sam. I do know that many people made a lot of money during the dotcom and housing bubble days. But, that’s not what journalists, mainstream media, and reporters in general want to write about, so you can’t really fault Donna for calling you an elitist because she has been conditioned to focus on the negatives for so long.

          Also, if you read her backstory, I think she’s a divorcee and went through some financial troubles, so her whole experience is colored by difficulties. Can she help to see the world in dark shades?

          Don’t let Donna bring you down Sam. You inspire me and others to focus on the positives. Also, don’t blame Donna for her negativity and name calling. We women who are past 40 who’ve experienced what we’ve experienced can’t help ourselves. Donna is a good writer who keeps it real. I don’t know why she would come here and lash out at you Sam, but again, we women are a mercurial bunch who are best ignored sometimes!

          Lady Jane

          • Donna Freedman says

            I have not been conditioned to focus on the negative. But when I see it, I call it out.
            And it’s phrases like “we women are a mercurial bunch who are best ignored sometimes” that perpetuate stereotypes and, potentially, help to limit opportunities.

          • says

            Thanks for your perspective Lady Jane.

            I think I remember reading about her hardship on GRS, but I don’t remember.

            At any rate, our experiences shape us, so I cant and dont blame Donna for being a little down on my post which is supposed to pick people up. I get people coming to my site all the time trying to bring me down or pick apart my argument. It’s really fun! :)

            I enjoy all different perspectives. We have the freedom to see the world the way we want.

            Best, Sam

        • Donna Freedman says

          “Hmmm, so you aren’t going through hardships right now, but you want to point out that other people are and that you are a success and that you are an optimist? Are you sure you aren’t the one being an “elitist” by saying how everyone else is doing bad but you yourself are doing great?”

          That’s not what I said, Sam. You’re inferring something that isn’t there.
          I am trying to point out that people who have the “anyone can succeed!” mentality are unaware of the barriers that some people face.
          No matter how hard some of them work they will never have access to advantages/privilege that certain groups have.
          That’s not negativity. It’s their reality. When we ignore that, we perpetuate the mythos that if people don’t succeed it must be because they didn’t work hard enough because after all, America is the land of opportunity where ANYONE can succeed.
          To some extent that’s true. But to paraphrase Orwell, some of us are more opportunity-blessed than others.

          • The Genius says

            Donna, I didn’t read anywhere from Sam’s article that he is saying that people fail because they didn’t work hard. He’s speaking to those who hoard money, just work all day and don’t live it up a little, and practice normal financial management.

            I don’t understand why you have to come here and darken the clouds and attack Sam with your first comments, “Seriously, Sam: This probably sounded great to you when you typed it, but not everyone is like you.”

            Everybody is unique, and I wouldn’t have it any other way. Your name calling and bitterness is out of line. Can’t believe Sam even offered to buy you a drink. Maybe you can learn something positive from this exchange instead of being so negative.

  5. Sydney says

    Thanks for your comments Donna and Sam. There is no single definition of success because being “successful” means something different to each and every one of us. Some people are surrounded by struggles and hardship and really is hard for them to break out of that, whether it’s because of their location, limited resources, unstable home, health issues, etc. So yes it can take a ton more striving and hard work for some people to get to a financially secure state.

    As far as optimism and pessimism go, it doesn’t take wealth or luxurious lifestyle to be happy even though it’s easy to believe that’s always the case. There are people out there who have so little but have hearts of gold and always find a way to see the good in their lives and in others. Read this post by Sandy, to see what I’m talking about. Raymond’s story is inspirational, http://yesiamcheap.com/2011/08/charity-begins-with-you/

    • Donna Freedman says

      Sydney: I am one of the people who believes you don’t have to have it all to have it all. And even when I was struggling, I always donated time, goods or whatever money I could spare to others. (See “Surviving (and thriving) on $12,000 a year” or “Living ‘poor’ and loving it” on MSN Money for more on my worldview.)
      In fact, I advocate examining the way we look at money and the ways in which we define “wealth.” At my lowest point financially, in my late 40s, I won a full scholarship. At the same time I was in legal debt due to a divorce that dragged on and on. But the chance finally to obtain a college degree made me feel like the richest woman in the world.
      Here’s how I put it in one of those articles:
      “I don’t consider myself deprived, although I can see why some people might think so. I don’t own a laptop computer, television, DVD player, stereo, iPod, video-game system, BlackBerry or many of the other things marketed as necessities.
      “But I have food, shelter, family, friends, a radio, a bus pass, a library card and the chance to attend a respected university. How could I consider myself ‘poor’ when so many people have nothing to eat, nowhere to sleep and no chance to improve their situations?
      “Yet there is another reason I hesitate to call myself poor — the cultural baggage associated with the word: Poor people are lazy, stupid, immoral, shameless and incapable of making smart decisions. Poor people are losers; our country loves winners. We want poor people to trade their rags for riches. We want them to embody the American dream.
      “Most of all, we want to believe that poor people are shiftless and depraved and always to blame for their poverty. Otherwise, we’d have to face the possibility that someday we, too, could wind up on the business end of the bread line.
      “I’m not naive enough to think that some people don’t make bad choices. But I’m not mean-spirited enough to believe that poor people are poor only because they’re pathologically incapable of wealth. Lots of them are where they are because of sickness, unemployment, a lack of education, a dearth of opportunities.”

  6. says

    Hey Sam. I love the idea of the WTF fund. It would be sad to turn down an amazing experience to save some money.

    I didn’t know much about the death tax until the year George Steinbrenner died and the news mentioned how it was a good time for him to die cause there was no estate tax (or it was really low).

  7. says

    I don’t have a WTF fund but I am keen on building up a GTH fund. The fund at which point it really doesn’t matter whether I lose my day job or not.
    The reason for this is that not everyone loves their job, or even likes it. Not having to trade your valuable, irreplaceable time for money frees up time to do something of lasting value. A legacy. If you blow it on WTF, that’s how people will view your legacy as well.

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